Have you been collaborating remotely while in isolation? If you are an educator, have you been issuing group projects to your students? The Covid-19 pandemic challenges students to communicate and cooperate even without meeting face-to-face.
This period has prompted re-assessments of work processes and questioned long-held assumptions that the ideation process must be done in a meeting room, with a whiteboard or paper set in the middle. Is it always true that brainstorming for ideas can only be done in person?
For some students, this pandemic may have demonstrated that it is possible to collaborate with others from the comforts of their homes. Even when this pandemic blows over, in-person group meetings may no longer be regarded as necessary for success.
Online group projects require students to adopt and leverage the appropriate tools to bring their work to fruition. Here are five online tools for brainstorming that we will be introducing in this article:
- Google Meet
- HeyHi’s online whiteboard
Each online tool in this list is free-to-use and can be used in conjunction with one another in the brainstorming process. Even as we spotlight these tools, we will also suggest alternatives that you may explore.
1. Trello (Manage projects)
Students often work on multiple projects simultaneously and it can be easy to lose track of the endless list of tasks that have to be completed. Fortunately, project management applications such as Trello can help with that!
Users can create a Trello board for each of their projects before inviting their group mates to collaborate on the board. Our advice is for students to create different sections to categorise each task under. Some examples of section headers can be: ‘ideation,’ ‘work in progress,’ and ‘awaiting review.’ As each task moves up the stages of development, students will be able to drag and drop these tasks under the relevant category.
With Trello, students can track the group’s progress on different aspects of their project and thus devote more attention to weak areas that need more pushing.
Alternatives to Trello:
2. Slack (Communicate for work)
Slack is a virtual workspace that brings individuals together for work purposes. Within Slack, you can create different channels to segregate departments and different work processes.
If you are a student managing a group project, you may consider designating channels for announcements, idea generation, writing, designing, and even a coffee talk channel for some downtime between work!
If you are a teacher, you could create private channels to manage and weigh in on conversations within each project group. That way, Slack serves as a centralised platform to stay up to date on each group’s progress.
Slack also allows you to set office timings such that notifications will be turned off beyond your preset hours. When we are working from home, it is important to set boundaries and to balance work and relaxation.
Alternatives to Slack:
3. MindMeister (Create collaborative mind maps)
Katherine Schulten and Sarah Gross write in the New York Times that “mind mapping, goes beyond note-taking and can be used for organising, problem-solving and brainstorming.” Mindmaps are useful for visualising concepts and to draw links that may not be immediately obvious.
MindMeister is a free online mind mapping tool that enables students to work together in real-time to create mind maps detailing their ideas. With the ability to link different bubbles with arrows and to add pictures within each bubble, MindMeister is an excellent tool for visual learners to organise their thoughts.
In group projects, students may diverge in their way of thinking. Mind maps are inclusive ways to display multiple perspectives. With this big picture view of the topic, students will be able to brainstorm and arrive at a consensus faster and more efficiently.
Alternatives to MindMeister:
4. Google Meet (discuss ideas through video conferencing)
Sometimes, talking it out over video is more productive than communicating over text messages through Slack or emails. Google Meet enables users to schedule online meetings in advance. Once the invitation is accepted, students will be able to add the details to their Google calendar.
Google Meet is accessible across a range of devices including desktop, Android, and Apple devices.
Alternatives to Google Hangouts:
5. HeyHi’s online whiteboard
So far, we have covered four different tools that enable students to collaborate and brainstorm for project ideas. Now, we are pleased to introduce you to HeyHi, an online whiteboard that enables students to schedule video conferences and brainstorm ideas with the aid of a blank canvas.
On HeyHi’s online whiteboard, students can make handwritten notes and drawings to brainstorm for ideas. Students have the freedom to present their ideas in a way that is most productive for them. Whether students generate better ideas with arrows, Venn diagrams or doodles, students are not restricted to a limited selection of arrows and bubbles with HeyHi’s online whiteboard.
By signing up for a free HeyHi account, students will be able to schedule and invite their group members to meetings. These meetings can only be accessed with a meeting ID and an access code. Therefore, you can be assured that the security and safety of students is a top priority for developers at HeyHi.
With built-in video conferencing features superimposed on HeyHi’s online whiteboard, students will not have to toggle between different applications. Students will feel more at ease discussing, conversing, and brainstorming with their friends using HeyHi’s online whiteboard.
If you are prone to letting your ideas run wild and brainstorming on pen and paper often leads to multiple sheets of paper covered with scribbles, HeyHi’s online whiteboard is perfect for you. HeyHi’s online whiteboard is expandable. If you run out of space as you generate ideas, simply shift to another section of the whiteboard or zoom out to reveal more whiteboard space!
Alternatives to HeyHi:
This article has introduced you to five online tools that students can use to brainstorm ideas for group projects:
- Google Meet
- HeyHi’s online whiteboard
We have taken care to select tools that complement one another and are free for students to use. No one tool performs the same function, and we advise that students adopt a combination of these tools for future group projects.
If you are an educator looking to help your students adjust to remote working, we hope that this curated list of tools will provide you with some useful suggestions that you can offer to your students. Among these tools, HeyHi’s online whiteboard offers multiple features within an application and thus makes brainstorming for ideas fun and manageable.