Working together in groups is a key part of most organisations, it makes sense from an educational perspective that learners work together on group assignments in preparation for when they will work in teams in the workplace.
The process of working together on a collaborative assignment brings a lot of challenges, one of which is where should learners collaborate when working on a document. There are various public tools such as Google Docs and public wikis that can be used. Most VLEs have a wiki built in to their functionality.
Regardless of which tools is used, the VLE can be the staging post that will allow the learners to jump into their collaborative document. Learners may choose to use the built in wiki, however as a group they may choose to use a tool such as Google Docs or a public wiki such as PBwiki.
Wikis allow multiple learners to work on a single document, you can break the document down into pages with links between the different pages.
Wikis allow learners to work on the document when and where they want to, at a time and place to suit their circumstances.
Wikis can often be edited and worked on using mobile devices, enabling easier access and collaboration when required.
Wikis are often more accessible than working together on a word processed document and will work with screen readers and other assistive technologies.
Unlike simple word processed documents, wikis also enable learners to embed rich media into them. Short video clips can be embedded, as can audio and images. You may also be able to embed other content into them, such as RSS feeds, slides from a service such as SlideShare, pages from other services.
Wikis can contain links, internally and externally to sources and other relevant content.
One nice feature of collaborative tools is the history that is recorded, it outlines not only the changes to the document, but who did what when. This feature can make it much easier to assess the final outcome. Of course when using the wiki within the VLE the assessor will have access to that history, when using other collaborative tools, access may needed to be given to assessor.
At the end of the day, wikis are a powerful tool that allow learners to collaborate together to complete a joint outcome. Whether they use the wiki on the VLE, one that offers familiarity within the interface, or merely use the VLE as a jump off point using an external tool, they provide many learning possibilities and opportunities of working together.