This thesis reports on a pilot project which was developed to meet the needs of specific research groups for a collaborative workspace. The main components of the project include a digital library, online discussion forum, adaptive hypermedia engine and a statement database. Such a system was deemed necessary because of today's global network of researchers who are divided by both location and time. The need therefore exists for a system which allows researchers to work on a project without the need to be in the same physical location. Such a system is called an online collaborative workspace. An online collaborative workspace allows researchers to work together on projects by providing various means of sharing information and resources. The main research question addressed in this study is: What are the user requirements and design specifications of an online collaborative workspace developed in open source software? In order to answer this main question, the following sub-questions need to be addressed: What are the main design principles and functionalities of such a collaborative workspace? How can they be integrated in developing a modular open source framework? To what extent can such a framework be customised for implementation in new or existing collaborative projects? What are the usability requirements of such an online collaborative workspace and how should one go about to test the usability of such a framework? Before being able to accurately determine the user requirements of an online collaborative workspace, we first need to determine which features exist in current systems. The main question driving the literature survey therefore is: What are the main components of current online collaborative workspaces as reported in the literature? Chapter 2 of this report is devoted to identifying and researching the various components that define an online collaborative workspace. Each of these components are investigated in detail by means of informal interviews as well as a literature survey. The components that were identified include a digital library, online discussion forum and collaborative workspace. In addition to identifying the various components, this chapter also addresses the motivation for the use of open source software and the importance of usability. With the information obtained in chapter 2, chapter 3 sets out to develop a framework which addresses each of the components that were identified. The various features and properties of each component were identified and decisions were made with regard to the best method of implementation. In addition to the components that were developed, this chapter also focuses on various design implications such as modularity and the use of open source software. Chapter 4 describes the various projects where the framework was implemented. For each of the projects the user requirements, customisations and usability issues are addressed. This chapter highlights the framework's ability to be customised to suit the diverse needs of research projects. The final chapter provides a set of conclusions summarising how the main objectives of the study were addressed. Moreover, the limitations of the study are addressed and an outline is provided as to how these limitations are to be addressed in future work.
Dissertation (MIS (Multimedia))--University of Pretoria, 2008.