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Online writing collaboration

Brief description

The production of text often takes place in word processing programs such as Word. Collaborative writing can take place using online tools which retain most of the functions offered by classic word processing programs, but allow several users to edit the same document at the same time and share text directly with all parties involved.

Motivation

By using tools for online writing collaboration in connection with teaching activities, you as a teacher can create a good framework for group work and joint knowledge production. All group members are given the same rights to add, edit and delete content, which promotes equal collaboration and shared ownership among the students.

Collaborating on creating content can be motivating for the students and may encourage them to reflect on their own writing process in comparison to that of other students in the writing collaboration activity.

Activities

You may use online writing collaboration in your teaching in many different ways. For instance, browse our list of concrete activities and examples of practice in the right margin of this page, or find inspiration in the following brief examples of more general activities.

Group work

Online word processing is an obvious choice for facilitating group work and ensuring that all students can contribute to joint and simultaneous knowledge production. This may be combined with a lecture or take place during the students’ activities between sessions, based on a document created by you with a number of questions for the students to answer.

Written exam in groups

Online writing collaboration can be useful for students who need to write major assignments in connection with their written exam or as a portfolio assignment. In this case, it is an advantage that students can add comments currently in the same document and create an overview. This can help create more cohesion in an assignment text from start to finish.

Shared notes

Working together, the students can produce an internal wiki-like document with explanations of key concepts, theorists or general topics from the course. This gives all students access to the notes, which may raise their academic level. You as a teacher may give the students topics to take turns to write about in the document in connection with specific teaching sessions. These texts may then be used as a basis for academic discussion in class.

Academic discussions

In academic discussion fora such as Blackboard’s Discussion Board or Aula, the students can work with short concisely formulated contributions. This can benefit the students’ academic understanding, formulating capacity and argumentation skills. You may use academic discussion in the context of peer feedback using Discussion Board in Blackboard

Digital Tools

If you do not know which tools to use for the different activities, or what the differences are between them, you may read more about tools below:

Google Docs

Google Docs is an online word processing program. It is almost identical to Word but has the advantage that several users can work in a document at the same time. The tool is particularly well suited for group work.

Wikis in Blackboard

You can use wikis in your teaching as a method to create and edit content together with the students in a shared but private encyclopaedia. Teachers and students are already using Blackboard every day; this makes it a convenient platform for creating a wiki that is easily accessible for all the students in a course

Kaizena*

Kaizena is a tool which you can use to give easy and quick feedback to your students. You can give written or audio-recorded comments on your students’ work. Kaizena also gives you a number of tools for streamlining the feedback process, which means that you do not need to write the same correction several times.

Discussion Board in Blackboard

With Discussion Board, you can initiate discussions of themes, concepts and issues. This may be an element in an assignment or a voluntary activity initiated by the students themselves. Teachers and students are already using Blackboard every day; this makes it a convenient platform for creating a discussion forum that is easily accessible for all students in a course.

Peergrade Feedback

Peergrade is an online platform that structures the feedback process when including students. The students give each other feedback based on criteria set up by you as a teacher. This teaches the students to assess and reflect on other students’ work and to formulate constructive feedback.

*These digital tools do not yet have an AU licence. Please note that sensitive personal data may not be shared in third-party platforms without AU licence. You can read more about the general data protection regulation here.

Worth considering

You should be careful to not have too many students work on the same document at the same time, as this may make the document slow. It may also be difficult to estimate how many students are contributing at the same time. As a teacher, you may therefore create different documents for the different groups, create a shared editable file in Google Drive or assign time-delayed tasks for the groups. Alternatively, you may mark clearly where the students should type their responses. 

Also consider what the students should gain from the collaboration, and in this connection: what your role as a teacher is in the documents. Google Docs has a “version history” which tells you exactly who has written what. This is useful if an exam or other similar situation requires an overview of the amount of work carried out by each individual student.

Example of collaboration in Google Docs

The content in this page was developed by Pernille Risør Elving, research assistant at Centre for Teaching Development and Digital Media.