In an article recently published by the New York Times, author Susan Cain questions an idea she calls “the New Groupthink”, which can be described as the idea that people work better in groups. “Modern” offices, classrooms and other work spaces are now designed in a way that promotes group work–tables instead of desks, open offices rather than cubicles, etc. Office employees’ schedules are filled to the brim with collaborative meetings. From kindergarten to college, students are expected to work in small groups to complete assignments and projects.
It is not uncommon for college students to dread group projects. Why? Within their first year, students discover that half of the battle in any group project is finding ways to communicate and collaborate. Sometimes in-person collaboration is not an option, so students turn to technology–usually combinations of phone, email, Google Apps, Skype, and various other tools. Although these are all tried and true methods of communication, it may get difficult to keep track of things when using so many different programs.
We have recently come across two (completely free!) tools made specifically for group projects that are worth taking a look at. These tools manage to put most, if not all, of the aspects of group projects into one convenient place:
Wiggio is a very straightforward group tool that allows group members to post comments, links, messages, to-do lists and polls. Every time something new is posted, it shows up on your feed. There is even a built-in calendar to mark important due dates. The site is a great place to compile information and divide up tasks for the members of the group. The layout is so simple and easy to use–a great feature if you don’t have the time to get too acquainted with a new tool. Wiggio even lets you test drive the site without the commitment of registering. Take a look for yourself!
Enter the Group
Enter the Group is a collaborative group management tool that is a bit more in-depth than Wiggio. However, the functions are still similar: chat, messaging, file sharing, calendars, etc. The main distinct feature of Enter the Group is the virtual classrooms, which can be used in place of or in addition to the physical classroom. Once the user registers, they can create new project pages or join already existing ones. The pages are similar to a Facebook profile (see below) and all group members can contribute to them.
Although these tools may work well in a student group project setting, they should not be restricted to them. Faculty may also find some of these tools useful in expanding communication outside of the classroom. The more organized a group project is, the better the final project will be.