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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.