Tools for a Wired Grad Student
Report from Team Virtual
Six weeks into the course, our team is using several web collaboration tools and finding them useful. At least that is what they tell me.
We are currently using a mailing list, the UMWiki, del.icio.us social bookmarking, and Refworks. I have also set up Netfiles for file storage but haven't really found it necessary since the wiki has upload capability.
A mailing list provides a single email address that will reach all of your team members. Since we don't have large teams this isn't a big issue. Yahoo and Google Groups both allow you to create mailing lists free and to also store files and have a calendar and other cool things. Everyone must register and have an account to do this. You also get to view ads at no charge.
I chose the U of M Listserv but it is only available to staff and faculty or students representing organizations. The advantage of the listserv is we all have email accounts at the U and there are no ads.
We are using the U's wiki space as our team home page. We have links to our other tools (del.icio.us, Refworks, Netfiles), it's our file repository, and we are now using it to track the literature review.
This is a great tool and very easy to use. You can create as many wiki spaces as you like. Wikis are open to public view by default but you can restrict them all the way down to a group or even one person. People outside the U can create free guest accounts and use a wiki if they are sponsored by someone from the U.
You are probably sharing links as you work on your project. Switching to a social bookmarking system makes sharing links very easy and makes your bookmarks easy to work with.
There are a few tools for social bookmarking but I'm partial to del.icio.us. It's been around for several years and has the support of Yahoo. We share a del.icio.us account together for this project.
To use del.icio.us, sign up for an account and install the tools in your browser. When you come to a page to bookmark, you click the "Tag" button, add some notes, and save. It's squirreled away on your del.icio.us page. (You don't have to visit del.icio.us each time you bookmark.)
Del.icio.us allows you to make bookmarks private and you can download your bookmarks locally.
Netfiles is a file repository with some interesting features. First, you get 5GB of space so you can store a lot of average and even large files. Second, you can share files easily and with folks outside of the U. Third, you can provide a password for sharing the files (or not).
To use Netfiles, you first must enable it from your Internet account.
There is also a link to Netfiles help from that page. It's easy to use and has a nice web interface. Windows users can download a desktop client.
Versioning via Netfiles
I haven't tried this feature but I understand that Netfiles has a check-in/check-out feature. Using this makes it easy to collaborate on something like a team paper (where you can run the risk of two people working on the paper at the same time).
Virtual Tool Teacher Benefits
Our use of these collaborative tools establishes various archives of files that then are available to future students. WebCT courses go away and most of us are not uploading work plans or discussing our readings in WebCT. Teachers can use this record as team examples. I personally don't have a problem uploading our final project to the wiki if that works for my teammembers.
If you have questions or need a bit coaching, let me know (fleck004). If you start using some of these tools (or are already using them), let us know in the comments.