Online Collaboration Tools

Professor Pamela Davis-Kean, Associate Professor of Psychology, discusses her use of Google Forms to clarify difficult concepts in her Social Development course (Psych 353), a 150-student course for upper-level psychology majors.  In class, Professor Davis-Kean used Google Forms to engage students in the actual work of developmental psychologists.  For example, she had students practice coding videos of parent-child interactions, submitting their initial codes anonymously via Google Forms. Using the results from this coding activity, Professor Davis-Kean was able to engage the students in a more nuanced discussion of interrater reliability.   Read more »

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A short video on this teaching strategy can be seen here

Robin Fowler, College of Engineering, co-teaches Introduction to Engineering, a course in which student teams design, build, and test products for professional scenarios (e.g., Company X needs a remote-operated vehicle to investigate subglacial life at the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica). Teams need to apply course concepts to evaluate competing designs relative to client-generated objectives and constraints. However, teams often pursue suboptimal designs due to poor group process.

To enable more equitable and conceptually sound design decisions, Fowler shifted team meetings from face-to-face discussions to synchronous, text-based online discussions, during which team members are geographically dispersed. Fowler creates a Google Doc for each team, including each student’s individual project idea and a decision-making matrix to be completed as a team. Students simultaneously access these materials and negotiate decisions at preordained times using the commenting and chat features in Google Docs. Read more »

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A short video describing this teaching strategy can be seen here.

George Hoffmann, Romance Languages and Literatures, teaches a course that explores the controversial literature on the Algerian War. Thirty-two undergraduate students are each required to deliver a PowerPoint presentation on a capstone analytical project. In-class presentations are dynamic, but ephemeral, and their engaging material is lost to students in following course iterations. Therefore, Hoffmann uses Google Sites to create a collaborative course website to document and extend the highly visual capstone projects across courses.

Based on his or her PowerPoint presentation, each student creates a media-rich web page, exclusively in French, without having to learn HTML. Hoffmann pairs students to peer review web pages using the commenting feature in Google Sites. Students’ grades reflect both the content of their own web page, and the quality of their peer critiques. Through the combined use of PowerPoint and Google Sites, students not only learn valuable communication skills, but also practice disciplinary skills of close reading and critical evaluation. 

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Large courses present some distinct challenges to teachers and students. How, for example, can hundreds of students practice challenging concepts simultaneously? And how can instructors in large courses gain insights about the learning of all of their many students? 

CRLT has sponsored several faculty learning communities focused on effective strategies for teaching in large courses. Faculty members learn together about pedagogical tools and technologies that facilitate student learning and then develop concrete applications for them in their specific courses. In this 6-minute video, one participant, psychology professor Pamela Davis-Kean, highlights her use of Google Forms to provide students practice with key skills and difficult concepts in an upper-level course of 150 students. She recommends it as a flexible, easy-to-learn technology that can enhance student interaction and engagement in a large course setting. Read more »

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Brief Description: 

Group work can be a powerful tool to enhance students’ mastery of course content, motivation, and persistence in problem solving (Johnson, Johnson, & Smith 1998; Deslauriers, Schelew, & Wieman, 2011; Smith et al., 2009; Crouch & Mazur, 2001). Instructional technologies can enhance the ability of student teams to collaborate effectively, increasing access and efficiency by reducing spatial and temporal barriers to teamwork. Similarly, IT can provide novel, efficient, and effective means for instructors to monitor and provide feedback on group projects. Online collaboration tools provide a variety of means to enhance group work.

Tips for Using Online Collaboration Tools

For general recommendations on how to teach effectively and inclusively with online collaboration tools, please see CRLT Occasional Paper 31.  For tips on using specific tools, please see below. Read more »

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