C&W 2017 Workshop

We’re excited to be offering a full-day workshop at Computers & Writing 2017 — sharing some of the lessons we’ve learned from our highly nerdly inter-institutional collaborative research project. Here’s the abstract, and after the jump, the full description of the workshop.

Structuring Active Work: Developing Sustainable Digital Infrastructures for Collaborative Research Teams

As writing is increasingly performed in online shared spaces, and humanities research becomes more dependent on external funding, collaborative work is more important than ever. Although collaborative teaching and learning are nearly ubiquitous, scholarship in Computers & Writing speaks more to classrooms than our own research and professional development. This full-day workshop supports sustainable research in our field by helping research teams learn to communicate and collaborate in a manner which both supports joint decision-making and sustains long-term research. We share lessons learned from our interdisciplinary, inter-institutional research project focused on research and professional development in writing instruction. Through intensive participant-facilitator collaboration, we offer attendees opportunities to gain experience using digital tools, redirect communication breakdowns productively, build frameworks for scaffolding active work, and network with researchers similarly interested in helping writing research become more sustainable, efficient, and effective.


Attendees of this full-day workshop will study models for collaborative research teams, learn best practices for digital collaboration tools, and build a framework for their future collaborations including goals for sustainable research.

Interested? Register today, or keep reading!

Structuring Active Work

Sustaining long term research projects is difficult for both faculty and graduate students. Often, faculty are pulled in multiple directions with responsibilities relating to mentoring, teaching, administration, and research, while graduate students undertake the task of conducting research that is rarely sustained beyond the scope of a dissertation project. Added to these challenges are the potential institutional constraints limiting capacities for maintaining even our most important and aspirational research programs. For example, prior to the creation of our project, there were no less than four attempts to develop a similar data-rich resource at our institution. In response to these problems we have assembled a large interdisciplinary and inter-institutional research team with the goal of building a sustainable project for faculty and graduate research and professional development. In fact, we made sustainability one of our core goals and research focuses. Building on our 2016 C&W presentation, we have designed this workshop to model and teach our approach to collaboration:  as a hands-on lab for developing best practices and working out strategies for productive team research.

We draw on scholarship about institutions and infrastructure (Porter, Sullivan, and Grabill et al 2000; Star 1999), community engagement pedagogy related to sustainable research practices and digital classroom environments (Cushman and Green 2010) and usability (Quesenbery 2004; Simmons & Zoetewey 2012) to operationalize theory and develop research practices that deliberately keep infrastructure visible so we can respond proactively to potential barriers and opportunities. For example, our research team uses tools like Google Drive and Basecamp to document not only our finished work, but our work in process. Because we work in collaborative spaces with interdisciplinary teams, we are better able to question our own processes and respond to potential obstacles. We implement these practices in all elements of our project, including the way we select internal teams, determine and refine research questions, and pursue internal and external funding.

Our workshop will begin by modelling some of the interpersonal collaboration practices we have developed within our project, such as making team assignments, and demonstrating the digital tools we implement to carry out tasks. Then, modeling another strategy for sustainable research we have adopted for our collaborations, attendees and facilitators will work together in studio format, allowing participants to consider frameworks for scaffolding active work for their own research projects.

Participants will be engaged in three stages: (1) before the workshop, they will complete a survey and a small amount of collaborative work to become familiar with each others’ experiences and research agendas, (2) during the workshop, they will collaborate face-to-face on their respective research goals, and (3) afterward, participants will be invited to reflect a/synchronously on their experiences and takeaways in the weeks following.


  1. Hands on experience using Basecamp and Google Drive to coordinate teamwork.
  2. Practice identifying communication issues which can derail collaboration, and learning from them to fine-tune research methods and project goals.
  3. A framework for scaffolding active work for your current research project (allocating teams, refining to-do lists, developing next steps).
  4. A network of inter-institutional researchers with diverse research interests and approaches.

Timeline for proposed activities

A few weeks before the workshop, we will communicate with attendees to get acquainted, assess their collaborative infrastructure, and learn about the research projects they wish to bring to the workshop. We will provide access to collaborative spaces where facilitators and attendees can perform a small amount of work before the workshop.

Workshop schedule

Time Activities
8:30 Very brief introductions and icebreaker
8:45 Review workshop goals
Discuss our project in relation to workshop goals
9:00 First presentation: Building collaborative research teams
Facilitators will offer a series of short talks which offer our framework for success.
9:40 First break-out session: Current research interests & team structures
Participants will work in small groups to consider their research interests and teams in light of our framework.
10:00 Second presentation: Introduce tools: hands-on guided work
One facilitator will demonstrate key tools valuable for collaboration while others will move around the room helping attendees learn to use them.
11:00 Whole group conversation
Discussion questions to be distributed beforehand, based on participants’ responses and feedback during pre-workshop activities
11:30 Lunch
12:30 Third presentation: Sustainability practices
1:15 Second break-out session: Individual check-ins
2:00 Break
2:15 Fourth presentation: Goal setting
3:00 Independent work time
Establish goals for next 30 days, six months, and year, with presenters floating to help attendees
4:00 Concluding whole-group conversation
Share goals, make plans for continued collaboration
4:30 Adjourn

After the workshop, we will offer attendees the opportunity to follow up, continuing the collaborative work started in Findlay for the month of June.

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