Free Online Collaboration Tools For Students
We are living in a digital age where students shuffle between learning apps and social and communication platforms constantly.
We can now communicate with anyone, anywhere, anytime through the simple click of a button, and it is our job as educators to leverage these collaborative tools in the classroom. Many schools are finding creative ways to incorporate blended learning in their curriculums, and THINK Global School, where I teach, is no different.
Due to our focus on blended learning and travel, it is imperative that we remain as paperless as possible. Technology can often make or break our experiences as we study in different countries around the world, so we must hit the ground running during our seven-week intensive country visits. And depending on how they are integrated into our teaching toolkits, the tools used for our blended learning units can either help or hinder our student learning experiences.
Like you, we’ve tested our fair share of tools in trying to make the digital collaboration process with our students as seamless as possible. Some have worked incredibly while others not so much. But there are five that we’ve ended up going back to time after time–tools that just make student collaboration online (and thus blended learning) that much easier.
Student-To-Student & School-To-School Digital Collaboration: 30 Of The Best Digital Collaboration Tools For Students
- Dig social bookmarks? You’ll love Diigo
Remember the old days when a librarian came carting books into your classroom for an upcoming report?
Imagine Diigo as a digital version of that librarian and the entire internet as her cart. Items in this cart, however, can be retained for as long as you like without the fear of overdue book fees. Diigo, which stands for ‘Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other stuff,’ is a great social-bookmarking tool that helps students or classes capture relevant research articles on a given topic.
By offering mobile versions via Android and iOS and add-ons downloadable for Firefox and Chrome, Diigo can be accessed anywhere, anytime—perfect for lessons in the classroom and those that extend out into the field.
See also 12 Of The Best Bookmarking Tools For Teachers
How We Use Diigo
This tool has become a crucial part of our school’s approach to managing project-based learning resources. Since we are constantly on-the-move, a few books, let alone entire physical libraries, are impossible for us to reasonably transport. Diigo eliminates that concern, and helps our students curate and build an ever-growing library of bookmarks for our modules year after year.
Countries and specific place- and project-based modules have their own groups for students to contribute to and annotate resources. When a guest speaker visits, we can quickly create a research group to curate a list of resources so that our entire student body is informed and attentive before the speaker arrives.
- Tap into your students’ love of video with Flipgrid
FlipGrid is a video tool that is meant to encourage discussion and engagement. These short video-logs allow students to share ideas and opinions in a fun and hands-on way, as video submissions are often more enticing to students than a written response (this is especially true for teachers of ESL learners, who sometimes get anxiety about their written work.)
FlipGrid provides another approach for long-distance collaboration: The time limits are an added challenge to students who sometimes struggle with brevity. It’s important to note that the free version offers limited features, while the paid version features offer full student collaboration and video conversation.
How We Use FlipGrid
In our Economics and eCommerce module, students use FlipGrid to summarize, discuss and review two different resources for the project-based learning module. In the module, students learn social entrepreneurship and e-commerce by developing a web store to support rural artisans.
Before their arrival in India, students researched the stories behind successful brands and shared them in a ‘grid.’ In the ‘grid,’ students use rhetorical devices to compete with their classmates to pitch the story of the brand they selected. This early application of rhetoric devices develops throughout the module before students present a business pitch to a panel of potential investors.
- Collectively annotate YouTube videos with VideoAnt
As a former history and anthropology teacher, I was thrilled to stumble across VideoAnt. In the past, my students would laugh at the number of times I would pause a video to ask a question or interject a counterpoint. Now, instead of just showing a YouTube video, you can annotate YouTube videos to maximize efficiency and learning.
Students and teachers can add comments to video ‘Ants,’ adding all sorts of untapped academic potential. Students can point out bias, critique video style, and ask probing and clarifying questions, just to name a few uses.
Also, if any coaches are reading this, this makes for an excellent review tool when analyzing practice drills, pre-game scouting, and game film breakdowns.
How We Use VideoAnt
In our Zero to Infinity module, students carved up an hour-long documentary about mathematics titled “The Story of One.” Educators annotate certain times with questions for reflection and short answers, while students annotate with different follow-up questions, and clarifying comments.
