A reference curriculum for education in collaborative networks

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A reference curriculum for education in collaborative networks
  1   A reference curriculum for teaching collaborative networks  Luis M. Camarinha-Matos 1  , Hamideh Afsarmanesh 2  , Tiago Cardoso 1  , Edmilson Klen 3   1  New University of Lisbon, Portugal – cam@uninova.pt, tomfc@uninova.pt  2  University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands – hamideh@science.uva.nl  3  Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil - erklen@gsigma.ufsc.br  Abstract  A proposal for a reference curriculum for teaching Collaborative Networks at university level is introduced. This curriculum is based on the experience of the authors in teaching and dissemination corresponding concepts in the context of several international projects as well as on the findings of a survey conduct worldwide. A set of teaching units and the corresponding content are introduced. Guidelines for the application of the curriculum are given. A set of exercises and projects are also suggested as a support for the accompanying hands-on lab work.   Keywords : Collaborative networks, virtual organizations, virtual enterprises, professional virtual communities, virtual breeding environments 1. INTRODUCTION Education plays a vital role in facilitating the dissemination and broad acceptance of virtual organizations (VO) and other forms of collaborative networks. The practical development and exploitation of new collaborative network forms such as virtual organizations / virtual enterprises, VO breeding environments, professional virtual communities (PVC), virtual laboratories, virtual institutes, etc., is hindered by the lack of an organized and widely accessible body of knowledge on the related supporting concepts, models, technologies, processes, and methodologies. Although considerable progress has been achieved in recent years, most of the underlying knowledge in this area is possessed only by a limited number of researchers and engineers. In fact, the study of collaborative networks is still absent from most of the traditional university programs [4]. Nevertheless the situation is changing. As reported in previous works [4], [6], [7], [9] several universities worldwide already offer courses on related topics and this number is increasing rapidly. As shown by a survey conducted in the scope of this work, most of these courses are however somewhat unbalanced, giving only partial views and, in many cases, biased by the scope of the department offering the course. As the area is growing as an autonomous discipline, i.e. gaining its own “identity” [3], it is becoming clear that there is a need to elaborate more comprehensive, less biased, programs. Similarly to what has happened with other disciplines in the past, it is necessary to establish a “reference curriculum” in order to: - help extending the focus / coverage of early initiatives; - help launching new training initiatives. This article represents a proposal for such a reference curriculum for a university-level course on collaborative networks. A preliminary version was applied and evaluated in a number of cases (e.g. at New University of Lisbon, 1st ECOLEAD Summer School, Polytechnic University of Valencia, BEST Summer School in Lisbon) and also discussed in conferences and in the context of IFIP Working Group 5.5 on Virtual Enterprises and e-Business and SOCOLNET – Society of Collaborative Networks [2], [9].   In: Methods and tools for Collaborative Networked Organizations, pp 491-511, Springer: New York, 2008.  2   The version included in this report integrates the received feedback and acquired experience with previous draft and represents a more consolidated proposal. Nevertheless, like with any other emerging discipline, this curriculum certainly needs to be periodically updated and improved. In addition to the curriculum itself, a number of practical experiments and projects are suggested to support the hands-on lab work of the students. Finally, the experience of applying this curriculum at the New University of Lisbon is reported. 2. THE NEW DISCIPLINE OF COLLABORATIVE NETWORKS A new discipline . Collaborative networks manifest nowadays in a large variety of forms both in industry and services. Examples include virtual organizations, virtual enterprises, dynamic supply chains, professional virtual communities, etc. All these forms resort to computer networks and new ICT tools to support joint work among autonomous and geographically distributed entities [3], [7]. A collaborative network  (CN) is thus a network consisting of a variety of entities (e.g. organizations and people) that are largely autonomous, geographically distributed, and heterogeneous in terms of their operating environment, culture, social capital and goals, but that collaborate to better achieve common or compatible goals, and whose interactions are supported by computer network [1], [2]. Although not all, most forms of collaborative networks imply some kind of organization  over the activities of their constituents, identifying roles for the participants, and some governance rules. Therefore, these can be called manifestations of collaborative networked organizations (CNOs) (Fig.1). Other more spontaneous forms of collaboration in networks can also be foreseen. For instance, various ad-hoc collaboration processes  