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Group Work and Study Groups

Working on a group assignment or presentation? Looking for resources on how to set up a productive study group? Look no further than these online guides from the Skills Centre!

Working online as a group

Can online group work be a success?

Whether you're working on a group presentation, or looking for ways to study online with others, there are a wide range of online tools and free apps available that can help. Online group work may seem like a hassle, but once you've set up some collaborative documents and found a virtual space to meet, you can soon start working creatively together as a team. 

Use the drop-down boxes below to explore the different tools to support your project planning, creativity, writing and reflection as a group.

For more resources, including icebreakers and planning documents, as well as tips on how to study effectively with friends and coursemates, use the left hand menu of this guide.

Collaborative apps and online tools

Gathering ideas and project planning

There are a number of apps and online tools to help you get creative as a group when brainstorming and planning your project. Multiple users can work on these platforms at once to add and move new items around the page, or to create comments and annotations. This way you can work as a group in real time, or across the week, collecting all of your ideas and content in one place:

A screenshot of the Trello homepage.Trello is a handy tool to organise group projects by creating online boards.

You can create cards for tasks that need to be completed, or information you need to collate. You can then click on a card to add details, due dates, checklists, comments, and more! You can title the board with the name of the project and invite group members to view the board. What’s great is that the information is all in-sync, so information will be updated on any device you view the board from. Catch up with your group’s progress when sat on the bus, after a lecture or getting set up on the laptop at home!

Padlet is a free, digital canvas to create visually pleasing projects that are easy to share and collaborate on. Essentially, you start with a blank page, and you put whatever you like on it! Due to its flexibility, you can do a range of things on it to share with your group, and all group members can add to it themselves. The free version allows you to create:

  • To-do lists
  • Timelines: map out what needs to be done by who, with deadlines.
  • Collaborative notetaking: Share thoughts and ideas you’re having about the project.
  • Group presentations: Collate eye-catching content to present to your lecturer and the rest of your class.
  • Professional development: Create a canvas to document skills you and your friends are developing throughout your time as a student.

Answer here

 

Creating collaborative documents
Google Apps are a fantastic range of online software tools that you can use to create and collaboratively edit a range of document types. Multiple users can edit the document at the same time, and any additions can be easily tracked by other team members, so that you never lose track of content. 

For more information on how to access and use these tools, why not attend an online workshop with the Library Digital Skills team?

Ever worried about losing all your work, misplacing your USB? Google drive is a great alternative to storing all your work in a safe digital space. It’s also a useful way to view your documents on any smartphone, tablet or computer. If you are working on any virtual group projects this year, you can create a file to share with group members so you can collaborate on them together.

Your Google Drive can be accessed via Blackboard: visit the Hallam Digital Skills pages for more details.
 

Like Microsoft Word, Google Docs is a word processing tool that can be used on any smartphone, laptop or PC. You have the option to share a document you create with other people, so if you’re working on a group project you can view the document and add to it simultaneously.

Google Sheets is an online collaborative software similar to Microsoft Excel, and is a great tool to create spreadsheets, charts and graphs. Any changes you make will automatically be saved to your Google Drve, and you can collaborate on the same file in real time with other people. 

If you’d like to find out more about using google apps as a student, try this LinkedIn Learning course. 

Do you need to work on a group presentation for an assignment? Google Slides allows you to create and collaborate on slide-based presentations. Again, this can be viewed and edited simultaneously from student’s individual devices, so it’s an efficient option to seamlessly pull together different ideas in real time.

There are also a wide range of different templates you can use to give your presentation extra style!


If you'd like to learn more about how to use Google Slides, try this LinkedIn Learning online course.

 


Staying connected
 
Staying in touch with coursemates can feel difficult when working remotely, as the small pockets of time you usually fill on campus with chats and catch ups about your work no longer happen. However, there are a range of tools and apps that you can use to reach out and connect with others, whether you're working on a group project or looking for some virtual company while you study.

Blackboard discussion boards are a great way of keeping in touch with module leaders and lecturers, as well as discussing your reading and assignments with other students.

