collaboration

What approaches, strategies, and/or tools have you used in the past to help with collaborative projects (academic or non-academic)? Respond in the comments section below, and feel free to comment on others’ responses.

Update: Thanks for these excellent responses! A list of tools and quick overview of the discussion is at the Collaboration section of the Resources page.

25 thoughts on “collaboration”

  1. I’ve found that team-bonding exercises are very important for collaborative projects. It’s important for all members of the team to feel comfortable sharing their opinions with the group, and to be familiar enough with each other’s communication styles in order to efficiently execute tasks. Scheduling the extra time to get to know each other, whether it be through a weekly happy hour (which I’ve found to be effective in internships) or just having more frequent group meetings, can vastly alter the group’s overall success.

    1. Hi Rachel, I too agree that some form of bond or connection formed between the group definitely helps foster better communication and a better experience overall from my experiences. I worked for USCB’s RHA my sophomore year and they specifically had us come to campus a few weeks early so that we could do 10 days of “leadership training” which was basically 10 days of team bonding exercises. As much as the ice breakers and exercises were overwhelming initially, that entire experience undeniably was the sole reason we felt so comfortable with each other in that short period of time before school started and we had to plan all the Week of Welcome events. It helped us reach common ground quicker and initiate more open and honest conversation between the entire board, which was crucial as these were the people we’d be working with all year and it helped us as an organization to cater the best possible experience for our residents. One tool we relied on heavily back then was Slack, which has only grown increasingly useful & popular since that time. I like the ease with which you can share files with each other and the fact that it has a desktop and mobile app is super helpful because I never miss a notification.

  2. In my academic and personal experience, collaboration works best when group members are open-minded and flexible. Typically in groups, you will encounter others having different opinions, ideas or beliefs yet it is important to be open to others ideas so that the group can work effectively. In addition, I feel as though if group members are open-minded and flexible, it allows for members to be honest and share their ideas easily without having fear of being put down by the group. Overall communication is key. I find that when there are several modes of communication going on consistently such as group texts, google docs or zoom, the group has a high chance of effectively getting work done and meeting deadlines and contributing equal amounts of work.

  3. Whenever I have had to work on collaborative projects, I have found that the more group members can communicate, the easier it is to work with one another. While I believe that forming a group message or shared Google Doc can be useful, I have always found that collaboration is much easier when there is also a way for groups to communicate in more synchronous forms, whether that be in person, over Zoom, or a brief phone call. In these synchronous settings, I feel that there is more opportunity for group members to voice their opinions, ask questions, and seek clarity. Whether it is some kind of academic project or simply creating something with friends, it is always important to have a clear sense of everyone’s goals and opinions. Although the pandemic has made it much more challenging to meet with people in person, I have found over the past nine months that making the time to have synchronous communication with others in a collaborative project goes a long way in accelerating the group’s production. Even though working around other’s schedules can be a challenge, these type of synchronous meetings and conversations save a lot of time and effort in the long run.

    1. I completely agree that synchronous “in person” meetings are the most efficient and personalized way for groups to tackle projects. I have found that exclusively using group chats or Google Docs does not always foster an environment of full participation or accountability. In addition, I believe these meetings are far more productive and positive when group members turn on their cameras during Zoom meetings, both because it allows for a more “normal” group project experience, as well as encourages members to pay attention to each other and to participate more fully. With that said, I prefer to use these “in person” meetings primarily as planning and check-in sessions, rather than as time for work to be completed together. I have found that having a preliminary meeting to brainstorm ideas, assign group roles, and distribute work responsibility is the most important first step to any group project. However, I find it equally important for firm due dates to be agreed upon and set by the group before the end of each meeting so that everyone is on the same page and equally contributing.

