With millions of people working and studying from home, there’s been a huge boom in the use of team collaboration tools since the start of the pandemic. And as we look towards a hybrid future in terms of school and office structure, more and more software is being developed by companies looking to profit from the situation.
At EU, we offer a combination of on-campus and distance learning courses, encouraging our students to work together and share ideas. All our programs are taught in English, which is often a student’s second or third language.
According to ‘The World of Better Learning’, a blog run by Cambridge University Press for English language learners, there are three core principles for teaching languages using online tools. These are:
1. Meaningful Interaction
Students learn best when they are encouraged to think about their words and interact with one another in a meaningful way. The right collaboration tool can help simulate classroom discussions online and create a community of learners, which is important during this time of remote hybrid learning.
We’ve talked a lot in recent blog posts about the challenges of online learning for students and teachers, but there is a positive: today’s generation of students is already used to digital methods of communication. The fact that they’re so comfortable with sending IMs and emails and making video calls, etc. makes the skills you’re teaching them seem even more meaningful.
2. Positive Engagement
Motivating your students is key to keeping them engaged, whether they’re in a physical classroom or learning online. Peer-to-peer interaction can help inspire a positive learning atmosphere, where students feel confident enough to share their ideas and feedback with the group. Using online collaboration tools, like Google Docs or forums, may make the prospect of contributing feel less daunting for quieter members of the class.
To maintain high levels of engagement, look for tools which allow students to illustrate their points using different types of media, e.g., images, presentations, voice notes, and links to videos and podcasts.
3. Autonomous Learning.
Online learning creates a sense of independence. As well as fostering a low-pressure environment for communication, it also helps students to develop new skills and encourages them to take responsibility for their own learning. Instructors should be available to support their students while they adapt to this change – but should also encourage students to talk to each other about their experiences and ideas for how to manage their own time and learning effectively.
Online collaboration tools are not just for online learning, however. They can be used to supplement in-person teaching and help students organize themselves for group projects,. Looking at the above criteria and the range of tools available, we have identified what we think are the three best team collaboration tools for remote and on-campus students alike.
Top Three Team Collaboration Tools for Students
Popular with businesses, freelancers, and educational institutions, Slack is one of the most widely used digital collaboration tools currently on the market. In March 2020, when schools around the world were beginning to transition to remote learning, the platform reported that more than 3,000 colleges and universities, including Yale, NYU, and U.C. Berkeley, were using its tool to help them make the change.
Slack is supported by multiple devices. You can access it in your browser or download the app for desktop or mobile, so you can stay connected while you’re on the go. It allows you to send direct messages and files to individuals and groups and create channels for different purposes, e.g. general chat or group project.
With Slack, you can also make video calls to your team. This makes it a great communication tool. However, if you’re looking for an app to help you manage all the different aspects of a project, you may be better off using Slack in conjunction with one of the other tools on our list.
Slack offers handy integrations with other online tools, including Trello (below), sending you alerts when the status of your tasks has been updated. This gives you the best of both worlds in terms of messaging and project management.
Trello is an online collaboration tool that allows you to create, organize, and work on projects with your colleagues or classmates. It’s available on the web and mobile, and the free plan offers multiple features for students looking to manage a group project.
Set up the project as a board or a list and break assignments down into smaller, more manageable tasks or cards, which you can then delegate to specific members of the team. The drag and drop interface with the cards makes it easy to organize them into columns. Trello also lets you add comments to cards, which is a quick and easy way to share directions and feedback.
To discuss projects in greater detail, however, you may want to use this tool in conjunction with Slack, as it does not support direct messaging.
Asana is a great tool for helping students stay organized and monitor their progress on group projects. Using Asana, you can add team members, create to-do lists, and set reminders for deadlines, so you know what people are doing, and when. This platform also lets you send requests to team members (e.g., “@Bruno, can I see your slides so I can write the conclusion?”) and comment on their posts.
The user experience (UX) is simple and easy to navigate. You can choose between viewing your project items in list or board format, and the search function can help you locate the specific task that you’re looking for.
You may find that Asana is not as convenient for direct communication as Slack. But if you’re working on a group assignment with your peers and need to divide up the workload, this platform is an excellent way to organize people, keeping them up to date and accountable. Whatever your needs, there is a collaboration tool (or combination of platforms) to help you, your team and students reach your goals.