There are many disciplines where collaborative learning is the norm; group projects in engineering, working in pairs in bio & chem laboratories, writing papers in a variety of fields, and Team-Based Learning in medical schools (among other areas). Are there any software tools available that are specifically intended to augment collaborative learning? In my head, this would include capabilities such as:

  • Asking questions of the group
  • Enabling real-time group discussion
  • Sharing attachments
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3 Answers 3


There aren't many popular ones specific to students. Many universities use BlackBoard, but despite having been in many classes where it was used, I've never seen students use it to collaborate. Students use the same tools everyone else uses... Skype, Github, Dropbox, Google Docs, etc.


Are there any software tools available that are specifically intended to augment collaborative learning?

This strongly depends on the setting (i.e., the aim of the learning experience) and consequently expectations the teacher and the students have.

For collaborative knowledge-base management and/or note-taking, e.g., Wikis are an effective tool. There exist a plethora of various flavours of wiki's for various purposes, depending on the exact requirements you might have.

If you are after e.g., collaborative writing, then tools similar to Google Docs might be of some use.

In the case you would be after something more complex, such as collaborative exercise sheets, that would be trickier of course.

It also might be useful to start from Wikipedia's entry on Computer-supported collaborative learning


I've been using Piazza with some success. It provides a collaborative discussion forum for a course. The best thing I can say about it: my students actually use it. Caveat: it doesn't include the capability for students to upload files.

From the Piazza website:

The (Free) Efficient Way to Manage Class Q&A

How is this better than email, newsgroups, and discussion forums? Students actually use Piazza, they love it. This difference stems from how we built Piazza. We've personally met with and spoken to thousands of students and instructors. The result is a beautifully intuitive and simple product that students love and use.

Also see why Piazza works.

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