Using Online Collaboration Tools to Improve Student Teamwork

Can technology help student teams improve their group process—and ultimately their learning? CRLT's recent Occasional Paper on "Teaching in the Cloud" explains some ways it can. In particular, the paper highlights how Online Collaboration Tools (OCTs) can enhance students' ability to collaborate effectively. OCTs can facilitate group members' access to one another and the team's efficiency by reducing spatial and temporal barriers. OCTs can also provide novel, efficient, and effective means for instructors to monitor and provide feedback on group projects.  

The paper features two U-M faculty members who successfully utilize OCTs to improve student teamwork as well as instructor management of group projects. 

  • Robin FowlerRobin Fowler of Technical Communication and Engineering: Fowler has improved student teamwork in Introduction to Engineering by shifting from face-to-face team meetings to synchronous, text-based online discussions. Her students share and assess design plans using Google Docs, a system that has increased student engagement and participation in group decision-making.  To learn more, watch a short video of Fowler discussing this teaching strategy and some of its outcomes.
     
  • Melissa GrossMelissa Gross of Kinesiology: Gross's studio course uses 3D animation and motion capture technologies to study the biomechanics of human movement. Students' group presentations include such animations to illustrate their research findings, and these require sharing and collaborating on many large video files. Gross uses Box.net, a cloud-based storage and sharing service, to solve storage and capacity challenges and facilitate student management and coordination of their teamwork.  To learn more, watch a short video of Gross discussing this teaching strategy.

For additional resources about using student teams effectively in a range of course settings, see this section of our website and this recent CRLT Occasional Paper

 

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