Collaborative Group Work

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A hallmark of modern technology, cloud based and collaborative document storage, like the OneDrive or Google Drive, might just redefine how you offer feedback and facilitate collaborative work in your classroom.

Shared folders and documents are a great way to:

  • manage student meetings and group sign ups;
  • collect class notes to share around;
  • offer formative feedback and comments;
  • facilitate collaborative work among students,
  • monitor progress through drafts of assignments.

Manage Meetings and Group Sign Ups

Have students reserve time in class to meet with you to discuss work on a project or receive feedback. Section this time in the middle of class, and bracket it with a lesson before and after.

Modify this template to help students sign up for group work by structuring the table into groups limited to no more than 4 participants.

Add a column for the groups to identify their commitments to productive group work. This may help them hold each other accountable for appropriate participation when working as a group, and will help you offer guidance on productive group work.

Offer Formative Feedback on Work

Have learners share their work in progress with you. Use commenting to give targeted feedback on specific paragraphs or areas of a project.

Figure 1. Insert a new comment. Screenshot by J. Wilkinson, November 2019.

Try offering this feedback at regular intervals in support of learners as they progress through an assignment.

Use the drawing features in Office software to add annotations and comments, much like you have a paper copy.

"Hello" is written on the PowerPoint canvas in digital ink.

Facilitate Collaboration

To facilitate collaboration, start by considering your learners and the comfort they might have with collaborative documents. Many international learners have never used these types of tools before, while domestic students are likely to have used them extensively. Based on this, consider whether you can take a structured or informal approach, or whether you could blend these suggestions.


This suggestion is for students new to collaborative documents, or to the post-secondary environment. It aims to structure and model the conventions of collaboration in their program, using collaborative docs and folders.

Set up a shared folder for using your course code and section. Post the link to this folder in your course as a new module called “Group Work Folder”. Modify sign up sheet above to get students to sign up for groups, through this linked folder.

OneDrive showing a folder set up with individual spaces for student groups to work and collaborate.
“Example group work folder set up” Screenshot by J. Wilkinson August 2020.

Using the sign up sheet as a guide, create new folders for these groups. Ask students to add in their working documents, presentations or links. This way, groups are centralized for you to check in on. If you would prefer, you can restrict access to group folders to group members. This highly structured approach allows you to:

Version history option in the ellipses on documents in OneDrive. Screenshot by J. Wilkinson August 2020.
  • Use the version history to monitor individual contributions;
  • Use commenting features to offer feedback at regular intervals;
  • Support any collaboration challenges;
  • Monitor closely groups who may need additional direction.

This approach could benefit learners who are new to collaborative documents, or who are newer in a program and may need structured facilitation of group work behaviours until such time as they can begin to replicate behaviours with increasing independence.

Less Structured

To allow more choice and flexibility, encourage learners to set up their own folders, and create their own resources, or use resources you’ve posted in the course shell.

At regular intervals, require groups to share their progress with each other and you. This could look like posting a view only link in a discussion thread. Students could solicit peer feedback or reflect on their learning by:

  • summarizing their progress since the last update;
  • requesting feedback (in the form of comments within the presentation or document) on one or more key components;
  • reflecting on the current project task, identifying key learning or challenges, and how their group managed this;
  • considering how their progress has differed from their original plan;
  • recommending a workflow or process, based on their experiences.

How do you invite students to collaborate on group work using the OneDrive or Teams? Post or comment below!

Jess Wilkinson

Jesslyn is the Educational Technology Officer at Conestoga. An Ontario Certified Teacher, and holding a B.A. and B.Ed., Jesslyn researches and promotes new technologies for faculty to enhance pedagogical practices. She brings to the role her experience as a Google and Microsoft certified technology trainer and as a classroom teacher in South Korea, Mongolia, and Ontario, focusing on special education and assistive learning technologies. She is available for workshops, consultations, and support with using technology in higher education contexts.

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