20 Collaboration Tools for College Students

The Familiar Scenario:

“Okay class, get into your groups of six that I’ve assigned and begin discussing your strategy for the case study that correlates with your team number.”

You don’t want to be the first to get up and you don’t want to be the last either. Calm and collected, you meander through the backing out of chairs and the slow congregation of small groups of students, who all have a similar strategy as you: be the third person out of six to arrive at the group table.

You find your group (#3) and sit down.

Inevitably, there will be displays of leadership before a word is spoken; the way an individual sits down with the group, makes eye contact, and postures himself/herself can tell a lot about a person’s confidence in these face-to-face situations. Then it happens. The most vocal member of the group says the eight words that will continue to cripple online collaboration, “So, when do you guys want to meet?” Although in-person meetings may be the traditional mode, they forever favor those individuals with outspoken personalities, smooth rhetoric and provide opportunities for short-term planning only.

Enter online collaboration. Online collaboration spreads responsibility, ideas and time across an even and elevated playing field, bringing all ideas forward, not just the loudest. It allows team members to choose when they work and pick productive times in their day to accomplish the tasks at hand. This article will explore the many options teams have at their keyboards to create successful, productive and effective collaboration online.

Online collaboration does not have to be synonymous with being antisocial or impersonal. Tools available today connect ideas, strengthen presentations, and bring voices together to create wonderful synergy and innovation.

Do I already collaborate online?

If you know how to attach a document to an email and your laptop has a webcam, you have not met the requirements for an online collaboration certificate of completion. The programs, plugins and products available today can replace the old-fashioned, sit-down, face-to-face meetings. This also saves each team member enormous time and energy; it’s similar to printing labels though Microsoft Excel, as opposed to handwriting thousands of addresses on envelopes. Getting work done online saves time, increases productivity and saves money on travel.

Your Email Inbox:

RE…Great idea…RE…One Suggestion…RE…I like the old way…RE…what is this project…RE…is this effective?

Chances are you have experience with online collaboration. If you’ve ever been sent a document online, edited said document, and returned the document to sender, you have participated in a simple form of online collaboration. If you have ever used Skype for something other than a face-to-face conversation with your sister’s new dog, you too have experienced online collaboration.

I want to take advantage of the tools available for online collaboration. Where do I start?

It starts with a team. Think about the member of your team with the least amount of computer literacy. How much does that person know? How do you get that person on board with the idea that your meetings are virtual, work is completed remotely, and he or she may need to learn a new program? Skype, for example, could be difficult without webcam capabilities. Whatever the situation, getting on the same page and setting group expectations very early on in the process is key to a successful collaboration.

Using collaboration tools and mock scenarios, this article will examine how a group of students might begin, advance, and complete a successful project without ever meeting in person.

Getting Started:

Your team might have the same class, but members may or may not be in the same section. Or, you might all be taking the same class online. Either way, finding a night for you all to meet at a local coffee shop has become a problem, and not only because of the $4 cups of coffee.