One of the challenges with group work is understanding the extent and meaningfulness of each individual’s contribution. We can use technology to capture and analyse these contributions, although it is important to remember that the data itself is not enough. It must still be interpreted and analysed. One way that we explored the gathering of this data is through DocuViz.

In these courses, individual student contributions to a collaborative writing task were visualised for both lecturers and students to see using Google Docs extension tools.


Students enjoyed collaborating with the transparency afforded by Google Doc analytics. They felt that having their own contributions visualised alongside that of their peers encouraged them to reflect on their own practice. Seeing the big picture allowed them to intuitively provide constructive feedback to one another. At the same time, these tools provided lecturers with the ability to clearly see students’ approaches to collaboration, and this informed and altered their own models of, and teaching around, group work.



Where individual student contributions to collaborative work could be difficult to ascertain in the past, these new tools made everything transparent from a number of different angles. The DocuViz extension draws a timeline of the work’s construction, and allows lecturers to break down its progress according to each individual student. This timeline was important in showing the development of the work, so as to see who contributed content, and when. AuthorViz colour-codes the document according to author. This allowed the lecturer to see which parts of the finished work were written by which author.

Where to next?

This experience immediately altered the lecturers’ teaching practice around group work. The results suggested that students worked with markedly different models of collaboration, even within a single activity. Explicit instruction on those modes of collaboration can significantly impact on the success of in-class collaborations.

Tools and Tips



Encouraging collaborative writing via Google Docs analytics


Wang, D., Olson, J. S., Zhang, J., Nguyen, T., & Olson, G. M. (2015, April). DocuViz: visualizing collaborative writing. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1865-1874). ACM.

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