Tools for Online Collaboration

Online ProgramsClassroom teachers are using technology in the classroom more frequently than ever before, and online classes have become more popular among students. As Editor at BOU, I like to keep my finger on the pulse of new tools for online collaboration, both for students AND teachers.

But I have to say, the OGs of online collaboration are my favorites, as these tools are easy to use, access, and control. And more importantly, these tools make learning fun and engaging. Check out THREE of the most popular online learning tools in today’s modern classroom.

Blogs in the Classroom

Blogs are everywhere, there’s no denying that! Nowadays, blogs are being used mainly for content marketing, but many teachers use blogs to display course notes, showcase student work, distribute assignments, post homework assignments, and so much more. A blog is an online publication tool, often referred to as an online journal that is both user-friendly and easy to customize. Using blogs in the classroom provides an opportunity to generate student interest and participation. Through blogging, students AND teachers can share ideas and work together in a flexible and dynamic environment. Teachers can use blogs to communicate with students by posting daily homework assignments as well as to provide a platform for discussion and the exchange of ideas. Blogs work well for students because they can be accessed anytime and anywhere, provided Internet connectivity is available. By integrating blogs in teaching, students’ technological fluencies are both enhanced and refined—skills necessary in today’s technology-oriented society.

There are many ways teachers incorporate blogs in the curriculum. For online students, a blog is a great way to collaborate with fellow classmates outside of Blackboard, Moodle, and other course management systems. Teachers often start a class blog to:

  • Post readings for assignments
  • Communicate with students about homework, answering questions and providing feedback on assignments
  • Create a forum from which students can communicate with each other and pose questions regarding the readings or other assignment-related topics
  • Create a calendar of events so students are up-to-date with all assignments and school functions
  • Provide links to additional information students might find useful and interesting
  • Establish an outlet for students to showcase their personal talents such as photography, poetry, or creative writing
  • Establish online journals for students that encourages reflective thinking and promotes sharing of experiences

Wikis in the Classroom

Wikis are another great technological tool for providing information and generating student collaboration. Wikis offer students means to communicate freely and to publish and edit content information quickly. Much like a blog, wikis give students a great deal of freedom and creativity, allowing multiple contributors to compile information and create knowledge through group interaction. Wikis also allow students to truly engage in the writing process by giving learners the opportunity to revise their thoughts and conclusions.

A wiki is a website that can be edited freely by users who have the site’s password. Users can also delete information published by prior authors.

Teachers can use wikis in the curriculum much like blogs. However, it is important to remember that information posted on wikis can be deleted or edited by the author at any time; therefore, wikis are not the best place to post materials that teachers do not want removed. Instead, wikis are recommended for projects that require collaboration and group-authoring and for quick and easy social bookmarking.

Podcasts in the Classroom

Podcasts are the latest Internet craze to hit computers. Using innovative practices to engage students in e-learning activities, podcasts encourage learners to take part in dynamic and interactive learning experiences. According to Daniel J. Schmit, an instructional technology specialist in the college of education at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and the author of “KidCast: Podcasting in the Classroom, “a podcast is like few other devices that a teacher can use in advancing a student’s development. It teaches them to do research, to communicate in print, to speak effectively and grab attention with sound.”

A podcast is a web feed of audio or video files placed on the Internet for anyone to download or subscribe to, and also the content of that feed.” (Wikipedia, 2006)

Podcasts allow students to listen to or watch audio clips at any time, and replay for any missed information. What are unique about podcasts are the presentation and delivery techniques that grab students’ attention through fun audio software. Podcasts can be used on any computer with a media player and audio capabilities.


About Sarah Bass

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Sarah manages the editorial operations for Best Online Universities. Her responsibilities include proofing, editing, and developing content for the company’s Web sites. Sarah holds a bachelor’s degree from Drake University and an MA in Writing from DePaul University. When she isn't working on new and entertaining articles for BestOnlineUniversities.com you will most likely find her curled up with a good book, walking her dog, Roger, or breaking the sound barrier on the Nürburgring.