Exploring and Assessing Collaboration Tools

Dr. Steven Meisel (School of Business, Management & Leadership), like many professors here at La Salle University, designs group activities to foster student collaboration. For some of his activities, students need to gather and share visual information. While collaboration tools such Blackboard’s Groups or Wikis are useful for text-based projects like papers, neither make it easy for students to share or map visual content.

Experiment #1: Pinterestpinterest2

To help his students share visual information and ideas, Dr. Meisel decided to try the social curation tool Pinterest. Pinterest allows members to add, or pin, images or videos and then organize what they find on a board. Boards can be public or private and users can invite other members to pin to a board. Dr. Meisel helped students along by creating group boards for the students, then let them loose to find and curate their own content.

While Pinterest seemed like it would be a great tool for this collaboration project, only one out of the three groups were able to use it successfully. Students struggled to get tech support from the company, causing frustration for both the students and Dr. Meisel.

Even though this tool wasn’t a good fit, it created an opportunity for Dr. Meisel to discuss with his students how, sometimes, technology tools don’t quite work the way we would like them to and that any tool could, ultimately, hamper the collaborative process. Since evaluating tools was part of what he wanted students to do, this provided a valuable lesson.

Experiment #2: Preziprezi_templates

This fall, Dr. Meisel wanted to try another tool that would not only facilitate student collaboration and the collection of visual resources, but also provide a forum for students to brainstorm ideas and map them out. After a brainstorming session with me, he chose Prezi.

He set the stage by creating presentations for each group using one of the brainstorming templates, then shared the presentation with group members. Once students created accounts, they were able to begin collecting ideas synchronously or asynchronously. Students first used Prezi as a whiteboard to brainstorm their ideas, then used it to gather ideas and build a presentation.

While students navigated their way past a significant learning curve, Dr. Meisel felt that students benefited from learning the software in multiple ways. Their learning experience

  • provided interesting lessons in team dynamics,
  • fostered an understanding of the positives and negatives of collaborating in virtual teams, and
  • illustrated the ways in which technology can affect collaboration.

At the conclusion of the exercise, Dr. Meisel and his student debriefed the exercise creating team-based “Lessons Learned” lists to share with the entire class. This exploration helped to separate the product from the process. Since evaluating the technology tool was an essential part of the project, Dr. Meisel found this experiment more successful.

Interested in experimenting, too?

The ID team is here to help! Just get in touch with any us to brainstorm solutions that would work best for your learning goals. If you want to jump right in and do some tinkering, check out the following tools.

Need something that can be used over time? Take a look at these three tools:

  • Padlet (free; no account necessary)
  • Pearltrees (free, but there’s an option for premium memberships; must create account)
  • Mind42 (free; must create account)

Need a synchronous tool? Check out these two:

  • Twiddla (free, but there’s a pro-level subscription; no account necessary)
  • A Web Whiteboard (free; no account necessary)