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2020-12-17

Top 5 Collaboration Tools for Student Group Work

Let’s face it; working on team projects can be tough at the best of times. 

It’s even harder when you don’t have the option to interact face-to-face with your team members.

In 2020, when the global pandemic forced schools around the world to close, faculty members embraced the digital classroom as an alternative to in-person interactions. The education technology space is booming, with lots of tools and services to use.

So, which tools are going to help you ace your grades?

1. Google Meet

Google Meet is a handy free-to-use service that comes with special features specifically for the education industry. You can have meetings of up to 250 participants in a Meet room, and live streams with up to 100,000 attendees. There’s even the option to record lessons and save them in Google Drive for students that couldn’t be present. 

Google recommends that students and teachers have a latency of less than 50ms when using Google Meet, and a 3.2Mbps bandwidth requirement. Since the average broadband speed in the UK rose in 2019 to 64Mbps , most won’t have a problem but if your connection is struggling, run a speed test to check if you have the minimum requirements. For more information about fibre broadband, Broadband Genie has a guide to fibre broadband .

Additionally, Google Meet has a host of functions to use alongside video conferencing, from file and screen sharing to integrations with apps like “Classroom” where students can keep track of projects and work assignments. 

Pros:

  • Easy to set up and use

  • Totally free for even big classes

  • Doesn’t require a lot of broadband bandwidth

  • Excellent range of features for file and screen sharing

  • Video and audio communication is easy

Cons:

  • You need a Gmail account to use it

  • Can be tough to share multi-media documents

2. Asana

Asana is a project management app that promises teams an easy way to keep track of assignments, deadlines, and files. You can sort users into different teams (or classrooms) and assign specific tasks to certain users. There’s the option to add various files, likes and videos to each assignment too. This makes it easy for teachers to assign projects to students wherever they are. 

The entry-level version of Asana is totally free to use, and it’s really easy to learn. There’s even an inbox where students can share messages or connect with their teachers. Plus, students can set their own “goals” for what they’d like to accomplish. 

Elsewhere, teachers can track the progress of their students on various assignments and see who needs extra help. 

Pros:

  • Easy to use functionality

  • Great for tracking projects and deadlines

  • Assign individual people or groups to tasks

  • Great for sharing lots of information and files

  • Supports messaging for teams and students

  • Back-end performance tracking for teachers

Cons:

  • May be too many features for some students to handle

  • No time-tracking function

3. Mindmeister

If you need a way to share ideas with classmates, or just brainstorm on an upcoming project, it’s hard to get much done without a physical whiteboard, or a shared piece of paper. However, Mindmeister solves this problem by allowing groups of people to share thoughts with absolute freedom. You can create colour-coded mind maps for free, and users can sign up with Facebook or Google.

Mindmeister currently has about 14 million users around the world, and it’s super popular for its note-taking, project planning, and brainstorming functions. You can use this service on virtually any operating system, and it’s easy to transform piles of information into visual presentations too. 

If you’ve got more than just words to add to a brainstorm, Mindmeister supports linking in videos, web pages, and images too. 

Pros:

  • Great way for visual thinkers to share ideas

  • Works on any device or operating system

  • Free to use with Facebook or Google access

  • Great way to share ideas, links, and images

  • Project tracking function included

  • Note-taking capabilities

Cons:

  • Can be a little fiddly to use on a smartphone

  • No assignment options or chat function

4. Miro

Speaking of whiteboards, sometimes the best way to learn is in a visual environment. Whether you’re working on brainstorming sessions with fellow students, or you need to plan how you’re going to tackle a project, it helps to have an environment where you can get all of your thoughts down in a shared space. Miro helps teams to work together on a shared whiteboard

You and your team members can all work on a project at the same time, sharing ideas and post-it notes as soon as inspiration strikes. When the time comes to create shared work, you can all make edits in real-time to the same document, on an infinite canvas that constantly evolves to suit you. 

Miro works with all the other tools you might be using in your classes too, like Slack and Asana, so there’s no need to worry about sharing your whiteboard with others. 

Pros:

  • Great for visual learners and brainstorming

  • Handy way to work on projects as a team

  • Work on projects in real-time, or asynchronously

  • Roll-back changes however you like

  • Add notes and memos for your fellow students to read

  • Integrate with the tools you’re already using

Cons:

  • The interface can be confusing with too many people

  • Easy to accidentally delete information

5. Google Docs

Finally, Google Docs is likely to be one of the tools you use most frequently in your new remote learning environment. It’s free, easy to use, and it’s perfect for collaborating with multiple people at once. You might already be familiar with Google Docs for sending assignments to your teachers. 

Google Docs works as part of the full Google ecosystem, so you can use it alongside things like Meet and Hangouts too. The feature is totally free to use if you have a Gmail account, and you can work with other students on the same document at the same time. That means that you can all contribute to a shared project while you chat about what you need to get done. 

Google Docs even allows you to make “suggestions” for a project, that the rest of your team needs to approve, or you can leave comments on things you think might need to change. 

Pros

  • Very user friendly

  • Convenient for real-time teamwork

  • Excellent connection with other Google tools

  • Add pictures and videos to documents easily

  • Use comments and suggestions to work on projects together

  • Totally free

Cons:

  • You need a Gmail account

  • Keeping track of document versions can get tricky

Go Ace That Project

Student collaboration tools help you and your classmates connect on team projects, provide access to video conferencing for lectures at a distance, and even offer features like file and screen sharing to get projects done faster. All you need to do is find the tools that work best for you.

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© 2020 Sam Loyd. All rights reserved.