Screenshot of the discussion boards in Blackboard.Most modules will include a discussion board, which is organised into Forums and Threads. The left-hand column (A) will include a list of forums or conversations, each on a different topic. Some tutors will set up a different forum for each week of the module or each main topic. You might also find a ‘Q&A’ forum or ‘Social’ forum where students are encouraged to ask questions or discuss any aspect of the module so far. Click the blue links (B) to open a thread of posts on a specific topic area. You can use the post stats (C) to see how many posts or comments have been added, and how many of these posts you have yet to read. If anyone has directly replied to a comment you’ve previously posted, you will see this under ‘Replies to Me’ (C).

Don’t be afraid to start a conversation of your own in the forums – it can be daunting, but your post may start a discussion or encourage other students to do the same. This can be a nice way of replacing the short conversations that often happen while every waits for a tutor to arrive or the lecture to begin.

For more information on how to post replies and use the discussion boards feature, visit the Blackboard help pages. 

Zoom isn’t just a way to host lockdown pub quizzes and virtual scavenger hunts - you can use Zoom to arrange 1-1 meetings with lecturers, group working sessions or even silent writing retreats with friends and coursemates.

Every student will have a Zoom account through the University. To access this:

  1. Go to Zoom - This should take you to the usual SHU log in page.
  2. Logon using just your SHU username and password. (NOT your username@hallam.shu.ac.uk, just your SHU username)

You can schedule meetings in your personal meeting room, inviting other participants to join you. You may have heard about ‘zoombombing’ - where unwanted participants have been able to join and disrupt public meetings. You can enable passwords to protect your meeting room and prevent others from joining before the host to help limit who can access the meeting. For more information, visit the Zoom help pages.

Missing Silent Study in the Library? Why not set up a Zoom writing retreat for your module? Students can come along and work quietly with their webcams on but microphones off, recreating a productive library space. It may sound strange, but many people are finding it a useful way to focus and study during the day.

Creating a WhatsApp group can be a great way of keeping in touch with others on your course or your groupwork project team, particularly as it doesn’t reply on your group members being at a computer or logged into their SHU emails. However, while many people swear by WhatsApp to communicate, be mindful that not everyone uses the app or will be comfortable with sharing a personal phone number. WhatsApp can also mean that group work extends beyond your normal working hours – so feel free to mute chats or block notifications outside of your study hours!


Reflecting on group work

Many modules include a reflective writing or portfolio element where you are asked to look back on the challenges and successes of group working, identifying your strengths as well as areas for improvement. Group work is a great transferrable skill to refer to in reflective writing, as it enables you to tie together experiences at university with team working scenarios on placement or in the workplace. The following online tools can be used to record and organise your reflections ready for submission:

Panopto is a tool that will allow you to review the content that your tutor has created online in your Blackboard modules. Lecturers use Panopto to record and caption live lectures, before making them available for students to watch online in Blackboard. Students can use the tool to access to a range of functionalities like notes, captions, and group discussions. It can also be used for assessment purposes where you can create videos or record presentations in Panopto, before submitting them to be assessed.

For more information on where to find Panopto in your Blackboard module site, please visit the Hallam Digital Skills pages.

If you’re using Panopto to record a presentation for assessment, why not visit our Presentation Skills study guide for tips on how to structure your work, or come along to a weekly virtual drop-in (every Wednesday 4-6pm) for 1-1 advice on using Microsoft Powerpoint.

PebblePad offers a space to build an online portfolio to showcase your work which can be shared with others. You can document your learning and achievements for course mates and staff to view and provide feedback on. Watch this quick introduction to get a flavour of what it involves.

 

PebblePad can be used to: 

  • Build an online portfolio of your experiences, reflections and skills as a student, to showcase to future employers your commitment to professional development.
     
  • Share your work with friends to encourage their feedback.
     
  • Evidence any activities you have completed as part of any modules you’re undertaking, and invite friends to read them and offer their insight.Some modules may have reflection as a core feature of your course or module. Pebblepad offers three templates which prompt you to reflect on yourself and your work to enable you to plan goals for future development. Perhaps you could create a shared template with others on your course and conduct a reflection on your group projects?

If you’re interested in finding out more about reflective writing, why not attend an online session from the Skills Centre.

Study spaces on campus

Booking an individual study space

At the moment, the Libraries are only open for individual study. In order to offer a safe working environment, all your PCs or study spaces now require a booking to be made in advance, you won’t be able to come to the Library and log in or access to our spaces without a booking. 

For more information and to book your individual PC or study space, visit our help pages.