Students working in cafe

Tools for working together

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.

Some technologies, such as Skype, Google Hangouts and WebEx, allow you to communicate and collaborate in real time, and to see and hear the people you are dealing with.

But however you're communicating, it's worth remembering that things can be misunderstood – and that misunderstandings can sometimes cause complications.


Consider the following scenarios. For each, think what you would do.

Scenario 1

Your group has been set an assignment: to create a report. Which of the following tools will enable you and other group members to collaboratively create this report?

  • Email
  • Microsoft Word
  • Google Docs
  • Skype
  • Pen and paper
Scenario 1 feedback

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.

Scenario 2

You've been asked to contribute to a course forum on Moodle.

Which statements demonstrate appropriate etiquette when communicating online with your peers and lecturer, in an educational setting?

Scenario 2 feedback

As part of your studies you will at some point be asked to contribute – by posting messages – to an online forum.

It's really important when you participate in an activity such as this that you are respectful to others using the forum. Just as in face-to-face communication, don't shout, be patient when listening, respond in a positive way, and be mindful of our diverse student body when posting so as not to offend others.

Furthermore, remember that this is an academic task and therefore you should write in an appropriate style – this includes using correct grammar and spelling, and also fully referencing any works or ideas of others that you may have used.

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