Interaction + Collaboration for Learning

For many, the real excitement of online learning environments comes not from posted content but from the various collaboration and communication tools that allow for remote Interaction. The significance of this is indicated by its location in our DIAgram above. This is especially true of subjects in our disciplines that call for “learning-by-doing” approaches, professional enculturation as part of learning, and/or team-based activities.

On this page, you will find tools and tactics—in many cases shared by ABP colleagues—for various ways of facilitating online interaction with and between students. If you have additional tools and tactics you would like to share, please get in touch with BEL+T. Also, be sure to visit our Learning Tools page in the Canvas section of the Teaching Toolbox.

Devised thoughtfully, interactive opportunities can serve a dual purpose: enhancing Learning Engagement whilst deepening the sense of Belonging to one’s learning community (see more on our Supporting Online Learning page). Indeed, some scholars have argued that online interaction has the potential to promote a culture of “openness” and peer-to-peer interaction often lacking in face-to-face contexts (see Ioannou, 2018). Although some of the tactics covered on this page imply synchronous interaction, many can also work asynchronously.

To support flexible online learning, synchronous activities should include alternative opportunities for those students who experience connection issues or other challenges. Ideally, learning activities that promote interaction and collaboration would be supported by subject content and information delivered asynchronously (see the Delivering Content page) and relate directly to assessment criteria (see the Assessment + Feedback page).

  • Panel Discussion

    Learning aims

    • To expose students to diverse viewpoints from experts/practitioners
    • To allow students to experience a simulated environment of professional practice

    Tactics for delivery + some tool options

    1. For asynchronous delivery, organise for the panellists to pre-record a screencast video of their presentation. The recordings can be edited in Lecture Capture and uploaded to Kaltura, a video management system (VMS) integrated with Canvas.
    2. For synchronous delivery, schedule either a Zoom meeting through Canvas or a Zoom webinar and notify students and guests of the registration URL and password. Panellists with slides will then need to share their screen while presenting. Click here for a comparison between Zoom meetings and Zoom webinars.

    Tactics for interaction + some tool options

    1. Encourage students to ask questions using the Q+A function (if a Zoom webinar), on Zoom chat (if a Zoom meeting) or on a Canvas discussion board (if asynchronous).
    2. In Zoom meetings, there is the option to divide students across breakout rooms and schedule time for panellists to enter breakout rooms to engage with smaller groups and answer questions.

    Things to consider

    1. Seek permission from panellists before recording their presentation to make it available to students on Canvas. Be prepared to edit the recording in Lecture Capture before posting it to Canvas. This can be necessary to remove any copyright material.
    2. When setting up a Zoom webinar, participants can be assigned different roles.
    3. Prepare students for using Zoom if the platform is new to them. When facilitating a synchronous discussion online, coordinators should provide students with guidance about appropriate online behaviour. This includes advice to students about how they should notify the host that they have a question or how a question posted in the Q+A function will be answered.
    4. To avoid delays and reduce the risk of technical difficulties, ask the presenters to test their audio-visual setup in advance and to login prior to the scheduled session to retest it.

    Examples

    As an alternative to hosting a synchronous panel discussion, some coordinators have facilitated asynchronous versions by recording individual “interviews” with industry experts and assembling the clips into an audio or video file using software like Openshot.

  • Group Discussion

    Learning aims

    • To engage students in open dialogue, exchanging ideas around a specific topic
    • In synchronous activities, to develop skills for actively participating in conversational, “on-the-spot” critical thinking
    • To encourage students to develop new knowledge based on multiple perspectives

    Tactics for delivery + some tool options

    1. Deliver content online via a recorded lecture, curated content, practical demonstration or virtual site visit (refer to details on the Delivering Content page).
    2. Remind students of the timeline for viewing the content and details of the forthcoming group discussion (e.g., a synchronous videoconference versus an asynchronous discussion board). Your message may include a list of thought-provoking questions for students to consider in advance.

    Tactics for interaction + some tool options

    1. Create a Canvas discussion board to support asynchronous exchanges that offer students more flexibility and time to prepare their thoughts.
    2. Some coordinators have found that one way of increasing participation in Canvas discussion boards is to activate the “Users must post before seeing replies” option.
    3. If opting for a synchronous approach, schedule a Zoom meeting through Canvas. Notify students of the registration URL and password.
    4. Consider dividing students across Zoom breakout rooms to make discussions of more manageable size (i.e., for “think-group-share” activities, debate preparation, etc.). The discussion may include students using Zoom annotation tools or a virtual whiteboard to collaborate. Within breakout rooms, students may benefit from sharing their screen with group members, especially if the activity involves sharing ideas or content prepared in advance. It is possible to pre-assign participants to breakout rooms when you schedule the meeting, rather than assign them during the meeting. During the meeting teachers should plan to enter all the breakout rooms at least once, to check-in with groups and answer questions. Click here for advice on joining multiple meetings simultaneously.

    Things to consider

    Examples

    Simon’s (2018) 10 tips for facilitating discussion boards and Lieberman’s (2019) new approaches to online discussions offer useful guidance. Kim Vo has produced and shared a guide for students on Zoom’s features and functions.

  • Student Presentations / Design Review

    Because student presentations, including studio design reviews, are normally part of assessment procedures, this topic is covered on the Assessment + Feedback page of this site.

    The Directors of the MSD and Bachelor of Design, in consultation with BEL+T and Pathway/Program Coordinators, have developed the following guidelines for conducting studio reviews online.

