Collaboration In and Out of the Classroom: Clemson University’s Collaborative Learning Environment (CLE)

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Every classroom can benefit from greater collaboration. Technology can facilitate this collaboration, even if the technology consists merely of email between professors and students. Clemson University offers its 16,000 students and 1,200 faculty members the benefits of greater collaboration through a wide range of information technology services.  This collection of tools and services is known as the Collaborative Learning Environment (CLE). (Since your article is chiefly about collaboration in the classroom, I reworked your intro. a bit to highlight this focus.)

The CLE is designed to make basic technological tools easy to use while at the same time allowing the most sophisticated use of technology in the classroom. The CLE is available with an investment of little or no administration on the part of the faculty or the University’s technology (I'm not sure what "little or no administration on the part of the faculty or the University's technology" means. Do you mean that the CLE requires little training for faculty by the University's administration or its technological services department? Also, I think this paragraph could use some more explanation of what technological tools the CLE makes available, how long the CLE has been in place, how it came about, etc.).

Access to Learning Through CLE (I cut the section of bullets that was listed here—"Architecture, Arts, and Humanities," "Agriculture, Forestry, and Life Sciences, etc."—because most of the descriptions of CLE's classroom applications in various departments are repeated and more detailed later in the article.)

Prior to the start of each semester, 500 megabytes of network server space is automatically created for every class section (approximately 5000 per semester) offered at Clemson. Within that space, each student in the class has access to a consistent suite of course tools and file folders. Such tools include Web page templates, a syllabus builder, a discussion board, a class calendar, and a file manager for uploading and downloading files to and from the class workspace. Folders allow drop-off and retrieval of assigned work and contain class assignments, the course syllabus, class notes provided by the professor, and reserved library materials (How do the folders provide reserved library materials? Do you mean that the folders contain a list of reserved library materials or that they contain links to online library resources?)

Because of its global availability through the Internet, students and faculty can access the CLE from any location. A distinctive authentication product called AuthServ provides access to this learning environment. Developed at Clemson and marketed commercially by Omnibond Systems, AuthServ enables access to all university network resources as specified for individual users through a single userID and password.

The CLE is tightly integrated with the system the Registrar’s Office uses to store information about course offerings, student enrollment, and faculty teaching assignments. When a student logs on to the network, the screen displays a list of all of his/her classes.  When a faculty member logs on, the screen displays his/her class assignments.  Registration in the system also drives the creation of CLE class workspace and membership. As students add and drop courses and as teaching assignments are updated, course links are automatically added and dropped from the screen.  Selecting a course will take the student or professor to the network space set aside for that class.

Collaborative Projects through CLE

Departments within each of the University’s five colleges are using the CLE in various ways that enhance course material and encourage collaboration. CLE automatically generates and maintains a class email list for each class. It also allows  professors to set up multiple chat rooms and divide their classes into workgroups with their own spaces and chat rooms.  The CLE even accommodates grouping classes together and creating workgroups across the curriculum. In fact, various programs at Clemson feature collaborative projects through CLE class workspace:

Support for CLE

Since technology without training can be ineffective, comprehensive training programs for CLE are available for students and faculty. These programs target professors through faculty training that includes a variety of workshops, seminars, and consulting sessions. A computer literacy program reaches incoming Freshmen through introductory English and Engineering courses. In-class training options are available to all classes on a request basis.

The CLE is designed to support all students and faculty, regardless of their familiarity with computers or the complexity of their applications. While the CLE is rich in functionality, its widespread acceptance by both faculty and students has been most encouraged by its on-going, comprehensive training programs and its requirement of so little class workspace administration (What exactly does "class workspace administration" mean?). The CLE and AuthServ allow Clemson faculty and students to take advantage of technology in teaching and learning in a cost-effective manner (Thus far, the article has not really contained information about the costs of CLE. How exactly is it cost-effective? How are the costs of comprehensive training programs and more sophisticated technologies justified by their results?).

The Future

The CLE is well on its way to becoming the delivery mechanism for all computing services to students and faculty at Clemson, whether inside or outside of the classroom. New features under development include online testing, an online grade book, and an online planner for students, which will display information such as due dates and assignments from each of the students' courses. (Since this paragraph is the conclusion of your article, it could use some more sentences of summation, evaluation, overall impressions, etc. What are your predictions about how CLE—and greater collaboration—will continue to change the educational environment at Clemson and other universities? Do you think other universities may or should adopt similar programs? What can other universities learn from the program at Clemson? etc. The paragraph should be focused mainly toward the implications of collaboration since it is the main focus of the article.)

The CLE publishes a quarterly faculty newsletter to showcase the innovative work and accomplishments of Clemson faculty. It is available online by selecting the Faculty Directions link at This site also contains further information on the CLE.

The CLE is an online learning environment developed at Clemson by the Division of Computing and Information Technology in collaboration with faculty and students. The CLE is similar to other learning environments being marketed today with the exception of being designed to integrate with the existing Netware infrastructure and the existing registration course management system so that creation of the class workspace is automated and class rolls and teaching assignments are updated as they change in the Registration system.(I'm not sure why this paragraph is here. Is it some kind of disclaimer or product announcement? This information seems to have been covered earlier, making this paragraph unnecessary.)