  4. Personally, I think there are many online resources, tools, and collaborative platforms that can foster productivity and help with collaborative projects, especially in remote work environments. Beyond what my peers have said, I’d suggest Asana, which is also a great tool to use when it comes to delegating tasks and keeping track of responsibilities within the team. I really enjoy the various features that Asana provides whether that be monitoring progress, prioritizing specific tasks, or managing workload. It’s a wonderful way to stay on track and maintain organization, especially within a company. Slack is also an amazing communication platform that I use for my sorority! It’s incredibly organized which I absolutely love, and there are many options for plug-ins to enhance your Slack experience. For one, I really enjoy the RandomCoffee channel, where a bot randomly pairs you with another channel member every week to encourage interpersonal communication within the team. Overall, I think there are many wonderful tech tools that we can utilize and really take advantage of to increase efficiency within collaborative projects!

    1. Michelle, I completely agree. I use both Asana and Slack at my internship and they’re amazing not only for keeping you on track when you’re working on collaborative projects, but also for checking in on how your teammates are doing and being able to chat with them while working remotely. I haven’t really heard much about Asana being used in an academic context, but I feel like it would be a really great resource for managing projects in classes, especially since group projects have gotten a bit more difficult ever since classes have gone remote. The RandomCoffee channel you suggested also sounds like a really fun way to get to know people on your team in a more casual context, and I’m definitely going to suggest it at my workplace, so thank you for sharing!

  5. Like many of you have stated, the key to productive collaboration is communication. Thanks to covid-19, remote learning has opened up a myriad of virtual communication channels that are at our disposal like never before. My most successful online resources when it comes to remote learning and group projects are google docs, zoom, nectir, and good old-fashioned text group chats. Google docs is excellent for organizing a shared outline with multiple members of a team. Here they can edit, provide feedback, and post notes throughout the shared document. Zoom is the closest thing we’ve got to F-T-F communication, so it’s particularly useful when you need to eliminate any potential misunderstandings that can occur over text. Also, zoom is a great tool to walk your group mates through any project conundrums in real time over their screen sharing feature. Nectir serves as a powerful university rolodex and can connect you quickly from student to team to TA to professor. Finally, group chats over text have always served as the quickest way to reach out to a team. Let’s be honest, we’re all on our phone’s 24/7 anyway (if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!). Speaking personally, I’m much more likely to reply to a text thread than a cluttered email chain. As a mode of communication, text makes the conversation flow much more naturally and feel less formal.

  6. In tandem with utilizing the digital tools and online resources you’ve all discussed, I personally go into collaborative projects with the mindset that the whole, or in this case the team, is greater than the sum of its parts, or its members. I believe collaborative projects foster cooperation from all members, and in doing so, paves way for unique work that couldn’t have been produced alone. One key aspect of collaborative projects that I tend to focus my attention on is organizing fluidity among various communication channels. Whether that’s through face-to-face interactions, group messages via phone or Facebook messenger, or Zoom meetings, I believe it’s important to create lines of communication from the get-go in order to establish channels for effective messages to transpire between all team members. Without a reliable stream of communication, it’s difficult to connect with or check up on team members, and consequently, achieve any progress on collaborative work.

  7. Based on my previous experience on collaborative projects, I believe one of the most significant factors is the division of labor appropriately and cooperating with one another effectively. Everyone has their own unique gifts and advantages, so they will be better at some jobs than at others. In other words, everyone has some things they are not good at, or they don’t like to do. Specialization in particular small tasks allows people to focus on the parts of the production process where they have an advantage. Thus, when preparing the collaborative project, the most efficient way to set up a table of work distribution is to talk with each other and list everyone’s advantages and weaknesses. The work under the division of labor should be allotted according to the individual worker’s ability and capacity, which ensures a high degree of efficiency as the right person is put in the right position. Meanwhile, as the person remains employed on the same process, he does not waste his time moving from one working process to another, resulting in time and productivity.

  8. In the past, I’ve found several strategies, approaches, and tools that have helped me with collaborative projects (for both academic and non-academic experiences). I’ve found that dividing work fairly, setting reasonable deadlines, and having periodic check-ins help sustain a more collaborative culture. Periodic check-ins (whether it is with a supervisor or coworkers) are especially important because you can work together if there are any identified issues and make sure that everyone is on track. Additionally, I’ve found that having a reliable and convenient system of communicating with whoever you are working with often is helpful. I’ve typically used Slack in past work experiences and I’ve found that the multiple channels system helps organize and categorize different focuses. In terms of other tools or technologies, I’ve found that creating a shared project tracker via Google Sheets, using Google Calendar, or using Notion has helped.