    Planning Assessment in the Design Studio

  • Desk Crits / Collaborative Feedback Session

    You will find tactics and tools for online feedback, including studio-style desk crits, on the Assessment + Feedback page.

  • Collaborative Project / Design Charrette

    Learning aims

    • To work with others and collectively achieve new ideas, innovative practices and results that are superior to the outcomes possible when working in isolation
    • To observe a range of approaches and outcomes, and to learn from peers, expanding the individual student’s suite of tactics

    Tactics for delivery + some tool options

    1. For situations involving students interacting with one another on a shared learning activity, it is useful to provide students with a structure for such interaction, including preferred or required platform(s) such as Microsoft Teams or a whiteboard application like Miro.
    2. Subject coordinators should make it clear what coordination tasks students/groups are themselves responsible for, such as setting group objectives and managing any synchronous meetings. To encourage groups to self-manage, consider having them write a group contract (check out BEL+T’s resources on collaborative learning for more).

    Tactics for interaction + some tool options

    1. Groups can be created in Canvas for students to share files and discussions.
    2. For document-based collaborations, coordinators can activate the Canvas “collaboration” option, then create Microsoft Office 365 collaboration documents. This will allow groups of students to directly access these collaborative cloud-based documents. Also, each student’s participation is recorded and can then be assessed.
    3. Zoom also contains an annotation tool in its screen-sharing mode, which can be helpful for working synchronously.
    4. There are numerous “whiteboard” platforms available that allow students and tutors to post graphic work to a shared virtual “pin-up” space, facilitating both synchronous and asynchronous modes of interaction and collaboration. Those commonly used within the Faculty include Bullclip, Miro,  .Mural, and Conceptboard . One of the benefits of these platforms is that they establish a single shared space for students to view each other’s work, as well as providing and receiving feedback. In these virtual “pin-up” spaces, students can also post photos of analogue models or videos of digital model walkthroughs.
    5. Platforms like SketchFabGoogle Poly and Modelo also allow sharing of 3D models online. This allows tutors to zoom in/out and orbit models remotely, potentially offering a better understanding of student progress than posted screenshots/animations. For students, it also allows for simultaneous collaboration on model construction, rather than having to share files back and forth between team members (although this presents certain technical challenges and equity issues, as discussed below).

    Things to consider

    1. Consider platforms that, in addition to whiteboard functionality, allow “opportunities for participants to interact socially and culturally with their peers” (Pektaş, 2015). Rather than relying solely on videoconferencing to foster studio culture online, it is important to consider the value that virtual pin-up spaces have for contributing to a sense of belonging and mutual support.
    2. There are other advantages of having students post their work to a whiteboard platform besides that it allows for flexible/asynchronous annotation and collaboration; unlike a PowerPoint or a PDF document, for instance, whiteboard platforms allow for some level of visual cross-referencing between artefacts. However, this does raise “user experience” issues, including navigation, context, resolution and scale, that will need to be discussed with staff and students (see Fotaris et al., 2015).
    3. Be sure to consider the various time management, file management, workflow and bandwidth challenges associated with running online collaborative tools, particularly those that promote collaborative three-dimensional modeling. Students and tutors will need to understand these limitations and be prepared for alternative approaches if and when challenges emerge.
    4. Consider how collective outputs from group projects will be assessed. See guidance from Learning Environments and BEL+T’s set of resources on this topic

    Examples

    1. Some design-based subjects are utilising Mural or Miro (see Gerfen, 2020) as an interactive whiteboard where students can virtually pin-up work to share and reference as a point of discussion. Online whiteboards such as Mural are also well equipped for facilitating peer-to-peer feedback via virtual sticky notes. This streamlines group discussions around a shared platform and environment by reducing the need to access multiple files or support synchronous videoconferences.
    2. For text-based tasks, subjects have successfully utilised Perusall as a platform. Students can collaborate on work by leaving feedback and visually highlighting specific bodies of text and images that are being referenced.
  • Inter-group Session

    Learning aims

    • To facilitate a healthy culture of collaboration and emphasise the importance of drawing inspiration from peers
    • To facilitate peer-to-peer feedback between students less familiar with the particularities of each other’s project briefs or progress
    • To facilitate opportunities for both students and tutors to exchange ideas in addressing wicked problems

    Tactics for delivery + some tool options

    1. Also known as “cross-pollination” or “date night”, preparation and scheduling of these sessions requires advance organisation with sufficient notice given to the students (aim for a week before the session). This includes allocating exchanges between tutorial/studio groups.
    2. Tutors who will be inter-changing are encouraged to contact each other before the session to provide context on their group projects and offer suggestions for inter-group activities. A follow-up catch-up is also useful to debrief and reflect on how the session went.
    3. Zoom breakout rooms are effective in facilitating this online interaction. It is recommended that a third staff member (either the subject coordinator or senior tutor) remain in the main meeting room to address any technical issues or re-allocate students who have dropped out due to poor internet connections.

    Tactics for interaction + some tool options

    • Online whiteboards (such as Mural, Jamboard, etc.) are useful as collaborative platforms for students to communicate and work synchronously.
    • Setting reflective questions prior to, or at the beginning of, the session can guide peer-to-peer feedback and promote livelier and more sustained discussion.

    Examples

    Several design- and technical-focussed subjects have successfully run inter-group sessions. This package is an example of how Studio Epsilon|Fire organised and ran an inter-group session by adapting the format run in ARCH10002 - Construction as Alchemy and Master of Architecture Studios 6 and 25.