Collaborative platforms work to enhance videoconference experiences. They are not limited to the classroom; in fact, they encourage students to engage in interactive technology outside of the traditional classroom. They also aid instructors and students to understand how interactive
programs enrich international learning.
Much like a videoconference, collaborative platforms work is best when they are not simply "add-ons" but rather assimilated in a way which complements, enhances, and furthers stated course and learning objectives. Ideally they should not be used to only provide content but should be utilized to facilitate discussion, reflection, and activities that engage and build on the information and skills gained through the videoconference experience.
Wikis are websites created collaboratively. Students and instructors can their share work and create content, including pictures, videos and other media. Many institutions provide a space for wikis (see Institution-sponsored sites below), however an instructor can create their own with websites like Wikispaces.
Facebook utilizes a streamlined platform to expand the classroom online with forum, blog and note functions. Additionally, Facebook does not require the instructor to purchase any extra domain names or server space. For more information, ideas and resources, see the Facebook for Education site.
Twitter is a micro-blogging service that enables students and instructors to send and read realtime, text-based posts of up to 140 characters, known as "tweets". Tweets can include links to websites and media, such as pictures. As an extension of the classroom, Twitter can be used further discussions that can be followed using an assigned hash tag (#). For more information, see the Twitter website.
A blog is a Web publishing tool that allows students and instructors to self-publish text, photos, links to other blogs or Web sites. There are a vast array of free blogging service providers, like Blogger and Wordpress. Additionally, some institution-sponsored sites include blogs as a feature for students and instructors to use.
Regardless of the service provider, blogs have a standard characteristic known as the post. Blog postings are text entries, which include a posting date and may include comments by people other than the author. Examples of how blogs can be used to further classroom interactions:
- Students are required to make individual posts on topics related to the course
- A class blog is created by the instructor, where students take turns posting and commenting on one another’s posts
- ‘Blog buddy’ projects: students pair up with another student from their class, or depending on the circumstance, with a student from a distant site and write a blog together. The project at the end of the term could be to reflect on how individual views changed throughout the semester. Topics for blog entries could be provided by the instructor or could be the student’s choice.
Google + hangouts provide an online space for students and/or the instructor to come together online through video chat. Google + hangouts also include applications that allow users to watch YouTube videos, share documents, screen share and more. Watch a demo here.
Many institutions provide an online space for instructors to create a web site for their courses. Using these sites, such as Oncourse or Blackboard, students and instructors can access syllabi and grades; create wikis; communicate via email, chat rooms, and discussion forums; and access online quizzes and surveys. Additionally, most of these sites allow guest access for distant site students and instructors.
Assessment Using Collaborative Platforms
Student’s engagement on collaborative platforms can also serve as a means to evaluate progress, assess learning objectives, as well as the overall experience and use of technology. This can include structured discussions, reflective essays, wiki and blog contributions, exams and quizzes, and a variety of classroom and take-home assessment techniques. Examples include:
- Mini-projects within the class, such as student-led research projects and/or student presentations
- Writing assignments, i.e. a current event compare/contrast essay or an essay reflecting on cultural differences between participating sites
- Interviews between participating site students
- Student-moderated discussions related to course topics