If you are enrolled in an online course, you will have to collaborate and interact with students and teachers. It might be that your peers are located in another country, which can make communication very difficult. In lieu of a real classroom, you must make your study effort as productive as possible.
While your university might have its own recommended tools for e-learning, a lot of information exchange happens through group activities. If you have a potential group of co-learners, consider recommending these tools to them. Many of these are completely free, although some are available for purchase.
1. Cisco WebEx
At $19/month (paid annually), WebEx Meeting Center is certainly not cheap, but it is absolutely the best software for online collaboration. The paid plan can support up to eight users, so if you have enough people in your group, it will work out to be very cheap. Also WebEx Android apps work beautifully, and recording your conversations and sharing a screen is extremely easy.
If any of your co-learners are causing unintentional disruption (mostly audio noises at their end), you can mute them so that the class is not disturbed. You may video conference and chat with your co-learners at the same time.
There is another reason why you must become comfortable with WebEx. If you are going to work at a corporation in the future, you will find that most of them prefer WebEx for meetings.
Of course, there might be people in your group who would be unwilling to share the burden of WebEx costs. In case you cannot reach a consensus, use Google Hangouts as an alternative, but remember it’ll always remain a poor cousin of WebEx.
2. Screen Grabbing Tools
There are times when you may only need to transfer a screenshot of your PC. Windows systems come with Snipping Tool and PrintScreen buttons. Taking a screenshot with them is a breeze. If you want, you can copy and paste the screenshot to a Paint program and save it as a .jpg for sharing.
Project management is an integral part of group study, especially if you are working on a shared project. For this, you can go with a freeware called Targetprocess. This feels the closest to the Outlook desktop client which is often used for project management in large corporations. You can also go with Microsoft Project.
4. Exam Time
Exam Time by GoConqur is a fantastic tool if you want to study using mind maps, flashcards, slides, quizzes and notes. The best part is that the learning platform with so many advanced features remains free. They also have apps on iTunes and the Play Store. If you are looking for something truly free and exceptional, then don’t forget to subscribe to Exam Time.
Another free collaboration tool, StudyBlue helps you form groups in case you don’t have any co-learners to share your experiences with. It has over 15 million students and a crowdsourced platform comprising 400 million flash cards and notes. Clearly you are never too far from another student who is studying the same thing you do.
Available for free at the Microsoft Store, Evernote is a must-have for taking notes online. You can add photos, web pages, or scanned handwritten docs on the fly and search them anytime. Further, you can create quick presentations or share the ideas you generate in Evernote with StudyBlue or WebEx.
7. Survey Monkey
Sometimes while studying you need to create quick polls and surveys within your group to validate your ideas. Survey Monkey is a really professional tool to create surveys and see the results instantly. Your co-learners will appreciate how user-friendly the forms are because it is a real breeze to fill them out.
As a free alternative, you can also use Google Forms. But again, its potential is rather limited compared to Survey Monkey.
Occasionally, if your group is not too interested in studying, you might all want shared entertainment to pass the evening. For this, these amazing apps will help you watch movies, YouTube videos or NetFlix. Just don’t overdo these entertainment sessions, as it will defeat the entire purpose of collaboration.
Online group study requires far more self-discipline than classroom learning. It is very important for you to find partners who are as committed as you are. Some might find the prospect of collaboration online a bit disappointing at first. However, with time and patience, your entire group will find out that self-learning is so much easier with technology.
Are you in an online study group? Which tools do you use? Let us know in the comments.