Software for student projects

Since almost all the courses I teach have a community-based team project, every semester I struggle with the most efficient way to have students work in a collaborative environment where I am allowed to participate as well.

At the university we use Moodle, which for what it is, it is ok. But the UI is painful. For the last few years I have been using Dropbox and supplementing it with email for communication, and Moodle for project submission.

This approach makes three false assumptions:

– Students use email to communicate with each other

– Students can learn to love Dropbox

– Students can use Dropbox and email to keep organized

Every semester, these assumptions get reinforced. Students want the ability to work collaboratively sometimes at the same time as they are discussing the material, so they use Google Docs, which means that they sometimes forget to share it with me. They want a master calendar of sorts, and want to be able to create and track tasks, and keep their information organized.

This semester, one of my students referred me to Basecamp, which looked very promising. Students in one group are using it, and seem to be liking it, especially since there is a redundancy in the communication as students get mailed the discussions happening online that they might not be checking.

So far, here is my review.

Pros:

– Basecamp is a good software that has what I need from it in the sense that it will keep everything in one place

– It is very easy to learn and use

– It has a very slick and nice UI

Cons:

– Limited trial error

– $20 for 10 projects and 3GB of space

– No educational license.

– No gantt chart.

– No Outlook integration from the Basecamp side. I keep all my dates, etc. in my Outlook calendar, and it would be great to integrate the two.

10 projects is nothing! Every semester I have at least seven class-based projects, not counting my own personal projects.

So, now back to the drawing board. What I need is this:

Priority 1:

– Online software

– Educational license or reasonably priced license.

– Gantt chart

– Reporting

– More than 10 projects at a time

– Ability to archive non-active projects

Priority 2:

– Integration with Dropbox

– Expanded space

– Integration with Outlook Calendar

Priority 3:

– Android and iPhone apps

 

That’s all. Is that so much to ask for?