  9. I think that creating a rapport and sense of community between group members is vital for the creation of a successful collaborative project. Making sure that there’s enough time to goof off and have fun on top of getting work done allows people to 1) have fun, 2) feel safe sharing their ideas and feedback, and 3) increases motivation to work on the project because it feels fun! I’ve found that group chats via text (or Slack/GroupMe if group members are abroad) are incredibly helpful and allow people to ask and answer questions and give updates quickly. It ensures that everyone is on the same page and helps people hold themselves and their fellow team members accountable. I also love talking on the phone or via FaceTime or Zoom because time spent together synchronously really helps foster a sense of community.

    My favorite collaborative resources are Google Drive, Canva, Zoom, Trello, and When2Meet.com, a website that helps you gauge your group’s mutual availability. Trello is also a great tool for being able to track your team’s progress individually that we used at my last internship. It organizes tasks into three categories: tasks that need to be done, tasks that are in progress, and completed tasks and allows you to share your workspace with your team! I didn’t know that Canva has collaborative abilities until very recently, but it’s an incredible resource!

    P.S. I recently started using https://www.notion.so/ and have found it so helpful for managing projects and organizing notes/schedules/tasks. Because it’s so customizable, I was able to tailor my workspace to fit my exact needs. Right now I’m using Notion to create a how-to BSG document for future reference, manage my workload for this quarter, and keep track of personal goals.

    1. Hey Isabella,

      First of all, I completely agree that leaving time for fun is a great way to get a team started off on the right foot!

      I just checked out Notion and it looks super cool. I love the use of visuals, and the organizational capabilities are much more extensive than anything I’ve used before! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  10. Based on my prior experience working on projects in teams, I’ve found that groups that establish goals for the project, expectations, a clear timeline, and different ways of contacting one another in the early stages tend to work more efficiently and productively as a group. I think working in groups also involves some degree of luck, since just because you may be a great team player, doesn’t mean everyone else are too. It can be difficult to work in a group setting if not everyone is on top of their designated responsibilities or if there are people in the group who are difficult to reach. Establishing expectations for the group early in any project is a great way to mitigate any potential problems down the road.

    I’ve also found that communication tools such as Slack, GroupMe, Facebook Messenger, or even a group text are effective ways of communicating to one another in an efficient manner. I prefer using these tools over email since messages tend to be less formal and sent much quicker. I think teams function the best when the project is divided so that each team member has a different task or responsibility. That way, each person can work on their section individually outside of group meetings, provide updates via one of the group text communication tools.

    Zoom is a great tool to use for everyone to come together to discuss any updates, concerns, and questions that may arise. I’ve found that having a zoom meeting at least once a week helps keep the team focused and on track. Personally, I think most of the work should be completed outside of group meetings; Zoom should be used as a time to discuss important issues and update one another on what has been done instead of time to work on the project, although this may vary from project to project.

    Some additional tools I’ve used include When2Meet, which is great when deciding a time to meet based on everyone’s availability, Google Drive, and Canva. In the past, Canva was a useful tool for design that could be only used by individuals, but recently has been updated to allow for sharing and group collaboration, so using Canva to design something as a group is now possible.

  11. I believe that mindset is a huge part of successful collaboration. Everyone has something to learn from one another, and respecting one another’s knowledge and opinions has proven invaluable in past collaborative efforts I’ve been a part of. I also think that it’s important to not be too stiff. Getting to know one another and setting goals together is really helpful and helps maintain a clear sense of mission within a team!

    Some collaborative tools that I have found helpful are Google Drive, Canva, and group chats. These all have live update functions which allow for quick communication and instant implementation of ideas or corrections. These also help with dividing responsibility, sharing responsibility, and keeping track of overall progress. For scheduling large group meetings, When2Meet and Doodlepoll have been a great resource.

