A major trend in education is integrating more online learning options for the changing student demographic. As more online communication tools are being developed, faculty are faced with the need to help students efficiently communicate throughout the course. For engineering faculty, group projects are common tasks assigned to students. However, with the growing demand for online learning environments, faculty are faced with student interaction challenges. Faculty rely on learning software to foster the educational growth of a student.
The online classroom is faced with the challenge of promoting effective group work when student groups are unable to meet in a physical classroom. Distance and variation in student and instructor schedules can inhibit effective collaboration. Fortunately, software solutions have been developed to provide resources for distance collaboration for academia and enterprise, with some of that functionality found in online tools available to educators and students at no cost.
This paper examines a list of tools and reviews their use in a geographically diverse collaborative project setting. A team of six engineering students in a combined Cardiovascular Engineering I course was selected by instruction team recommendation as a group with the greatest assumed barrier of communication. The level of education varied across the team with undergraduate and graduate students located across four states with limited in-person interaction. Post-project surveys were given to students to provide feedback and recommendations on tools that were used throughout the life of the project. This ongoing project serves as a testbed for collaboration between students over distance with the tools discovered, tested and made available to educators who wish to offer their distance education and non-local students the best opportunity for success in group projects.
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