by Annie Rose Stathes
Published May 1, 2013
Teamwork is an important element of any assignment of project requiring collaboration. Since students are often in different places at different times with different schedules, organization and communication can be one of the most challenging aspects of academic group work. Fortunately, here are 7 technologies to make group projects easier in graduate school by assisting with virtual group brainstorming, document sharing, and communication.
Technologies to Make Group Projects Easier
Brainstorming is an incredibly important component of producing well-planned, considerate, and quality teamwork. Brainstorming as a group, however, can be challenging, especially if your group members don’t have a lot of time to meet in person.
Allows each member to track subjects, topics, and sub-topics as they develop, change, and evolve. Ideas are tracked through bright, colorful bubbles that create a visual “map” of the brainstorming session. Group members can share the session with others in a read-only file, or give permission to others to add information or make changes.
A collaborative mind mapping tool for brainstorming and project management. Users can upload images, maps, text files, and calendars. These files can be grouped together through flexible tools creating a map of your group’s plans and ideas.
(3) Realtime Board:
Allows users to type, draw, and post pictures on a grid that is shared either publicly or privately with members working together on a project. The linking tool allows you to connect appropriate elements together for optimal viewing. To enable communication amongst all members, Realtime Board has a built-in chat function.
Organizing and Sharing Documents:
Organizing, revising, and sharing documents can get messy when done via email. Ideas, documents, and changes often get lost, and tracking multiple emails can be difficult and time consuming. Online tools for organizing and sharing documents can provide a great alternative.
(4) Google Docs:
An online tool students can use for document management. It allows students to share documents and spreadsheets in one safe organized space and work with each other on documents in real-time. Work can be stored online and, because Google Docs is browser-based, accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. Google Docs converts documents into one format accessible to users regardless of document type or source. Students must set up a free Google email (Gmail) account to use it, and the site itself is free.
Communication for Group Projects:
Conducting work face-to-face is often much easier than doing so over the phone or through email. Because it is sometimes difficult to get together in person, Skype and other communication technologies provide an opportunity to meet face-to-face without having to meet in person, which can help you work well with others.
Skype allows users to communicate via microphone, video (via webcam), and instant messaging. Users typically “call” each other from one computer to another and engage the feature (microphone, video, or IM) of their choice. For those users, the service is free. Users can also call a cellular phone or landline from a computer. Those calls typically require users to pay a fee. Skype is easy to set up and requires the use of a computer-microphone or headset (at minimum) and webcam (if group members want to use the video feature). Using Skype typically requires connection to a strong internet signal.
Integrates screen sharing with real time phone or video conferencing. This software usually requires users to pay a flat fee for services, but it allows meeting participants to discuss projects as though they were sharing a computer screen. This is most commonly used in a professional environment, but would serve the needs of students as well.
Institution Based Collaboration Platforms:
Allow faculty and students to share documents (word, spreadsheets, PDFs, etc.), utilize instant-messaging, email each other, engage in group discussion, and much more. These sites are often made available to students for group work and projects, and are typically free. Check with your college or university to see if you can use your school’s platform to collaborate with students in your group.
Technology facilitates teamwork by helping to keep group members up to date on recent project developments and enhance the quality of communication. Many online collaboration tools are available for free. Gaining experience using collaboration tools not only helps advance current projects, but it can also help you become familiar with technology that may be utilized for teamwork in the professional environment.
Use Technologies to Succeed in Graduate School
While projects in graduate school can be difficult, as everyone is juggling responsibilities both inside and outside of the classroom. However, these technologies can make group projects easier, whether you're pursuing a a master's degree, graduate certificate, or a doctorate degree.
Annie Rose Stathes holds a B.A. in International Affairs and an M.A. in Political Science, from the University of Colorado, Denver. She is currently an instructor of writing at Fort Lewis College in Durango Colorado