Collaborating online

Being able to work effectively in a team or group is an essential skill for life-long learning and problem solving. With technology continuing to advance, so too does your ability to create meaningful connections and new and exciting ways to learn and work.

There are many different reasons why you might collaborate with others online. You may be collaborating with your peers to produce an assessment, working on individual parts of a larger group project, or looking to share ideas and find new solutions to complex problems.

A familiarity with the methods, tools and resources available to you for online collaboration will not only have a positive effect on how you engage with your studies, it will also develop a world of skills you can apply to your career. Deakin offers you the opportunity to develop these skills across the course of your studies and provides the tools and resources you need to get the most out of your online collaboration.

Deakin Supported

As a Deakin student you have access to a range of software through the Deakin Univeristy Software Library. You can also get support from Deakin's IT Help if you need any assistance with these tools.

Other Tools

At Deakin University, we recognise the need to provide you with relevant collaboration tools that you will use in your professional context so we have listed ‘other tools’ that, although we do not offer support you may wish to use.

Collaboration platforms

A collaboration platform is a space where you can meet online with others to work together. It provides a wide variety of functions to support group work, such as instant messaging, video conferencing, and file sharing. Some platforms allow for integration with third party applications, whilst others provide their own suite of applications.

Deakin Supported

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is a collaboration hub that combines chat capabilities, video conferencing, file storage, collaborative document editing and integration with various apps. Using Microsoft Teams will allow you to keep documents and conversations securely in one space, access help through the Deakin IT Helpdesk and familiarise yourself with a tool which is widely used in industry. Microsoft Planner is a project management tool that allows you to create plans, assign tasks, chat about your project, and see charts of your team's progress in a secure space. Microsoft Planner can be added as a tab to Microsoft Teams to help you manage your group projects. Learn more about Microsoft Planner.


Tip: You’ll get the most functionality by downloading the Microsoft Teams application on your desktop and mobile device and enable notifications.
Access the Microsoft Teams Student Support Resource
Learn Microsoft Teams on LinkedIn Learning

Other tools

Slack is a digital collaboration space that allows you to share text posts, chat, voice and video calls, file sharing. There’s also a wide variety of other collaboration service integrations you can choose from to add extra functionality to your Slack such as video conferencing, polls, Office 365 apps and more.

Tip: The free version of Slack allows for up to 10 app and service integrations at a time, so make sure you choose wisely!


Facebook groups can be used as a digital collaboration space to post text, share files, pictures, video, schedule events and conduct polls. You can also use Facebook messenger to chat and video conference.

Tip: Consider setting your Facebook group to ‘closed’ and review your own personal Facebook privacy settings to make sure you’re comfortable with the level of information you’re sharing.


Communication

If your project team or study group decides they would prefer to communicate and work in real-time, there are many tools you can use to communicate with each other. Most instant messaging apps and communication tools are available for both desktop and mobile and allow for video chat and video conferencing.

Deakin supported

Zoom

Zoom is a popular video communication app which offers video, audio and screen sharing experience and some collaborative features such as live chat and a screen annotation feature.


Other tools

WhatsApp is a popular instant messaging application that also allows you to message privately, start group chats with up to 256 people, video and voice calls, and video conference calls for up to four participants. Once you have signed up to Whatsapp on your phone, you can also download it on your desktop.

Tip: Use the search function in group chat to quickly find information in past messages. This tool links with your mobile number, so be mindful of privacy.


Facebook Messenger is an instant messenger application that allows you to private message, start group chats, video call and video conference. On a video conference call you can see up to six people at a time, but up to 50 people can join the call.

Tip: You can use Facebook messenger without a Facebook account. Keep in mind that if you don’t have a Facebook account you will need to provide a mobile phone number to use the Facebook messenger app.


File management

If your group or team has opted to use a stand-alone application to communicate instead of a collaboration platform, you’ll need to decide how you’re going to store and share files with each other. There are many services available to store files online and most offer a free version with a maximum amount of file uploads.

Deakin supported

OneDrive

OneDrive is a storage service developed by Microsoft that allows you to store all your important files securely in one place and then access them virtually from anywhere through the internet. OneDrive is designed for individual use, with the occasional sharing of files. OneDrive gives you 1TB of free storage under Deakin University’s Office 365 plan and links well with the Microsoft Teams. Simply download OneDrive to your mobile or desktop and sign in using your Deakin email address and password.


Tip: Download OneDrive to your mobile phone and access your files on the move.
Learn OneDrive on LinkedIn Learning

Other tools

Dropbox allows you to store, share and collaborate on files. The basic Dropbox account comes with 2GB of storage.

Tip: If you use the Dropbox desktop app, you will see the Dropbox badge when collaborating on a file. The badge will show you what changes are being made to the file and allow you to save different versions.


You can use Google Drive to store, share and collaborate on files using inbuilt Google programs such as Google Docs and Google Sheets. Google Drive provides 15GB of storage to anyone with a Google account.

Tip: The 15GB of storage in Google Drive includes emails and attachments in your Gmail account as well as Google Photos. If you need to free up space you can delete old, unimportant emails.


Hints and tips

How can you get the most out of your online collaboration? Read our hints and tips to get started and learn about how to work with others and any potential conflicts.

How do we get our collaboration off to a good start?

  • Decide on the best method for your group to work together and which digital tools or platforms you’ll use to communicate, develop content and interact.
  • Take time to introduce yourself, including name, background and what skills you will bring to the group.
  • Exchange relevant contact details such as email address or phone numbers.
  • Identify roles and responsibilities of group members for that session or throughout the group project.
  • Assign some initial tasks and create a timeline of due dates – make sure all group members agree on the dates.
  • Always follow up meetings with a communication summarising the actions to be undertaken.

How do we run a productive collaboration session?

  • The designated leader can share an agenda and a draft plan for the group meeting beforehand which may include suggested time frames, specific topics, tasks and goals.
  • Before the meeting, each group member checks the agenda and draft plan and completes any preparative work such as reviewing notes and reading assignment prompts.
  • Go through the plan and collaborate on the topics, and tasks that were set for the session. Try to stick to the suggested times to ensure you achieve the desired outcomes.
  • During the session, use the agenda as a guide to collaborate on the topics. Discuss your ideas respectfully and openly while listening to other group members’ perspectives as this will lead to better work quality.
  • The last 10 minutes of the session can be used to go over any key concepts that members are finding difficult or need help with.
  • Don’t forget to decide on the goals and tasks for the next session before you conclude your session.
  • Tip: Not every session needs to be synchronous in nature, by selecting a collaboration platform such as Microsoft Teams you can communicate at any time when it is convenient for you.

How do we engage with others and work with potential conflicts?

  • Be open to giving and receiving feedback that is constructive and considerate and remember to ask plenty of questions.
  • Be respectful of the ideas of other group members as this will enable you to build your understanding of other perspectives, key ideas and concepts.
  • Show that you have heard other members’ ideas and then present your own.
  • Working in a group requires negotiation and interpersonal skills and you might like to talk about what these skills look like in your discussion with peers.
  • If the conflict that arises is no longer constructive, take a break to diffuse the situation and recollect your thoughts. Reconnect at a later stage and when everyone can contribute to the group constructively.
  • When you reconnect with your group, consider finding common ground that all group members agree on, for example, a common aim may be to get a good grade on the assignment.
  • After finding common ground, share your opinion objectively using concrete examples and evidence where possible. This will add to your credibility. While sharing your views, remain open to the viewpoints of others.
  • A situation may arise within your group where a group member is not completing their share of the work. It is important that you approach the group member in a respectful manner. You can refer them back to the division of tasks and the agreed timeline.
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