Collaborations strategies

The Collaborations tool in WebCampus integrates Google Docs to allow up to 50 users to work together on the same document from within WebCampus. This page discusses some reasons why you might want to use the Collaborations tool and some ideas on how to use the tool in your teaching.

Why use Collaborations with Google Docs

Google Docs is a powerful collaborative  tool  because it saves changes in the document in real-time and makes them immediately visible to all collaborators. Students can work together on the same document synchronously during class time as well as asynchronously outside of class. Google Docs tools also facilitate basic commenting and editing features to further peer collaboration and peer review. Note that Google Docs can function within as well as outside of WebCampus, but using it within can make it easier for students and instructors to keep track of collaborative assignments.

How to use Collaborations with Google Docs

Options for student collaboration using Google Docs are limitless. A few of the more popular strategies for using Google Docs in teaching are discussed below. 

Collect student generated questions to drive class:  Create a Google Doc for the entire class and invite students to post their questions about the reading or other content assigned for review. Use the questions submitted before class to generate class discussion. You might also consider including some of the questions on quizzes or exams later in the semester. 

Share a skeletal notes or activity template: Before class, create a Google Doc template with a skeleton outline of your lecture to guide student note-taking or a worksheet template to guide problem-solving or discussion. Invite students to copy the template to their Google Drive to fill in notes or complete a guided activity during class.  The template can help guide students during class and can easily be shared after class for participation points and/or it can be used by students as a study resource.   

Create a class wiki:  Invite students to use a Google Doc as a sort of wiki of co-authored information. For example, you might invite students to share key terms and/or post questions about course content to create a student-driven study resource. Encourage student collaboration in the document by inviting peers to post definitions of terms and/or answer questions and consider including terms and questions in your assessments.

Facilitate collaborative research: A Google Doc can be used as a place for students to create a collection of reference citations related to the course or a given topic. An instructor might even ask students to post annotations of the sources for a collaborative annotated bibliography assignment or to help students prepare for a research paper.   

Facilitate collaborative writing assignments:  A Google Doc is useful for any group writing-based assignment as it eliminates the need for students to share drafts by email and keep track of changing versions of the document. Students can work on the document all at once and/or on their own time. Google Docs include tools for adding comments and suggesting edits to group documents. These tools can be invaluable for students when they are communicating with collaborators about specific parts of the document, including sharing notes about changes made or proposed. Instructors and TAs can track student input in group assignments and leave comments to monitor and guide student learning. For more information on Google Docs tools consult the Google Docs Help Center

Additional Resources

For detailed examples of collaborative writing assignments using Google Docs see: 

Trostle, J. (2015), Cooperative in-class writing with Google Docs. In J. Doughterty and . O'Donnell, Eds. Web writing: Why and how for liberal arts teaching and learning. EPress edition.

Zhou, W., Simpson, E.A., & Domizi, D.P. (2012).  Google Docs in an out-of-class collaborative writing activity. The International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 24, 359-375.