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Hybrid working: digital communication and collaboration
Hybrid working: digital communication and collaboration

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6.2 Exploring digital collaboration tools

From the case study, you can see there are many ways to communicate and collaborate. As tools and systems evolve, it is sensible to keep up to date and understand your organisation’s policies for their use. To help develop your confidence in using these tools, test out new tools with trusted colleagues to explore what they can do, and how you might use them, and search for support and guidance either within your organisation or online.

In the following activities you are encouraged to explore and play with some the online collaboration tools ,discover those your organisation recommends, and others that are available.

Activity 20 Explore online whiteboards

Timing: 15 minutes

During the COVID-19 pandemic, online whiteboards became a tool of choice for collaboration for many, and you may have used these within your workplace. Organisations adopted them for activities such as training and development where face-to-face workshops had to go online, and these offered an opportunity for participants to do tasks together, such as learning and course design, scenario planning and problem solving, and to help with project management.

While there are many online white boards available, Miro [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , Mural and Microsoft Whiteboard are popular. Take some time to explore one of these or an online whiteboard of your own choice. Many are free to use, and you may wish to create an account to ‘play’ with the whiteboard, as this can be the best approach to discover what it can do.

If you need inspiration for collaboration activities, the fun retrospectives website has numerous activities and ideas. You may wish to choose a few to try within your organisation.

Online collaboration in these spaces works best when you have prepared and agree how you will use them. Here are some basic principles:

  • Be clear on the outcome of the activity you are doing.
  • If you are facilitating the session, learn how to use the tool.
  • While many people can use these tools without training, providing basic guidance at the start of a session and tips throughout will build confidence and allow you to use the tool more effectively.
  • Consider ‘locking down’ content in the boards to avoid unintentional mistakes.
  • These tools are not fully accessible, so consider support others may require, and allocate a buddy if required.

In the video, Anne Gambles, senior project manager, Library Services, The Open University, and Murray Cook, strategy and scenario practitioner, share their experience using online collaboration tools for running future planning sessions with teams within The Open University. This may give you insights and tips for collaborating more effectively online.

Download this video clip.Video player: hyb_6_2022_sept104_experiences_of_collaborating_online_compressed.mp4
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The list below takes you to support areas for:

Activity 21 Exploring collaboration tools

Timing: in course 10 minutes / then time outside the course to use tools further

The range of collaboration tools now available is vast, and deciding which one is most appropriate for the outcomes you require and the preferred approach for your teams is important to ensure effective collaborative working.

When choosing any collaboration tool you should be mindful of the guidance and governance requirements of your organisations, for both security and budgetary reasons. For example, some online tools may not meet GDPR regulations.

Spend some time exploring the following:

What collaboration tools does your organisation already use?

Then review the following sites that provide some recommendations and think about how you might use some of these tools. If there are tools that could enable better collaboration, it can be useful to familiarise yourself with these using your own content, and then work with colleagues to see how you might use the tool.