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Applications for Supporting Collaboration in the Classroom

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Assessments, Assessments, and Assessments

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.196.1 - 25.196.14



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Paper Authors


Edward F. Gehringer North Carolina State University

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Ed Gehringer is an Associate Professor in the departments of Computer Science and Electrical & Computer Engineering at North Carolina State University. He received his Ph.D. from Purdue University and has also taught at Carnegie Mellon University and Monash University in Australia. His research interests lie mainly in computer-supported cooperative learning.

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Applications for Supporting Collaboration in the ClassroomIn recent years, many applications have become available for supportingcollaboration between students in a course. This presentation offers an overviewof several of them, so that new engineering educators can judge which they mightbe interested in adopting. All of the tools discussed are free for instructors andtheir students.In a large class, students don't have as much ability to get their questionsanswered during class. This has led to the concept of a "backchannel"--anelectronic forum where questions and answers can be shared between studentsand instructor. This can be done—awkwardly—with Twitter. Live Questionallows students to post questions, and other students to vote them up. On thedisplay, the most popular questions percolate to the top.Providing similar functionality for out-of-class support is Piazza, which can bedescribed as a souped-up message board. Students can post questions,anonymously if they wish. These questions can be answered by an instructor, orby any student in the class. The instructor can edit a previous response, or edit itfor accuracy.ChimeIn is meant to be a more versatile substitute for clickers. Questions can beposed to students, who can answer with any Web-enabled device or a cellphone.Answers can be textual as well as multiple choice. Students can be allowed tochange their answers after discussion with classmates. ChimeIn comes from theUniversity of Minnesota, but has recently been released to outside sites.Many universities use Google Tools for Education, which include Google forms.Google forms can be used to provide much the same functionality as ChimeIn,except that there is currently no automatic way for them to award scores forcorrectness. This should be a straightforward extension for sometime in the nearfuture, though.Google forms can also be used to survey students at any time, e.g., about theirlearning in a class. Such surveys can also be conducted via SALG (StudentAssessment of Learning Gains). It contains a large number of pre-writtenquestions which can be deployed to assess how well students are learning thematerial they are covering in class.Wikis are a well known collaborative space, which can be used by students towrite reports and other documents cooperatively. Google docs serve much thesame function, allowing more flexibility but less uniformity in formatting. Morepowerful features are available through Google sites, which allow the instructor toset up templates to track student progress, including the time that they have spenton the project.CATME/Team Maker is a tool for creating teams based on student schedules orother criteria, and collecting feedback from team members on the contributions oftheir partners. It can identify patterns that indicate various kinds of dysfunctionalteams.The author has quite a bit of experience using these technologies in class, butbefore the full paper is due, will conduct a survey via various listservs to augmenthis experience with the perspectives of other educators.

Gehringer, E. F. (2012, June), Applications for Supporting Collaboration in the Classroom Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--20956

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