Students working in cafe

Tools for working together online

You may need to work with others on a project or assessment during your degree

As a student, you'll have many opportunities to interact with others by using digital technology.

You might communicate with friends and family using social networks, with University staff using email, and with fellow students on Moodle forums. Technologies like Skype, Google Hangouts and WebEx let you communicate and collaborate in real time and to see and hear the people you are dealing with. 

Choosing digital tools 

There are plenty of online tools you can use to work as a group – each with their own benefits and limits. You'll need to consider the advantages and drawbacks of each method before you decide what you'll use for your work.

Which of the following tools would you use to create a report as a group?

  • Email
  • Microsoft Word
  • Google Docs
  • Skype
  • Pen and paper
Digital tools for creating a group report

Skype is an online tool that allows users to communicate via a webcam, so this technology would work well if you wanted to meet group members online to discuss the report. However the system, as yet, has no way of allowing you to create, share and collaboratively work on documents.

It is possible to use Microsoft Word to collaboratively write a report. You can do this by switching on the Track Changes feature. By enabling this feature you can see who has contributed and/or made edits/notes to a document. The downside to using this method is that it is cumbersome: you’d have to share the document with one group member at a time, for example via email, and then pass it to the next group member for their contribution, and so on. (Also, consider that there could be issues of email restrictions when emailing large files.)

Using pen and paper is a great traditional method for writing and taking notes. When working collaboratively, however, it is best to work in a digital format so that a document can easily be shared and edited.

There are many possible approaches for tackling this group assignment. Perhaps the most efficient would be to use Google Docs. Google Docs is an online word processing tool that allows users to create, share and collaboratively update an online document in real time. This means group members can simultaneously contribute to the same document without the hassle of having to email back and forth a single document. Furthermore, Google Docs is browser-based, so as long as you have a googlemail account and the internet, you will be able to access your files at anytime on any device.

Communicating appropriately online

Sometimes you'll need to contribute to a course forum by posting messages in an online learning environment like Moodle.

Be respectful to others in the forum – be patient when listening and respond positively. Although you may be working online, remember this is an academic task and therefore you should write in an appropriate style, including correct grammar and spelling and fully referencing any works or ideas of others.

Which statements below seem appropriate for communicating with your peers and lecturer online, in an educational setting? 

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