Using collaboration as an assessment: Mural


Brainstorming is not a new concept and is an effective way for students to gain a deeper understanding of the material by sharing thoughts and opinions. As we move along in education and see new Web 2.0 tools being developed that promote active learning, we now find ourselves with new tools to help teach in the online environment using effective techniques such as brainstorming. There are multiple tools that allow for class collaboration and Mural is but one of the many tools available.

Mural Defined

“You get to make remote collaboration work”, that is the catch phrase used in the promotional video ( for the online collaboration tool Mural. I have seen tools similar to this like Stormboard ( and Diigo ( however Mural is a bit more intuitive and uses current web based technology which makes using the tool very easy. You can invite anyone to join the session and everyone’s input happens in real time. When considering online course content, the “in real time” aspect of Mural may not be as important as is the effort to use the tool. When selecting tools for students to use, we should select tools that all students can use regardless of technical ability. Mural has features that are easy to find and use. There is a palette on the left with icons representing the various items you can use to start collaborating. Everything from sticky notes to shape tools and even images you can upload and share. Moving items around is a simple click and drag. When using this tool, the site has pop up help balloons that offer tips on use. The first time you enter the application a help video is available that offers an overview of features ( The help videos are a value-added resource that helps those who may not be accustomed to online interactive sites.

Applications for this tool

When considering how to apply Mural as a part of a lesson or online/hybrid course tool, there may be challenges in terms of moderation of the sessions. There are features to share the boards and allow users to join. These features are best suited for the instructors unless groups are formed and an individual from the group acts as moderator of the board. These may be minor but must be considered. The other aspect to consider is the way this session will be assessed if at all. Any post can be difficult to determine who posted it unless there is an indication of the author. Assessing who is posting what can get confusing, especially when there are multiple notes and drawings all over the work space. The site is capable of tracking changes in the content but still has its limitations. With that in mind it may be best to assess simply on the act of joining the space or an overall objective beyond the act of collaboration.

Some examples of use in the online classroom, beyond group collaboration, could be as simple as an ongoing workspace for the class to share thoughts, similar to a blog but in a visual way. The benefit to online collaboration target a more diverse set of learners. The use of a tool that employs text and visuals will help those visual learners and text based learners alike. The real benefit is the ability for whole class collaboration on ideas of a set topic. As specified in the learning objectives that follow, whole group collaboration allow for shared thoughts and ideas that promote active learning and further discovery of concepts related to the topic. Concepts learned through the process of collaboration might not have been realized, if collaboration on a topic had not occurred. Collaboration tools go beyond sharing ideas, “they also offer invaluable support for learners” (2015, Pappas). The support gained could be in the form of clarification on concepts or technical aspects of the project.

Sample Learning Objectives for Collaboration

• Sample learning objective for Media Communication

“After reading an article on Media Gatekeeping the student will identify, using the online collaboration session, at least three issues resulting from the gatekeeping process with 100% accuracy.”

• Sample learning objective for Web Design

“Given methods of defining font color using CSS, using the online collaboration session, the student will demonstrate font color in CSS with 100% accuracy.”

• Sample Learning objective for an English class

“After reading the assigned short story the student will interpret, using the online collaboration session, the main plot in 200 words or less.”

• Sample Learning objective for Internet Technologies

“Given a timeline on the progression of Internet technology, using the online collaboration session, the student will predict future technology trends in 200 words or less.”


Intuitive to use

Uses current web technologies

Real time collaboration

Easy to find tools

Numerous options available for posting

Easy to move objects

Help videos available


Real time ability is not important in online courses
The invite process may intimidate non-tech savvy users
The interface is best realized using a computer as opposed to mobile device


Pappas, Christopher. "The 5 Best Free Collaboration Tools for Teachers." ELearning Industry. ELearning
Industry, 12 Nov. 2015. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.