can take place in virtual communities, namely those that are not business oriented – e.g. individual citizens’ contributions in case of a natural disaster, or simple gathering of individuals for a social cause. These are cases where people or organizations may volunteer to collaborate hoping to improve a general aim, with no pre-plan and/or structure on participants’ roles and how their activities should proceed. CollaborativeNetworkAd-hocCollaborationCollaborativeNetworkedOrganizationGoal-oriented networkLong-termstrategicnetworkProfessionalVirtualCommunityVOBreedingEnvironmentContinuousproductiondriven netGrasping opportunitydriven netIndustryclusterIndustrialdistrictBusinessecosystemCollaborativevirtual labDisaster rescue netVirtualteamExtendedenterpriseVirtualorganizationDynamic VOVirtualenterpriseSupplychainVirtualgovernment   Fig. 1. Examples of Collaborative Networks Among the CNOs, some networks are goal-oriented in which intense collaboration  (towards a common goal) is practiced among their partners , as opposed to longer term strategic alliances where in fact not collaboration but cooperation  is practiced among their members . Goal-oriented networks  can themselves be either driven by continuous production / service provision activities, or driven by the aim of grasping a single (collaboration) opportunity. In Goal-oriented networks, the first case of CNOs labeled as Continuous-production driven  in Fig. 1, includes those networks that  3   have a long-term duration and remain relatively stable during that duration, with a clear definition of members’ roles along the value chain. Another class of CNOs is the long-term strategic alliances  aimed at offering the conditions and environment to support rapid and fluid configuration of collaboration networks, when opportunities arise. VO breeding environments  (VBE) [1], [2], and  professional virtual communities  (PVC) exemplify these kinds of networks. A large body of empiric knowledge related to collaborative networks is already available, and an important focus of research nowadays is put on the consolidation of this knowledge and building the foundations for a more sustainable development of this area. The definition of reference models and the establishment of a scientific discipline for collaborative networks are strong instruments in achieving this purpose. But this research effort needs to be accompanied by a similar effort in training new professionals to drive the area. Forecasting the needs . In order to identify the level of interest and opinions about teaching Collaborative Networks, as well as the already existing initiatives, from the perspective of educators, a survey was performed involving some of the best Institutes around the world. From the beginning it was clear that conducting an extensive survey for an emerging area would be a very resource consuming task. On one hand, in order to cover a significant number of geographical regions, the number of universities and other educational institutes would grow dramatically. On the other hand, even when focusing on a limited number of institutions, there is a major difficulty regarding the identification of which departments and which academic staff to contact. Being CNs a multi-disciplinary area, it is natural that teaching initiatives emerge in different departments. In order to determine the universe of institutions to contact for this initial study the following steps were followed: 1. Select a preliminary group of top universities. As a starting basis the list of the top 500 universities according to the “ Academic Ranking of World Universities ”, organized by the Institute of Higher Education, Shanghai Jiao Tong University (http://ed.sjtu.edu.cn/ranking.htm   ), was considered. Taking into account the limited resources available to perform this survey it was not feasible to consider this full list. Therefore, only a subset (66) of this list was selected: - The top universities per geographical region (5 from each of the following continents: America, Europe, Asia, Oceania, and 4 for Africa), plus - An additional group of 42 institutions selected randomly from the remainder of the list. The decision regarding the size of the target group was solely based on the estimated effort required and the available resources. 2. Others from web search.In addition to the institutions selected in the first step, some other universities were added to the list when it was possible to identify, by a simple search on the web, that they already offer teaching initiatives on CNO. 3. Others from analysis of conferences. Complementarily to the web search, a few others were selected via a brief analysis of the proceedings of past PRO-VE conferences. As a result of this selection process, a total of 82 institutions were considered as the target “population” for this survey. The next step was the identification of potential participants from selected institutions, i.e. which professors at those institutions to contact. For the cases of courses found on the web or through publications in conference proceedings, the contact persons were directly identified. The other cases required and extensive and focused manual search through the web sites of the selected institutions (focusing mainly on engineering and management departments). As a result, a total of 1024 academic staff was contacted from the 82 institutions out of which (only) 76 replies