Fostering Collaboration with Shared Documents

AOI | Learning Innovations
Faculty Insider

Weekly Tip: Fostering Collaboration with Shared Documents

Shared documents are often overlooked as a collaboration tool. A shared document is any live document, presentation, or even spreadsheet which can be edited in real time. When used effectively, they can also increase efficiency; and be used as a reference later.

Tips for Getting Started

Here are a few quick tips on how to get started with shared documents.

  1. Create a new document/presentation using your preferred online document application.
  2. Provide students with assignment instructions, prompts, and roles if applicable.
  3. Allow students to share documents with one another for feedback, review, or discussion.

Shared documents can be used in a variety of ways to enhance student collaboration and can be useful regardless of the delivery method. Here are a few different strategies to help you get the most out of a shared document.

Peer Reviews

Peer reviews are a terrific way to take advantage of a shared document and they can be used synchronously or asynchronously. Students can use the shared document to discuss the work in real time and make edits using tools such as track changes. Students can also leave comments pointed at specific places which the writer can read and respond to later.

Group Work

This strategy can be used when breaking students into groups. The instructor can prefill the document with questions to keep the students on track while they are actively working. This is particularly helpful in an online setting where an instructor cannot walk around the room to check progress.

Consider assigning roles to make this activity seamless. For more tips on group learning check out our previous edition of The Faculty Insider: Skill Building through Group Learning.

Class Brainstorm

Are you in need of a quick way to assess student knowledge? You could try using a shared document with your class to present students with a topic. Give students 10-15 minutes to contribute their ideas surrounding the subject. Students can then contribute their thoughts on their peers’ ideas using the comment tool. This is a great strategy to use when segueing into a new topic.

Bonus tip: Revisit the class document to use as a reflection tool following the lesson. Have students assess how their thinking has changed since the beginning of the lesson.

These few examples are not the only ways to use shared documents. There are many other creative uses to try, too! We hope you will consider trying some of the strategies, and we hope you will experiment with shared documents in other ways, too. Planning to use shared documents in your next collaborative assignment? Let us know how it goes!

This series of videos and teaching tips is presented by Academic Outreach and Innovation (AOI). We invite you to join the conversation. Share your tips and ask questions through this blog. If you would like these posts to be sent directly to your email each week, subscribe to the listserv by emailing

For more information or to schedule time with an instructional designer or emerging technologist, contact or request training on demand. You can also visit the Spark Faculty Innovation Studio in room 102 any time from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, during the academic year.