Asymmetric roles – good and bad

One of the appeals of collaboration is diversity of skills. People get together for a join project because none of them individually possess all the skills required to finish the project. Working like this also leads to asymmetric roles of the collaborators. For instance, in a class project researching and presenting on environmental impacts of non-recyclable electronics, one person in the group could take the role of the researcher, another one could be responsible for writing, and one more for presenting. This could turn out great for all of them since they didn’t have to worry about all the aspects of the project; they could just focus on what they were responsible for doing (hopefully a task that they were better than others).

However, each one may miss out an opportunity of learning about the other aspects that they were not strongly involved in or responsible for. Thus, for that given project, it was good how they divided up the work, but for a long run, it may not be good as far as their individual learning goes.

While designing a system that caters to such asymmetric roles in collaboration, are we not taking away individual’s opportunity for wholesome learning? Both the system designers and the collaborators/users need to understand these trade-offs.

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