Group Work Solutions for Students

by Jackie Wickham

Whether it’s working on an assigned group project, studying together, or networking, SPS online students frequently need to collaborate in small groups. For students who may be in different cities, countries, or time zones, this can seem like a difficult challenge. Luckily, there are several technology options available for students who wish to work together in groups.

Canvas Groups

One of the biggest improvements in the transition from Blackboard to Canvas is the Canvas group work functionality. To access the group area in Canvas, click on the “People” link on the left-hand navigation menu, then click on the Groups tab at the top of the page.

A Canvas Group is like a mini-course page for the smaller group to work in. It features a group discussion board, a shared calendar, a files area, and the ability to collaborate on shared documents. Most requested by SPS students, it also features a built-in web conferencing tool, Big Blue Button – accessible via the Conferences tab. Students can use the conferencing tool to meet in real time, share documents, and talk via audio or video.

For more information on Canvas Groups, visit the following links to Canvas Guides:

How to create a student group

How to start a conference in a student group

All People and Groups Guides


BlueJeans is a new web conferencing tool being piloted by Northwestern in the 2015-2016 academic year. BlueJeans allows students, faculty, and staff to create and record real-time meetings with up to 100 users. Students who use BlueJeans during the pilot period will be surveyed by NUIT on their experience.

Use your NetID and password to log in to the Northwestern BlueJeans homepage

For support with BlueJeans, contact BlueJeans at 408-791-2830 or view the user guides on their Support page.

Google Apps

SPS students have access to all Google Apps for Education. Students can use Gmail, Calendaring, Instant Messaging, Google Sites, and Google Docs, Spreadsheets, and Presentations to easily share with other students in the domain.

For support with Google Apps, students can contact NUIT or visit the NUIT Google Apps Support page.

In addition to Canvas Groups, Blue Jeans, and Google Apps, students are welcome to use any technology they feel comfortable with to collaborate and network. Past students have used Skype, LinkedIn groups, and good old fashioned phone calls and e-mail to work together. For support with group work in general or deciding on an appropriate technology solution, students can contact

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