Student collaboration tools are becoming increasingly important in contemporary education. When students collaborate, they are engaged in the learning process. Thus, collaboration in the classroom can lead to improved learning outcomes.
However, student collaboration takes many forms today. Since digital education is being introduced to schools and universities, a new way to collaborate outside the classroom had to be designed.
In an increasingly digital world, students collaborate both in-person and online. Moreover, they communicate via consumer apps as well as with university-provided tools.
All this drives school and university leaders to ask how they can enable student collaboration best practices, but also avoid common challenges associated with using educational technologies?
Read on to find out why it is important to support student collaboration with technology. Also, learn what are the best student collaboration tools at the market and how universities can address common challenges related to digital education.
Why should students collaborate more?
During the course of their education, students don’t only specialize in the subjects of their interest. They learn how to resolve complex problems and how to work in a group. This prepares them for their future workplaces.
In the world of work, team collaboration is very important, according to 75% of employers. Moreover, 97% of employees and executives believe a lack of team members’ alignment influences the outcome of a task or project.
Therefore, it’s crucial to instill collaboration skills in students before they enter the job market. It will increase their employability and career success.
Improving self-management skills
When working on a project, students learn firsthand how their work contributes to a joint project outcome. Learning to manage their behavior in a productive way is key to becoming successful in professional endeavors.
Higher-level thinking and problem solving
When engaged in collaborative projects, students are exposed to different perspectives. Learning how different people approach the same subject enriches their problem-solving skills. This becomes extremely valuable in a workplace setting that requires higher-level thinking.
Moreover, that’s why student collaboration tools need to facilitate real-time communication via video and instant messaging.
Learning people skills
Working in a group can teach students how to communicate better. Also, students can experience being put in a leadership role. Picking up the basics of collaborative skills helps students quickly adapt to new environments and prepare for entering the workplace.
6 Best student collaboration tools
Students need to be able to collaborate via user-friendly tools that enable them to communicate quickly and effectively. Moreover, students need to manage their projects effectively, and jointly create engaging class materials.
Here are some of the best student collaboration tools that make working on a group project easy.
Rocket.Chat is an instant messaging solution that universities use to connect students, teachers, and external collaborators no matter where they are.
Students can easily reach each other on the app and create channels, teams, and discussions to collaborate on joint projects. It’s easy to use and provides students with a familiar way to communicate.
Moreover, students can exchange texts, files, pictures, and audio. They can also connect on video calls to collaborate synchronously, making Rocket.Chat a comprehensive student collaboration tool.
Figma is another visually attractive student collaboration tool. When students need to work on a project, they can use FigJam whiteboard to brainstorm ideas or create presentations.
On the other hand, Figma can be used to deliver compelling digital content like digital illustration or UX design. For students in visual arts, it is a must-have!
Mural is a visual collaboration tool that students like to use for solving complex problems. It is perfect for remote brainstorming session or sketching mind maps.
Moreover, students can create visually engaging presentations and showcase their creativity. Teachers can also use Mural for collaborative learning.
All in all, MURAL is a great aid in hybrid learning - for both students and teachers.
Blackboard Collaborate is a virtual classroom tool. Besides video conferencing, it allows students to send instant messages and co-create class materials.
It works best as an add-on to Blackboard Learning Management System. This allows students to collaborate and keep all their study-related materials in one single place.
Google Workspace has a specialized edition aimed at education. From online text editing, creating presentations, video calls, chat, and cloud file storage, there is little that Google Workspace cannot do in terms of student collaboration.
However, this student collaboration tool is on the more expensive side of the spectrum, which is something that universities definitely take into account.
Although it is not primarily designed as software for education, Bit.ai is a great alternative to Google Docs with a twist. Since it’s not limited to text and images, students can incorporate videos, audio files, and more in their projects.
Moreover, collaboration is made easy with comments, evaluations, and chat features.
Why is enabling student collaboration sometimes challenging?
Universities are nowadays fully aware that they need to pay attention to their students’ experience. The technology that is being used at the university plays a big role in the student experience.
Of course, the solutions that students will appreciate best will be user-friendly, accessible, and will get the job done. However, the student collaboration apps at use should also easily fit into the university’s IT infrastructure and adhere to the strictest data security standards.
Here are the three most common challenges when introducing new collaboration technologies at universities.
Data security risks
Cybersecurity is increasingly challenging for higher education institutions, with some cyberattacks causing up to $500,000 in damages.
Since universities are also underfunded, one of the ways they started mitigating security challenges is by introducing open source technologies - they are usually much cheaper than their proprietary counterparts.
Moreover, universities need to protect their data, but also offer lean and user-friendly student collaboration tools to their students. If they fail to do that, students will likely resort to using consumer communication apps like WhatsApp, which will further undermine their experience as a whole.
Reduced collaboration tool flexibility
Open source software is especially applicable in education due to its unique advantages. Namely, it allows universities to introduce student collaboration tools to their complex IT infrastructure without too much hassle.
📖 Take a look at our list of the 25 most popular open source solutions in education.
Some universities find themselves in a tricky situation when their vendors increase the prices of student collaboration tools (or other apps). Universities usually invest a lot of time and financial resources to introduce a solution and later find themselves locked in a deal with the solution provider that can freely increase prices.
That’s why universities have to carefully choose the EdTech they offer their students. The digital education tools need to be easy to manage and maintain. However, they are unquestionably beneficial to students and challenges shouldn't stand in universities' digital transformation efforts.
Empower students to collaborate in a secure digital environment
Rocket.Chat is enabling student collaboration best practices in a highly secure digital environment. Over 700 universities are allowing students to seamlessly collaborate - synchronously and asynchronously - while adhering to the strictest data privacy regulations.
Moreover, Rocket.Chat integrations make students’ experience even better. With the ability to connect with external entities and across other platforms, introducing Rocket.Chat is one of the best ways to unleash the potential of student collaboration.