The University Record, February 28, 1994

M-Quality teams make use of collaboration suite at CSMIL

By Rebecca A. Doyle

The Cognitive Science and Machine Intelligence Laboratory (CSMIL) has opened its doors to groups at the U-M who want to brainstorm solutions to unit problems or use its advanced technology to plan quality management strategies.

The Collaboration Technology Suite conference room is equipped with six Macintosh computers, a live board, and computer software, called groupware, that allows members to edit a single document simultaneously. The conference room has been made available to M-Quality teams, with funding provided by the Office of the Provost.

Stacey E. Donahue, computer systems consultant for CSMIL, has trained eight M-Quality teams on the equipment, and another eight have used the facility for individual training sessions tailored to their projects.

Katharine R. Stolaruk, a research secretary in aerospace engineering, has co-led a College of Engineering M-Quality team using the conference room. The Team for Staff Career Development has noted several advantages of the interactive editing capabilities, she says.

“Our survey of College of Engineering staff asked several open-ended questions about staff career development, and we didn’t know how we could analyze those with the rest of the data,” Stolaruk says. “But we learned that we could assign similar responses a number and group them, then include the numbers with the rest of the data.

“The latest project we worked on at CSMIL was grouping those answers and assigning the numbers.”

There are other advantages, Stolaruk notes. Because all members can see the work at the same time, there is no need for someone to take notes and transcribe them later. Minutes of any session can be approved at the end of the meeting.

“And people can see what will be included in any final document before it is printed. If there are any changes, they can see them and talk about them before there is a document,” Stolaruk says.

When her team devised the survey they sent to College of Engineering staff members, revisions took a lot of time.

“We must have come back to revise the questions about 10 times,” she says. “That wouldn’t have happened if we had used the conference room then.”

CSMIL is a collaborative effort of the School of Business Administration, LS&A and the College of Engineering.

The Conference Technology Suite combines computer technology with ergonomic workstations, electronic flip charts and graphic and video capabilities. It was funded by Arthur Andersen Co. and gifts from alumni, and equipped with gifts from Steelcase Inc. and Apple Computer.