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« Introduction | Main

May 09, 2006

Design Conference Room Notemaker Manual

This manual was first drafted by a Research Assistant for the NSF Design Conference Room pilot project at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. I inherited, expanded, and completed the manual as an NSF Research Assistant in late 1993.

The Design Conference Room was a prototype space for face-to-face and distance computer-supported collaborative work, initially funded by the National Science Foundation. More information about this project can be found here.

Document is large, about 82 pages. Notemaker was a custom note-taking program developed in-house in Apple Hypercard.


Help Text and User’s Guide

Download dcr_notemaker_help_text.pdf

To read a section about the DCR from the report on original NSF grant, click the continued link below.

"Improving Software Design & Development Education through Technological Innovation"

A Summary Report

National Science Foundation Grant CDA-9214892
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
October 1996


The most visible product of an extended, user-oriented design effort is the Rensselaer Design Conference Room or "DCR"  (http://dcr.rpi.edu/).  This is a 650 square foot conference room with a 90 square foot observation and development annex.

The DCR is a laboratory for exploration of modes of collaboration in design teams and of
modes of support of design team conferencing.  It has at its center a large conference table with spaces for six conferees at “integrated design stations”.

Whiteboards, tackboards, flipcharts, overhead projection, tables etc. offer traditional media for presentation and discussion of ideas.  National networks and an electronic whiteboard enrich access to information and the expression of ideas.

The conference setting places no visual or acoustic barriers between participants.  All
electronic and media tools are discreetly situated to serve rather than dominate design team efforts.

Each design station consists of a computer workstation with keyboard and screen in a side desk to the left or right of each participant.  Buried in the hexagonal conference table are three large shared monitors driven by a video/file server located in the annex.  The conferees may join a collaboration session on a named project from their individual design stations.  They may in turn take control of the server and the visual space on the shared monitors, moving and transforming information for all to view.  These and auxiliary shared monitors placed elsewhere in the DCR show the same image.

The Collaboration Net software developed for the DCR enables participants to use whatever professional software tools they feel appropriate as they convey their concerns and ideas to other conferees.  We think of the CN as meta-groupware.

Acoustic and video recording of sessions have enabled us do conduct detailed studies of
team processes and performance.  They also enable a team to keep a detailed record of
proceedings and to backtrack to critical points in the discussion.

The DCR has been used by numerous teams from numerous disciplines and several cross- discipline teams.  Documentary studies of team performance have been conducted with teams from courses in software engineering and helicopter design.  Other users have been from courses in algorithm design, electronic arts, architectural CAD, and web site design.  In addition, a Ph.D. thesis has addressed issues related to protocols for sharing the public screen in an empirical study conducted with teams of students.

The Collaboration Net concept is now being extended to distance collaboration with mixed
platform capability.  It will also be applied in a 36-42 seat collaborative classroom in which classes organized into six or more teams will meet.  This facility will support six major kinds of interactive learning activities:  instructor demonstration, peer learning, team meeting, instructor consultation, client consultation, and presentation & critique.  (Architect sketches are appended.)


May 9, 2006 in Technical Communication | Permalink


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