were received. The received answers included contributions from 44 institutions (i.e. about 54 % of our target universe of institutions). Table 1 below summarizes the participation per country. Table 1 – Respondents per country  4     C  o  u  n   t  r   i  e  s    U  S  A  G  e  r  m  a  n  y  A  u  s  t  r  a   l   i  a  S  o  u  t   h   A   f  r   i  c  a   B  r  a  z   i   l   F   i  n   l  a  n  d   H  o  n  g  -   K  o  n  g    M  e  x   i  c  o   P  o  r  t  u  g   a   l  S  w  e  d  e  n   U   K  C   h   i  n  a  C  o  s  t  a    R   i  c  a   D  e  n  m  a  r   k   F  r  a  n  c  e   I  t  a   l  y   N  e  t   h  e  r   l  a  n  d  s   N  o  r  w  a  y  S   i  n  g   a  p  o  r  e   T  o  t  a   l 19 10 5 4 3 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 44   The following diagrams illustrate some of the results of this survey. More details can be obtained in [5]. 37,7%50,6%10,4% 1,3% 0%10%20%30%40%50%60% Yes No Similar discipline(s) No Answer   7,8%61,0%27,3%3,9% 0%10%20%30%40%50%60%70%Yes No Part of them No Answer   Figure 1 - Is there a dedicated discipline on CN Figure 2 - Do you consider the concepts in the CN in your Institution? area already consolidated? These percentages need to be read with some caution. They do not represent a percentage of the full universe of high education institutions but rather a percentage of the respondents to the survey, i.e. people that are involved in the area or likely to be motivated for its importance. Nevertheless, under this constraint, these numbers give an indication that several CN teaching initiatives already exist. The answers to this question clearly confirm the need to invest more on the consolidation and structuring of knowledge in the area. Figure 4 – Which subjects should be included in a CN basic course? Fig. 4 summarizes the list of topics suggested by the respondents to include in a basic course. This diagram is certainly affected by the options offered in the questionnaire but nevertheless it gives some useful indications:  5   - ICT is certainly associated with the core issues in CNs. - Case studies are very important to create motivation, illustrate the applicability of the concepts, and help identifying requirements. - The theoretical foundation (including theoretical basis, concepts and definitions, reference models, and ontologies) is fundamental in a training program. - Interoperability, although somehow important, it is not perceived as too critical. The same with procurement, contracts and negotiation. Based on the results of this survey and additional search on the web, the second phase of this study was devoted to identify and collect information about existing teaching initiatives. The existence of quite distinct initiatives made it clear that it would not be reasonable to compare them all together. Therefore, three main kinds of courses were identified:    Formal university courses / disciplines fully dedicated to the subject. This typically includes a one-semester course that is offered as part of a formal university program.    Short courses dedicated to the subject or long courses that include a short module on CNs. In this category, either the course is not fully dedicated to “Virtual Enterprise” or “Virtual Organization” paradigms or it is a short course or summer course.    On-line / Web-based courses. Among these categories, the most significant kind of courses to analyze is the first one – the University initiatives fully focused on CNs and related manifestations. Most of the identified initiatives (88%) are offered either at the undergraduate or Master level. It is also important to notice that there is quite a large heterogeneity in terms of the structure of the university courses. Some universities consider a model of 3 years (bachelor) plus 2 years (master), while others offer a 2-year master degree after a 5-year university course. The two notions (and levels) of master are necessarily different. In other countries there is a single degree for engineering courses (5 or 5.5 years). PhD courses, due to their specificity, are to a large extent out of the scope of this study. In many universities the PhD program does not include a formal training program but rather research work only. The ongoing implementation of the Bologna model in Europe is likely to lead to a more uniform structure. Table 3 shows the main initiatives identified for formal university courses. This is certainly not a full survey, but nevertheless offers a good set of base information. Table 3 – Formal university courses # Course name Location / Institute Duration 1 Virtual Enterprises New University of Lisbon Portugal 1 semester 2 Virtual Organizations ITCR Costa Rica 1 semester 3 Enterprise Integration Systems UFSC Brazil 1 semester 4 Information Systems / Virtual Organization City University of New York USA 1 semester 5 Agile Virtual Enterprise Universität der Bundeswehr München 1 semester 6 Management and Information Systems University of York UK 1 semester 7 Seminar in Virtual Collaboration University of Nebraska at Omaha USA 1 semester 8 Organizational Networks and Communication Helsinky University of Technology 1 semester 9 Managing in a Virtual Environment Claremont Graduate University 1 semester 10 Virtual Organisation Management The University of Queensland 1 semester 11 Information Systems Edith Cowan University 1 year
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