Collaborating during remote learning

The tools

There will likely be three ways in which you have/will collaborate during remote learning:
  1. 1.
    Video calls
  2. 2.
    Collaborative documents
  3. 3.
    Chat functions
Let's look at each one in turn.

Video calls

There's nothing stopping you from speaking on video calls during group work, but if there's more than one group it might become rather noisy! The answer may be 'breakout rooms'. These are calls, linked to the main class call, that your teacher can place members of a group into. It is a key feature of Zoom and Google Meet, so ask your teacher if it is possible to set them up. Then, the only thing remaining is for you to unmute your microphone.

Collaborative documents

The most commonly used collaborative documents belong to Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) or Microsoft 365 (e.g. MS Word online). There are plenty of online guides to using them effectively, so I will only mention a few quick tips.
Make sure that you share with whoever else is working on the document, and give them editing rights.
Track changes to see who has done what (it is likely your teacher will do this too, in order to see who is working hard and who is letting others do the work!).
Use the comment function to 'chat' about certain aspects of the work. You can also 'assign' work to someone in your group. They'll get an email notifying them that they have some work to do!

Chat functions

Outside of the video call chats, your school probably has a chat function available to you - something like Google Chat (formerly Hangouts) or Microsoft Teams Chat. This is really good for communicating and collaborating outside of lessons, and is better than emailing each other because it is so much easier to follow the conversation. If you are assigned group work, you may wish to set up a chat for all members of that group.
Source: Oxford, Bill. Unsplash, 2019.

Don't forget the 'why' of collaboration

It is easy to see collaboration as a way of working together that is driven by technology. It isn't. Teachers will have asked you to collaborate many times before, because it promotes lots of skills that are useful to you: teamwork, communication, and time management, to name just a few.
Remember to make group work a success by:
  • Doing your fair share of the work.
  • Checking each others' work and providing constructive feedback.
  • Assigning roles so that you don't duplicate the workload.
  • Communicating regularly.
  • Holding yourself, and each other, accountable for the results.