  12. The online school format has introduced me to a host of new online tools that have made remote group projects less daunting than I expected. When collaborating on documents and presentations in real time, I like to have both Zoom and the project open at the same time. Video chatting makes the process so much more enjoyable, collaborative, and personal, as it’s the closest method to seeing group members in person. For brainstorming, some of the best platforms I have used are Trello and Miro. Miro is my favorite because it allows groups to move virtual sticky notes around and categorize them, so it’s great for creating outlines and planning for big projects. Google Drive is my go-to platform for carrying out projects simply because it’s user-friendly and most everyone is familiar with how it works. Technology aside, I have found that the most important tactic for group projects in general is to be as communicative as possible (while respecting other group members’ time). Additionally, it helps to develop a rapport with them so that the work becomes more about the overall success of the group rather than checking off tasks on my individual to-do list.

  13. A positive side of working remotely has been an ease to communicate and collaborate virtually based on different group members’ schedules. Group projects now feel almost easier because when the group meets ‘outside of class’ I can just open my laptop and not even have to leave my home. It helps to have an initial meeting in real time (whether that be face to face or virtual) to discuss objectives and divide tasks, and then the group splits to work separately and reconvine to reevaluate and review each other’s work. Collaborative tools that share on document within a group such as Google Documents or Slides helps for everyone to work together and track progress. Group dynamics there is always a balance between not being too overly decisive or too laissez-faire either.

  14. From my experience, both remote and in-person, a solid form of communication is essential for a collaborative project. Whether it’s through Facebook messenger, text message, or Zoom, keeping an open flow of communication allows everyone to stay up to date with each other and the given project. Additionally, I think it is important that the work is clearly divided, and that everyone agrees to their given part. Nothing is worse than having a group project and someone “forgets”to do their part. Along with a strong foundation of communication, group members can freely discuss the project and their preferred portion of the assignment. Making a Google Doc with everyone’s names, contact information, and assigned task is really helpful, and makes sure that no one forgets who, and what they’re working with.

  15. When I think of team projects, I immediately think of Google Drive. Everyone can throw out random ideas on a shared Google Doc, make a quick presentation using Google Slides, or even keep track of deadlines using Google Sheets. Most of all, it’s user-friendly and accessible to everyone. For communication, I think using tools that are synchronous such as Zoom is the most efficient and effective way to get things done. Although there are a wide variety of workplace tools that can help make team projects run smoothly, the most important aspect of a collaborate project is the actual communication between team members. Open, constant, and respectful discussions are crucial to the success of a group collaboration.

  16. In collaborative group projects, especially in remote settings, communication is key. The workflow that I find most effective in groups is the following:
    1. Arrange meetings over text
    2. Establish goals, set a schedule, and assign roles/delegate work over video call
    3. Execute delegated work separately
    4. Reconvene regularly to solve problems/revise work, ask questions, and combine delegated work cohesively

    This is a pretty standard formula, but it’s simple and flexible and it provides abundant opportunities for open communication. The tools I use are just as standard: text message/GroupMe for messaging, Zoom for video calls, and Google Drive for collaborative workspaces. I also recommend organizing deadlines and resources with a calendar app or Notion (a powerful database/productivity tool).

  17. I’ve had the most success in collaborative projects when group members are communicative and set tangible team goals. Mentioned by several of my peers above, Slack is a fantastic platform for encouraging team communication and project discussion. For larger projects, Slack’s channels feature allows for neat organization of various teams (i.e. marketing, logistics, web development, etc). My favorite part of Slack is the ability to create discussions by threading comments towards particular posts. This way, the channel still maintains order where relevant project discussions are kept in one place. One of my student organizations was considering a move to Discord for our executive board communications. However, we ultimately decided against the move because Discord lack of discussion management made it difficult to bounce ideas without losing structure.