Due to our students’ geographic diversity, there can be large gaps in their understanding of mathematics. This tool helps educators gain more insight into the student math experience before starting the module.
- Create & Collaborate Anywhere in the World with Padlet
Padlet allows for creative collaboration using a range of different mixed media sources.
In real-time or across time zones, students can contribute videos, images, comments on a virtual corkboard. Each student can comment or reply to the work of another student or add a new strand on the topic that is introduced.
How We Use Padlet
During our ongoing “Water and Sustainability” module, students are using Padlet to document their experiences with data collection and the use of statistics in their daily life. They are sharing passions, applications, and websites to help each other realize the everyday benefits of understandings statistics. These include a range of topics such as distance running, gardening, vegetarian nutrition, and sleep maintenance.
By learning about each other, they are in turn gaining a deeper understanding of the wide range of applications of statistics.
25 More Of The Best Digital Collaboration Tools For Students
- Skype: Video chat, text chat, etc.
- Zoom: Live stream video and video chat
- Google Drive: Collaborate on multimedia projects, share files, collaborate on documents, etc.
- WeTransfer: Transfer files of almost any size with WeTransfer. Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive (9) are decent alternatives.
- Scribblar: Online collaborative whiteboarding. Also consider ‘Explain Everything.’
- Microsoft Translator: Translate languages via text, voice, or photograph to more easily communicate in other languages. Also, consider Google Translate (12)
- Twitch: Stream games for game-based learning. Channels, chat, and more.
- Pear Deck: According to the developer, Pear Desk is a tool for Google Slide presentations and templates that allows you to transform “presentations into classroom conversations with an array of interactive and formative assessment questions.”
- Kahoot: Game-based learning and content reinforcement through competition and collaboration
- Drawp: According to the developer, Drawp is “a K-12 platform for creation, collaboration, content, and workflow management” Also consider Seesaw (16) learning journal.
- Minecraft for Education: Students can work together to explore ecosystems, solve problems through design, architecture, etc. See also teaching with Strategies To Teach Like Minecraft.
- Voicethread: Content-based conversations about selected media through ‘threads’
See also 10 tips for using Voicethread in your classroom.
- Explain Everything: Similar in function to Voicethread but focused on students visually demonstrating knowledge rather than through voice.
See also Free Explain Everything lesson ideas.
- GooseChaseEdu: Online scavenger hunts. for team-building and content reinforcement.
- Microsoft Teams: A digital hub likely best-suited for project-based learning support. Also consider Slack (22) Redbooth (23) or Trello (24).
- Spiral: A formative assessment tool with video, group and quiz exercises, completed in class or at home, collaborative review, etc.
- Piazza: A free, K-12+ Q&A platform
Also consider Quora (27) or reddit (28).
- Peergrade: According to the developer, Peergrade is a “free online platform to facilitate peer feedback sessions with students.”
- Playposit: According to the developer, Playposit is “an online learning environment to create and share interactive video lessons. Teachers begin with any online video (screencasts, Khan Academy, TED, etc.) and transform what is traditionally passive content into an active experience for students, with time-embedded activities.”
Tip: Most tools are either for ‘school’ or ‘not school.’ That means tools like Seesaw and Explain Everything are made for school and tools like Quora and reddit aren’t. Obviously, school-friendly tools have many benefits (e.g., data privacy) but drawbacks as well (e.g., lack of authentic content). When using ‘not made expressly for school’ tools, try to leverage its strengths while minimizing its pitfalls.
While the TGS Changemaker Curriculum is unique in its approach to blended and field learning, any institution can adapt these tools for their personal teaching methods. Portable, user-friendly and effective, these tools can and will help anyone, anywhere, as they make content more fun for students to digest.
Absences are a daily occurrence at any school, but these tools can ease the burden on both the teacher and the student by keeping them informed and engaged regarding the day’s lesson plan. Teachers who flip their classrooms (here are 54 tools for a flipped classroom) can also use these tools to ensure students collaborate productively from home.
