Collaborating and communicating online

Introduction

During your university studies:

  • You may need to complete group assessment tasks. Using online meeting and collaboration tools can make this process easier, particularly if you are not able to all meet face-to-face.
  • You may be asked to comment on online discussion boards (including Moodle forums) as part of your unit assessment tasks.  

Online communication and collaboration tools are useful during your studies as they can help you to work on group projects, share ideas and information, and provide encouragement and feedback on each other’s work.

Communicating and collaborating online are also important skills in the workplace, as many workplaces require staff to work in groups on shared tasks, often across multiple locations. The ability to effectively use online meeting and collaboration tools is a key employability skill.

You may already be using social networking tools such as Facebook to work on group projects. However, there are some key differences between using social networking tools for informal activities and using these tools in formal study (e.g. assessment) or work activities. These differences include the language used and the structure of the interactions in an online meeting. For example, an online meeting for a group assessment task or a workplace shared task will often use an agenda and have a person designated as the meeting chair.    

This module includes tips for effectively communicating and collaborating when:

Communicating online - key terms

Without non-verbal communication cues, it can be very difficult for your readers to detect sarcasm and other hidden meanings, and your words may be interpreted as being more unfriendly or bossy than intended. Use the following activity to explore some ways of communicating online effectively.

Activity


Emoji icons can be useful in expressing emotions when communicating online. However, emoji may not be appropriate in more formal settings.

Participating in group meetings

Online meetings and virtual team projects are common industry practice. They are used to communicate information, collect data, generate ideas, build teams, solve problems and make decisions.

In a university setting, group projects are a common form of assessment in many course units. They are collaborative learning opportunities that require students to evaluate ideas, analyse and derive meaning from information, and produce work cooperatively. Effective online meetings can help you to share information, discuss ideas, solve problems and produce work during your studies, as well as in the workplace.



Using online discussion boards

A discussion board, such as a Moodle forum, is different to an online meeting in that it is a communication tool that enables participants to post messages and to reply to others' messages asynchronously (i.e. not at the same time).

The discussions on online discussion boards typically last for a longer period of time (days, weeks or months) and allow participants time to think about what they are going to contribute. Some units will include discussion board contributions as assessment tasks. In these assessment tasks, your lecturer will expect you to provide reflective, detailed responses to the topic and to other students' posts. Often, to obtain high marks for these assessment types, you need to demonstrate your engagement with and understanding of the unit materials such as readings and lecture content.

The purpose of this section is to explore some ways of effectively using online discussion boards.

Using online collaboration tools

Digital tools

There are a large number of digital tools that can be used during your time at university. There is software available to be purchased or downloaded, including: 

  • packages in the Microsoft suite for written communication
  • Skype and Zoom for online face-to-face communication and collaboration
  • planning tools such as Catme, Dapulse.com and Microsoft Projec
  • smart phone applications.

Some tools are freely available while others must be purchased.

Monash University provides digital resources using the Google platform to create, store, share, collaborate and present different kinds of documents. This section will discuss how you can use these tools for group work, planning and documenting your projects.

More information about how to obtain access to these tools will be provided at the end of this module.

Activity

Here is a scenario of a problem that can occur when working on a group assignment.

You are working with other students on a group assignment using a word processing program (e.g. Microsoft Word).  You have been emailing each other your assignment drafts over the last week. The assignment is due at 5 pm today and you have been given the task to upload it to Moodle. You do a final read through of the assignment and realise there are referencing and spelling mistakes in some sections, as well as some missing information. As you know that these mistakes have been fixed already, you realise that you don't have the latest version of the assignment. You need to obtain the final version of the assignment before 5 pm.

Using digital tools for online communication

The digital tools shown below enable various types of online communication and collaboration including sharing of files, the creation of websites for group work, and online meetings.

How to access these Google digital tools at Monash University

Monash students and staff can access these via the my.monash website.

1. Choose an internet browser.

2. Type my.monash in the browser window or search for my.monash

3. Type your Monash username and password to access content from the my.monash website.

4. Click to open either the Email or Calendar tiles.

Email and Calendar tiles in my.monash portal

5. To access other Google products, click on the small boxes on the top right hand side of the screen Google apps toggle menu icon.

6. Other Google products will be displayed. Select the digital tool you wish to use. Click More to see more of the digital tools.

Activity

Below is a table representing digital tools available using Google. Click on the white plus icon on green background icon to reveal the description and purpose of some of the key tools you may find useful for collaborating and communicating online.

More information about using digital tools at Monash University

eSolutions provides IT support to all users at Monash University. Following are more resources to assist you with using digital tools. 

Contact eSolutions

Software

Email and collaboration

Students

Staff