Collaborative learning is essentially people working together to solve a problem, create a product, or derive meaning from a body of material. A central question or problem serves to organize and drive activities, and encourage application, analysis, and synthesis of course material. While the landscape of technology that can be used to support central activities of collaborative learning is vast and varied, it is often lumped together under a single label: "collaboration tools."
Given this vast and distributed landscape of tools, the difficulty of finding one or a set of tools to meet your goals can be time intensive. We are here to help. For faculty who are interested in learning more, want to explore, or try out a tool, contact us to talk with an Eberly colleague in person.
Tools that exist to support collaboration can:
- facilitate real-time and asynchronous text, voice, and video communication.
- assist in basic project management activities.
- support co-creation by enabling groups to modify output in real-time or asynchronously.
- facilitate consensus building through group discussions and polling.
- simplify and streamline resource management.
- enable local and remote presentation and archiving of completed projects.
Many features of collaboration tools are geared toward the facilitation and management of effective communication among team members. Carnegie Mellon centrally-supports tools designed for handling many of the following functions:
- Virtual Meetings
- Instant Messaging
- Screen Sharing
- Voice, Video, Web Conferencing
- Discussion Boards
Tools in this category are designed to help team members identify key players in a project, and draw on the appropriate "people resources" at the appropriate time. They also allow participants to manage their availability for various types of interaction (e.g., text chat or video conferencing). Carnegie Mellon centrally supports Blackboard which handles some of this functionality, and we can help you identify tools designed for handling the following functions:
- Social Networking
- Presence Management
- User Profiles
- Contact Management
Project management tools are geared toward handling the logistical aspects of planning, scheduling, workflow, and task management. Carnegie Mellon provides tools designed for handling many of the following functions:
- Task Management
- Time Tracking
- Workflow Routing
Resource management tools help address common issues, like having access to a shared storage space for project files, and keeping up with multiple versions of the same document. We can help you find tools that have the following features:
- File Storage
- Database Management
- Version Tracking
- Access Management
- Social Bookmarking
Co-creation and ideation tools facilitate the most direct interaction between team members on the goals or desired outcomes of the project. Participants can often work in groups directly editing or building the project artifact using tools with the following features and support functionality:
- Concept Mapping
- Virtual Whiteboards
- Real-Time Collaborative Editing
While co-creation and ideation tools help generate possible alternative solutions to a given problem, consensus-building tools help participants narrow and refine the proposed solutions. We can help to identify tools that support the following functions:
- Question Management
- Process Archiving
These tools allow the project team to present outcomes to the instructor, to a project client, or to the general public. We can help you find tools designed to handle the following:
- Slide Shows
- Hosted Media Sharing
Collaboration Tools White Paper
Read a more in-depth literature review (2009) of collaborative learning, assessment, and tools.
Download Collaboration Tools White Paper (pdf).
Want to find out more, explore, or try out a particular tool that might meet your goals?
CONTACT US to talk with an Eberly colleague in person!