    Setting team goals at the start of the quarter provides direction for each individual member of the group. For instance, a conversation about team goals includes expectation setting, plans for accountability, and specific deadline dates. This way, every member leaves the first meeting feeling competent about their part, knows exactly how they contribute to the project, and will be more likely to meet team deadlines. In the past, groups that I’ve worked with that skipped this step often had to deal with excuses close to the project deadline date. A group member will conveniently claim to “forget” the project deadline or not realize exactly how important their contribution is to the team.

    Another fun project management platform is Notion. This is a aesthetically, pleasing and effective tool that can easily be modified to accommodate any team format. This site also has the ability to read code, so the possibilities are endless when it comes to customizing your workspace.

  18. When working on collaborative projects in the past, I have had a lot of great experiences with Canva, Keynote, and Google Drive. I find Canva to be amazing because, in contrast to Google Drive in my opinion, there are tons of amazing pre-designed templates for everything from posters, presentations, brochures, and more. On top of that, I find it just as easy to collaborate on as google drive. As one member of a group types, the document updates on everyone else’s screen in real time. A lot of the same things I just said about Canva goes for Keynote as well. I find Keynote to be far more user-friendly and intuitive than powerpoint and it also has a great collaboration feature that works just like Google Slides’ does.

    With that all being said, I do think it helps to get my group’s thoughts down on a shared document like Google Docs before hand. I think that having a group chat set up (on any format really) is also a great way to keep in touch with other group members. I do really miss being able to meet up with my group members in person though…that was always my favorite way to work with groups and share our ideas. 🙁 I will say that technology has made group collaboration a lot easier!

  19. I have learned about so many resources reading through these responses and am excited to learn to use some of them! In the past, however, I have used Google drives primarily, along with GroupMe, weekly Zoom meetings, and text. Strategies that have worked well with me typically follow a similar pattern. Once the group is established, we get to know each other and each others’ strengths (and weaknesses), and exchange phone numbers. Then synchronously, we set timelines, goals, and expectations for ourselves and each other.

    With this strategy, I have found it is important to make sure that people are comfortable enough to reach out if they are struggling and sometimes set boundaries, such as times that they would rather not be reached at (ie: after midnight). In my group projects both with my club and classes, this has been especially important since COVID and all the stress and variability that comes with it (family, wifi, sickness, housemates, state of the country, stress, etc) on top of more ‘normal’ stresses such as classes. Personally, I love having this balance of goals and personal responsibilities while also supporting each other, having each other’s numbers to reach out if someone is having a hard time so that the rest of the team can help tie up any loose ends. Like many classmates were saying I think the approach of individual responsibilities and good collaboration is critical, and we should be held accountable to what we commit to, but I also think that part of good communication is being able to help if a teammate is struggling or ask for help if you are. I find that when the team also has a good relationship and are excited about the project or their part, it makes it easier to do it and do it well. Because we all seem to be excited about this minor and the learning that comes with it, I expect this will come naturally.

  20. One of the most important strategies for collaborative projects is ensuring that there is a clear line of communication and actionable project goals/KPIs. For one of my projects last quarter, our PM set up a Jira board + created a Github, and I thought it was really helpful to have the documentation and be able to refer to our weekly and overall goals. Additionally, I’ve found tools like Slack to be really helpful for communicating with my teammates.

    Some of the tools that I’ve used for collaborative projects in design are Figma and Zeplin. I like using Figma for simpler graphic design work or UX design projects because I can work with other people in real time, and the commenting feature makes it super easy to collaborate. Zeplin is really good for collaborating with developers as well and creating design documentation.

  21. I’ve typically just used text and email to discuss group work. It generally helps to assign specific tasks/sections to people and to have deadlines to help keep people accountable. Group work has been a bit more difficult during the pandemic, but I’ve been able to do a lot of good work by setting up zoom meetings with group members. It’s helpful to run through the assignment as a group or to practice a presentation beforehand in order to make sure that everything runs smoothly.

    As for technology, I’ve stuck to the basic Google products (docs, slides etc.). However, I’ve heard good things about Canva Slides so my group will attempt to use it for the BSG analysis.

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