Student guest post: 8 ways students and staff can engage in remote collaboration

remote collaboration

A guest blog post from Sheffield Hallam University Business and Technology students working within the SMASH team. A student partnership group researching Social Media for Academic Studies at Hallam.

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As we enter into the second semester of university (or the last semester for final year students), with the cold weather upon us and deadlines looming – it is often difficult for students participating in group work to all be in the same place at the same time for meetings.

The SMASH team (Social Media for Academic Studies at Hallam) last year wrote a blog post following their struggles of meeting up as a group after the #BeastFromTheEast disrupted travel across the UK. This year, the team have decided to build upon this post, and create more ideas and suggestions into tools for remote collaboration. Not only does this list build upon some of the tools mentioned in the previous post, and demonstrating how these have been implemented within the students’ own courses; but also introduces new tools, which have been researched and used first-hand to ensure they are useful and sufficient for use by both staff and students.

8 Apps for Remote Collaboration

  1. .Trello
  2. Google Apps
  3. Google Hangout
  4. Messenger
  5. Github
  6. Zoom
  7. Blackboard Collaborate
  8. Padlet

1. Trello

How it can be used

Trello can be used to create Kanban style boards for group work. Users are able to create bespoke categories and add and move notes added to these. ‘Power-ups’ can also be downloaded, adding additional features to the Trello boards, including Google Calendars (mentioned below), and imagery such as ‘gifs’ and popular survey sites such as ‘SurveyMonkey’.

How to get started

Create a Trello account & add users to the board, setting privacy settings where necessary. Start building categories and notes within these, adding additional features where you see fit. Adjust the Trello board as you continue through a project.

Further support

2. Google Apps

How it can be used

Google applications contain a wide variety of collaboration tools, spanning from Google Drive, where shared folders, documents and presentation slides can be added; to Google Calendar where group meetings and Google Hangouts can be organised, for when students are not able to meet up at the same time or for staff to plan Academic Adviser meetings.

How to get started

More examples of Google Apps can be found below, including Google Trips maybe for a student organised trip and Google Duo which could be used for one-to-one meetings between students and staff.

More Google Apps

3. Google Hangout

How it can be used

Google Hangout is a free Google application, which can be used for messaging and video-chatting amongst staff and students. As an alternative to Whatsapp (which requires a mobile number to add contacts and create groups), this application only requires an email address to begin contact. You can also add Google Hangout as a Google Chrome extension, and allow notifications for constant communication between groups and individuals.

How to get started

You can either download the Google Hangout app on your phone or alternatively download the extension quickly from the Google Play store. Alternatively for Sheffield Hallam users you can search for the tool on Blackboard, and login automatically with your SHU credentials (and access the SHU student and staff directory).

Further support

4. Messenger

How it can be used

Facebook Messenger is a free messaging app which is used for instant messaging, setting plans, sharing photos and videos and many other additions Messenger provides for group communication. Messenger also has a video and call option which allows for group calls and meetings in real time. This tool is used widely by students as it’s part of Facebook so your contacts are instantly linked with the account or you can choose to message new contacts.

How to get started

To get started simply download the Messenger app from the website and it will redirect you to the right system you need to download for your device.

Further support

5. Github

How it can be used

Github is a tool for developers which allows you to work on code, to host and review projects you are working on and build software alongside other developers who are working on parts of the code and creating a final software solution that works. GitHub brings teams together to work through problems, move ideas forward, and learn from each other along the way. The GitHub tool allows you to write better code, manage your chaos & finds the right tools to help you.

Further support on how to signup your team

How to get started

GitHub can be joined for free, all you need to do is sign up with the link above, which gives you unlimited public repositories, unlimited private repositories, 3 collaborators for private repositories, issues and bug tracking as well as project management which is more than enough for a beginning non-business team.

Further support and info about more features within GitHub and what you can do with it

6. Zoom

How it can be used

Zoom is an audio and video collaboration tool, wherein students & staff can organise virtual meetings – if they’re based at home or in another location, rather than having to meet face-to-face at the same time. Online video meetings, video webinars (for student or tutor presentations or marketing events for open days) & zoom rooms (collaboration-enabled conference rooms) can all be used within this tool.

How to get started

For meetings which have already been set up, use this link to join:
https://zoom.us/join (entering a meeting ID)
Or to host a meeting, sign up to Zoom https://zoom.us/signup, and follow the ‘Host a Meeting’ link to choose which service you would like to use. There are unlimited free 1 to 1 meetings and up to 40 free mins for group meetings.

Further support

7. Blackboard Collaborate

How it can be used

The primary use for this tool is to maintain remote relationships where physical participation is not possible. Used by lecturers, remote sessions can be set up that enable screen recordings to be shared alongside voice calls to give the look and feel of an ordinary lecture/seminar. This is also more than a live tool, as it allows sessions to be saved as recordings, allowing students to revisit the content.

An example of its use is during our Business and Technology Professional Practice module where students who are on placement can receive content delivery and ask questions whilst away from university about their final year assessments.

How to get started

When accessing your module sites on MyHallam (the name of our Blackboard VLE), at the bottom of the subheadings on the left you will see a “Blackboard Collaborate” option. Clicking this link will take you to the Blackboard collaborate main page, where live and scheduled sessions can be found. Clicking these sessions will allow you to view the content. During these sessions, a live chat will be present where questions can be asked from anyone present.

To access previous Blackboard Collaborate sessions, expanding the hamburger menu on the top left, going to recordings and changing the date range from the drop-down menu on the right, allows you to view all previous recordings in the date range. Selecting a recording allows you to watch back the recording.

Further Support

8. Padlet

How it can be used

At a high level, Padlet is an online tool based around ‘Bulletin Boards’, where creators can invite others to modify or view their boards. Among some of the uses for this tool are; Idea Creation, To-Do Lists, Blogging, Mood Boards and storing ideas in a central location through adding photos, videos, links and attachments. The social feel of this tool is supported by functionality that enables you to create networks with other members, liking people’s posts and create folders.

An example of where this has been used is during our module Developing Strategies for Change where every student contributed to compiling examples of mergers and acquisitions.

How to get started

Signing up to create a Padlet is easy via Google, Facebook and Microsoft accounts (as well as traditional means) and once you’re in, you can begin making boards via the “+ Make a Padlet” button. A wide variety of boards are shown, from templates to blank ones, depending on what the intended use is. The background styles are completely customisable and once this is selected, double click anywhere on the board and begin adding to the board. There is also an option to allow users to rate or comment on posts.

Sharing Padlets can be done from inside the board via the share button, and to see shared padlets return to the home screen and go to the shared sidebar option.

Further support

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We hope you have found this post useful, and encourage you to add in the comments any other tools you have found helpful for remote collaboration.

Contributors

Students from the SMASH team at Sheffield Hallam University

Jess Paddon – IT with Business Studies – @JessPaddonSHU

Joe Gilbert – BSc IT with Business Studies – @JoeGiIbert

Ola Mazur – BSc IT with Business Studies – @SheffAleksandra

Matthew Trueman – BSc IT with Business Studies – @Matty_Trueman

Image credit: Harry Whitaker  – BSc Graphic Design (image used with permission)

About Sue Beckingham

A National Teaching Fellow, Educational Developer and Principal Lecturer in Computing with a research interest in the use of social media in higher education.
This entry was posted in Collaboration tools, Communication tools and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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