With the application of any new tech in the classroom, it is important to remember that web tools do not replace sound pedagogy. When adding these to your toolkit, treat them as learning supplements, not as a magic wand for better teaching.
examples of online collaboration activities
Educational technology tools have enabled multiple channels of collaboration within the online learning environment. However, these tools are futile if the course facilitator or trainer doesn’t know how to use them or even ignores their existence!
In this article, we’ll share the top three forms of collaboration activities for your eLearning course that have proven to enhance eLearning experiences.
Effective Collaboration Activities: Types and Ideas
eLearning strategies, specifically the ones regarding collaboration, seem to increase every week, so we need to narrow them down and identify the ones that are proven to improve learning achievement and performance. Training experts highly encourage the use of the following collaboration activities – methods:
· Small group assignments
· Online field trips
· Group work on case studies
· Shared facilitations
· Homework forums
· Asynchronous discussion of the assigned reading
· Blogs or online journals that allow learners to reflect and comment on each other’s reflection
· Jigsaw activities where learners solve components of a large project in groups, and then bring their work together to form the whole project.
· WebQuests, where teams are sent out for online scavenger hunts to find the solution to a problem.
3 Top And Proven Collaboration Activities
Best practices indicate three forms of collaboration activities that lead to richer, and more effective, eLearning environments.
- Learner Website/ePortfolio
An ePortfolio can be a very helpful weapon in your learners’ arsenal, and can be used for other courses as a form of a collaboration hub.
Require learners to visit at least five ePortfolios of their peers and comment on their work in the commenting area. Communicating and discussing professional skills under ePortfolios is a great way to break the ice in the online learning environment. It also enables learners to realize their worth and potential, as well as the gaps in their professional skills.
A good ePortfolio is evidence of learning and performance that takes years to complete. A good start is the development of a website that contains the following webpages:
a. About me: On this page, learners share their images, videos or other forms of identity they are comfortable with – including an avatar. Learners talk about themselves. They explain their current professional status and their aspirations for the future.
b. Skills and Projects: This page can have links to projects and samples of technical skills (for example, Photoshop projects etc.) that the learner has completed over the years.
c. CV: On this page, the learner uploads their CV to give their readers a complete idea of their background.
d. Reflections: Here, learners can write down their observations on their performance and their lessons learned.
- Location Based Games – Augmented Learning
This form of learning is one of the most exciting, according to learners. Trainers usually think that augmented learning is hard to implement but, nowadays, there are several tools available to create games that are based on a historical or geographical backdrop.
It is similar to geocaching, except these games are linked to course objectives and based in a location where everyone can participate physically. Performance can be improved significantly if a location-based game is developed for the work context of the learners. After solving all problems presented in the location, guided by the game played on the learners’ smartphones, learners receive a score that determines the quality of their performance. For example, check out this great Game of Thrones eLearning game.
While these games are very interesting to implement, they are indeed time-consuming to create. Perhaps the best feature of these games is the degree of customization achieved for a learning situation. Games like these involve all learners and require participation for achieving points. Learners are regularly in touch with each other through the game’s social media.
- Discussion forums
This is one of the oldest, yet still the favorite form of online collaboration activities. The course mentor posts different topics to observe the level and quality of learning demonstrated by participants. The success of this form of collaboration depends mostly on the course mentor. The goal is to categorize the questions according to the course learning objectives. Any negativity needs to be addressed and weeded out at an early stage.
A point awarding strategy is also versatile in discussion board activity – a way to motivate all learners to participate and provide their input. Experts tell us that we reveal more about ourselves through text as compared to speaking.
Discussion forums activities not only encourage collaboration, but they also provide a venting outlet for learners while they receive multiple feedback from their peers.
Give these tips a shot next time you plan an eLearning course. Not only do these strategies encourage a strong social presence, but they also promote recognition of talent and skills. Collaboration is all about frequent and regular contact with peers to obtain the updates on a project or a task. Try integrating these three strategies in your next eLearning course and enjoy a better social interaction with your learners.
Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.