collaboration tools


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Online faculty generally default to their learning management system’s discussion form to facilitate student collaboration or sharing. But Padlet provides an alternate format that can be much better for many purposes. The LMS forum is designed for linear, text-based discussions around a pre-established theme. This is good if a faculty member wants to corral discussion and keep it on track, but it is not so good for facilitating a more free-form, creative discussion that branches out into many areas. Padlet also provides a much more visually appealing, and thus inviting, system for facilitating content sharing among students. Padlet is a kind of online sticky board. It is similar to a wiki in that it allows for collaborative postings. But unlike many wikis, content can be dropped anywhere on the board, as you would a sticky note. This takes the user out of the linear mind-set of responding to the last posting on a discussion thread and instead encourages postings about any content on the board. Plus, Padlet is much friendlier to visual content such as images and video. Here are some ideas for using it in your online classes. Resource repository. A Padlet wall can be set up for students to post supplemental resources on topics covered in class. Students in a political science course can post current event stories from magazines or other media. If the topic is more conceptual, such as educational theory, students can add images or other content that illustrate the topic in practice. Commentary. Padlet allows instructors to integrate content and discussion within the same space. Students can post information on a topic and comment on it right where it appears. Students can also add questions about class topics that occur to them while they are doing pre-class readings. These questions can be ideal discussion starters in a flipped classroom. The instructor would draw up the page of questions in front of the class and ask the students to answer them. An instructor might want to allow anonymous postings so that students feel more comfortable submitting questions. In this way the instructor gets more questions than he or she would get by asking students to call out their questions in class. Padlet can also be used as a response system in a flipped classroom. The instructor can throw out questions or problems for the students to answer on the board, and students can also respond to each other’s postings in real time. The board can also host post-class questions on content. Very often thoughts occur to students after the material has been covered in class. If a flipped classroom is using Padlet to host course content, then students can post messages about what they find meaningful, or still puzzling, after class. Portfolios. Padlet’s visual design makes it ideal for posting student portfolios. While a visual course such as photography or design best fits the system, students in other subjects can post visual portfolios that represent their research as well. For instance, a student researching Aristotle’s ethics for a philosophy course can post images with commentary that represent Aristotle’s views in practice. Student blogs. The topic-centered design of the LMS discussion makes it less likely that students will put themselves into their postings. A blog is owner-centered and thus tends to express more of the personality of the owner. Students can each create a Padlet wall and use it to post their thoughts on course topics, including articles, images, or other resources to illustrate how the topics resonate with them. This allows the instructor to see how a topic affects different students. The instructor might learn that a medical ethics case is viewed from the perspective of the doctor’s duties by some students, and from the perspective of the patient’s feelings by others. Group projects. Group projects can raise a bit of a conundrum for online faculty, as many learning management systems are fundamentally designed to host individual student work. Padlet provides a good mechanism for both developing and publicizing group work. A wall can be set up for each group in the class, and students given access to post to it. Not only does this make it easy for students to gather and post content, but they also can choose a design for their wall that illustrates the central theme they want to convey to the viewer. The added design elements help draw together the individual content and help the group think about the wider message in their work. Take a look at this short tutorial from Richard Byrne on how to quickly create a Padlet wall, and consider ways that it can enhance student collaboration in your courses (