Supporting Collaboration

In the past, working on a common document could be a nightmare: the easiest solution was sharing a file over email, but this would result in multiple, conflicting versions, a limit of one editor at a time, and confusion over who had written what. Now, tools like Google Drive make this easier: documents have their own ‘homes’ on the internet, access can be restricted to certain individuals or opened to everyone, and all editing and collaboration happens in one place.

What do you need to do?

In order to choose the right tool to support your work, consider the kind of activity you will be engaged in:

  • collecting and sharing resources
  • writing a paper together
  • brainstorming collectively

There are several options for tech tools to support your collaborative projects. Here are a few we found useful.

Collect, Assemble and Collaborate: Wikis

The UBC Wiki

1. Go to the UBC Wiki

2. Add a slash and the name of your project or page to the address: e.g. http://wiki.ubc.ca/Sample

3. If you don’t have an account, you’ll be prompted to create one.

4. You’re now the owner of that page! Click edit, type something, and scroll down and hit ‘save’ to preserve your work.

5. Your wiki page is now online: anyone on the internet can view it, but only people with UBC wiki accounts can edit it.

6. Share your wiki page with your groupmates. Anyone with a UBC wiki account will be able to edit your page, or leave comments on the talk page.

What are wikis good for?

  • sharing resources and links between group members.
  • brainstorming ideas.

Wikis are easy-to-edit, collaborative webpages, perfectly suited to sharing resources and links, as well as writing summaries and putting together well-cited works. UBC hosts a wiki that’s open to students, staff, and faculty. In addition to providing you with a great deal of control over how your page is formatted, wikis allow you to comment on your pages and track revisions. Wikis support a single editor on a page at once, but allow linked or transcluded pages: perfect for larger projects.

Write and Compile: Documents and Spreadsheets

Google Drive

1. Go to Google Drive

2. Login with your Google account, or if you don’t have one, create one.

3. Create a folder or document.

4. Use the sharing functions to give your other group members access to the documents. All you need is their email addresses: they’ll be sent a direct link to the document. If they can’t see it, have them check their junk and spam folders.

Useful features:

  • Supports multiple users editing a single document at once.
  • Frequently and automatically saves your work, protecting you from losing your file if your computer crashes.
  • Keeps track of previous revisions which you can access with the Revisions button.
  • Features a desktop version, allowing you to keep a backup of your work, and edit documents offline.


Create and Demonstrate: Diagrams and Images

Flickr

Flickr is an image hosting site. You can upload, share, and edit your photos, and add them to your documents or websites. Flickr also hosts a number of Creative Commons photos that you might be able to use in your projects: make sure to read the licenses carefully!

Gliffy

Gliffy is another web-based tool that allows you to quickly create, share, and edit mind maps with group members.


More resources to help you:

Getting Started and Getting Organized (from the Derek Bok Center at Harvard)

Including Everyone and Their Ideas (from the Derek Bok Center at Harvard)

Video on Data Visualization: from the Presentation Toolkit has some great tips for tools to help you visually represent your data.

Just remember, if you’re signing up to a web service hosted in the U.S.A., you’ll want to take note of their privacy policies before you give up any personal information. The United States have different privacy projection laws than Canada does. The Canadian government released these tips for protecting your personal information across borders.