Collaborative Writing and Online Group Work

Collaboration is a crucial part of any writing course, and it’s something many instructors struggle with when they move toward online activities. Fortunately, there are excellent tools that help facilitate digital collaboration.

Workshop Activity

Step One. Articulate the goals of an online collaborative writing or group work activity that you’d like to design. Include when the activity happens within the course sequence, as well as whether or not it’s graded and what kind of feedback/participation students should expect from the instructor.

Below, you’ll find two example activities that I use in my online first-year composition course:

Step Two. Identify appropriate tools to accomplish the goals of the activity, and write instructions for how students are to complete the assignment, how they are supposed to work with their groups, what the final product should be, etc.

As you’ll notice from the examples, I am particularly fond of Google Documents, which allow multiple people to contribute to one document. There are also several permissions settings that make the tool diverse: you can set it so anyone with the link can view-only (I use this for my assignment instructions) or so anyone with the link can edit-only (I use this for activities where I want all the students in the class to contribute to the document) or so that only certain people are “owners” of the document (I use this for group work).

You might also consider EtherPad, blogging platforms (WordPress, Blogger), or your learning management system’s wiki tool.

Step Three. Log on to your institution’s learning management system and think through how you will embed this activity into the course (this will likely require you to write additional instructions for how the students will access the activity).

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