Tools for online group interaction

Posted by Kate Miller on Jan 11, 2017 2:19:53 PM

bigstock--123177371.jpgCU Online explored some free tools for creating collaborative, engaging opportunities for your students and you, the faculty member!

The tools we explored include:

  • Microsoft Office 365
  • Prulu
  • Piazza
  • Flipgrid

Microsoft Office 365

This feature was explained in an earlier blog post.

It is worth noting that just because your class is online, doesn’t mean that you can’t have group projects! There are lots of ways for students to collaborate online, and one of the ways they can work together on documents is with Microsoft Office 365.

Once you add O365 into your Canvas course, it will add a link to your OneDrive in the course navigation menu, with all of your files visible. It will work the same way for your students. To add O365 to your course, reference this guide.

It is worth mentioning two very important “bugs” to pay attention to in using O365. First, when you use it for assignment submissions, the submission defaults to a "0" in the gradebook. Best to hide the assignment in gradebook until graded. In addtion, students can make changes to the doc after it has been submitted. You can use it for assignment submissions… we’ve mostly highlighted it as a collaboration tool and promoting it that way becuase there are these “bugs” that Canvas is still working on a resolution.


Students often have the same question, they are often simple questions and it can take up a lot of time and energy to continue to answer those questions. They can also fill up your inbox and it is tedious to answer the same thing over and over. Resolution - Piazza and Prulu!

Piazza is:

  • Free
  • Easy to set up
  • Allows anonymous posting
  • Students can respond to each other
  • Canvas integration
  • Ability to upload multiple types of files.
  • Searchable

Privacy concern: Piazza got in trouble a few months ago because of their “Piazza Careers” product - which is a service that gives student info to recruiters. It used to be that students had to uncheck a box when they signed up or they would be enrolled, this caused an uproar. It is now a true “opt in” but it might be advantageous to let students know that if they check that box their info will be sold to recruiters.

If you would like more info on these tools (including how to install), view this guide.

Prulu is:

  • Free
  • Easy to set up
  • Allows anonymous posting
  • Students can respond to each other
  • Canvas integration
  • upload multiple types of files.
  • Searchable
  • Can transfer Q&A from one semester to the next (non LMS)

Some cons include:

  • Q&A Can’t be saved in LMS version
  • File Organization
  • LMS and non LMS can’t be connected


Is an online, video-based discussion tool, fostering an engaging, social learning atmosphere.

Think of it as an alternative to text-based discussions, it gives students a different way to hone their communication skills and help them find their “voice” on a topic. It creates a space for students to communicate verbally what they have learned… something that’s more difficult to do in a fully-online classroom.

By using video-based discussion, it helps create a feeling of “social presence” for learners, where they might not have the chance to “see” each other typically in an online course.

Flipgrid just annouced one free grid for educators! Get more info here.

Flipgrid can easily be a companion to either an online or blended class.

Flipgrid Video:

Want assistance in purchasing Flipgrid for your online class? CU Online offers mini-grants to assist in developing your online course! Check out the CU Online Grants webpage for more information.

Topics: Online tools, CU Online, Online Classes, Online learning, Online teaching

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