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How to Use Collaborative Documents in Engageli

This guide will show you the two main ways to create and share collaborative documents for your students to work on in Engageli, depending on whether you’d prefer your class to work in Google Docs or Microsoft Word.

While MS Word is more central to our EdTech Ecosystem, Engageli (as of late 2021) offers a few extra benefits of working in Google Docs, if you’re willing to use it.

Team working together on shared document

Why use collaborative documents?

On the knowledge base, you’ll find a range of active learning ideas for your class, and you’ll see that many of them involve inviting students to work collaboratively to create something during the session.

Collaborative or shared documents are especially useful in Engageli, as the students will always be sitting in tables, ready to work together on something new. Here are some ways you might use collaborative docs:

  • Inviting shared questions or feedback for a guest speaker from each table
  • Challenging the tables to research a topic during the session, taking note of their findings in one place and presenting from this document later on
  • Wrapping up the session by asking the tables to create an outline of what was covered, what surprised or interested them, and what questions they still have

For shorter reflections and activities, you might use something like Padlet to capture student input, but for any substantial collaborative activity, creating a shared space in which your students can work is a great place to start.

Collaborative documents in Google Docs

Engageli has a very useful feature for sharing documents to each table at the push of a button. It’s called Distribute Docs.

They cover the how-to of this feature very well on their knowledge base in this article:

How do I distribute shared documents?

Here’s the summary to give you an idea of what’s involved:

  1. Create a publicly editable Google Doc for every table in the classroom
  2. Copy the sharable links (one unique URL per table)
  3. Before class, paste the links into the Shared Materials area
  4. During class, click Distribute Docs to send the unique documents to each table
  5. At the end of the activity, click Collect Docs to get them all back again

Benefits of this approach

Google Docs is the only supported way to make use of the Distribute Docs feature in Engageli at the moment, and it will be a better experience for the students (and probably for yourself) for a few reasons:

  • Students will be able to edit the documents without needing to leave the Engageli window (no need to switch between windows)
  • Students won’t need to click on anything to access the document… Engageli does this as soon as you distribute the documents
  • No need to paste any links anywhere during the session – it can all be sorted before class
  • You will be able to see what the students are working on when you Join their table… no need to find the link to the document they’re currently working on

Drawbacks of this approach

The main reason you may not want to use this approach is because, for most staff members, it involves registering your own Google account in order to create and host all the shared documents.

Google is a “Managed Use” tool in our EdTech Ecosystem, meaning you’re free to use it as long as you adhere to our Social Media Policy and any other relevant guidelines.

However, as long as you’re not collecting or sharing student data or personally identifiable information via Google Docs, this shouldn’t be a problem. It’s just something you’ll need to be aware of if you use this approach.

It’s worth noting that students will not need a Google Doc in order to edit your documents, provided you applied the correct settings when generating the shareable links.

Collaborative documents in MS Word

Microsoft Word is part of the Office 365 suite, and you’re probably used to working with it already in your day-to-day tasks. In order to create collaborative documents for your students to work on, you’ll need to create a publicly editable Word document online, sharing it with either Sharepoint or your university OneDrive account.

Here’s what the process would look like using MS Word:

  1. Create a publicly editable MS Word document for every table in the classroom
  2. Copy the shareable links (one unique URL per table)
  3. Before class, paste the shareable links somewhere you’ll be able to easily access them, such as a single Word document or even in your Aula space for the relevant week
  4. During class, share the links with your students. You might share a single document with all the URLs listed and ask them to click the correct one for their table, or do the same in Aula, or copy and paste the correct link in the Chat for the relevant table, one by one
  5. Ask the students to click on the link to the relevant shared document for their table to start the activity
  6. After the activity is finished, instruct the student to simply close the open window where they’ve been working on the collaborative document

Creating an editable document in MS Word

In your Word online document, click Share > Anyone with the link + Allow Editing > Apply > Copy Link

Steps as mentioned above in a screenshot
Steps as mentioned above in a screenshot
Steps as mentioned above in a screenshot

Benefits of this approach

  • You and the students should be familiar with MS Word already
  • You’ll be able to keep these documents in the same place as your other work documents, assuming you usually use Word, OneDrive, and Sharepoint.
  • No need to refer to the Social Media Policy

Drawbacks of this approach

  • You’ll need to share the links to your students somehow during the lesson and get them to click on the correct one. This can lead to a slight delay or even students ending up working on the wrong document
  • Students will need to have two windows open – one for Engageli and another for the MS Word document and will need to switch between them if they want to see your or their tablemates
  • If you Join or Observe the class, you won’t be able to see what they’re working on without also locating and clicking on the URL for their shared document


Those are the main two ways you can share documents for your student to work on, and you can take whichever approach suits you.

While it’s not perfect, I’d personally recommend using the Google Docs approach as it’s a more seamless experience for you and your learners overall. However, it does involve taking some responsibility to look after the input your students are generating in your personal Google account (or one you create specifically for this purpose).

Both options are open to you and both will provide your students with a positive, collaborative and active learning experience in Engageli.

If you have any questions about this, why not get in touch with the Engageli experts in our own Education Technology team? They can be reached at learningenhance@coventry.ac.uk

About the author(s)

  • Noah Mitchell

    I work at Coventry University's Disruptive Media Learning Lab where I focus on digital projects such as Coventry.Domains. I'm passionate about digital fluency, design and user experience.

Updated on October 13, 2021

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