Collaboration in online college classes can be fun if you do it right. Setting times to meet throughout the course of your project, creating roles and assigning tasks are of course some the first steps, but after that you will want to use some tools that can make your work much easier. While group emails can be helpful, they can also get pretty messy. Same goes with forums. This may be good to nail down ideas in a free flowing setting, but actually collaborating on your project, this may get pretty hairy. Here are some tools to help you better manage your collaborative efforts for your online college class.

Although it’s still in its early stages, Google Docs can be a great way to collaborate on a paper or presentation. Simply go to docs.google.com and have someone start a word document, creating sections for each student’s assignment. This will give each person a specific place to type out their contribution without getting it mixed up with everyone else’s. Once they have created it, they can invite contributors to the document. You may also have them give access to your professor if they’re open to reviewing preliminary drafts of the document as you go along. All you need is the email address of those you wish to invite to both see and edit the document. It will be best to let the professor know when you’d like to have him or her view the document so they don’t waste time reviewing something that isn’t ready to be reviewed.

If you are editing the document while others in your online college class are, you will see the changes appear as they make them. This can be kind of fun. The best way to add your work to a community document like this is to first create it on your own computer, save it and then add it. There are occasional hiccups with Google Docs and it can be frustrating to lose your work.

Another possibility is to use a wiki tools such as Media Wiki. This solution is a little more complex and requires that someone in your group knows how to set one up. You may be given the option in your online course admin panel or you may use a free version at sites.Google.com. It may not be worth the learning curve, but if all in your group are tech savvy and used to this format, give it a shot. Wikis keep track of edit history, which can be a good thing.

These are some possibilities of 3rd party tools you can use for collaboration with your online college classmates, but make sure before you use them that the school you’re a part of doesn’t already have tools to accomplish the same things. This may just be the case. They may even be more suited to fit your needs. If they fall short in one way or another however, take some time to ask your professor for suggestions. Your fellow students may also have a few up their sleeve. Use what works with the least amount of hang-ups.

Good luck with your online college classes & in collaborating your group members.

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