Virtual working environments are intrinsic to the contemporary workplace and collaborative skills are a vital graduate capability. To develop students’ collaborative skills, first year medical laboratory science students undertake a group poster project, based on a blended learning model. Learning is scaffolded in lectures, workshops in collaborative learning spaces, practitioner mentoring sessions, and online resources. Google Drive provides an online collaborative space for students to realise tangible outcomes from this learning. A Google Drive document is created for each group and shared with members. In this space, students assign tasks and plan workflow, share research, progressively develop poster content, reflect and comment on peer contributions and use the messaging functions to ‘talk’ to group members. This provides a readily accessible, transparent record of group work, crucial in peer assessment, and a communication channel for group members and the lecturer, who can support groups if required. This knowledge creation space also augments productivity and effectiveness of face-to-face collaboration. As members are randomly allocated to groups and are often of diverse backgrounds and unknown to each other, resilience is built as students navigate the uncertainties and complexities of group dynamics, learning to focus on the goal of the team task as they constructively and professionally engage in team dialogue. Students are responsible and accountable for individual and group work.
The use of Google Drive was evaluated in a survey including Likert scale and open ended qualitative questions. Statistical analysis was carried out. Results show students (79%) valued the inclusion of online space in collaborative work and highly appreciated (78%) the flexibility provided by Google Drive, while recognising the need for improved notification functionality. Teaching staff recognised the advantages in monitoring and moderating collaborative group work, and the transformational progression in student collaborative as well as technological skill acquisition, including professional dialogue.
Addressing the themes
Educating responsive graduates.
Graduate competencies include reliability, communication skills and ability to work in teams [1, 2]. Students using Google Drive adapt to a new working environment, working in teams and using collaborative technologies for learning.
Google Drive was used not simply for delivery of learning but innovatively to supplement and enrich research-based learning, providing a space for active engagement and interaction with resources and team. This promotes the development of responsive ‘intellectual producers’ , able to effectively communicate, collaborate and negotiate in complex work environments.
Students use ‘new’ technologies to work collaboratively, allowing them to experience the reality of distributed workplaces incorporating both flexibility and ‘real’ time responsiveness. Students are responsible and accountable for individual and group work contributions in a highly transparent and readily accessible workspace. This experience provides a model of an effective learning tool.
Navigating uncertainty and complexity.
Google Drive allows students to develop critical thinking and reflective skills as they develop a group product. In this forum students build resilience by taking ownership and managing group work, and navigating the uncertainties and complexities of group dynamics as they constructively and professionally engage in team dialogue and learn to focus on the goal of the team task.