Collaboration in Isolation

Collaboration is at the heart of GW4 and we encourage colleagues to connect across the Alliance and beyond. With many of us now working from home and delivering content in new ways it has become even more important to stay connected virtually and collaborate.

All four GW4 universities have access to Microsoft Office 365 which includes a number of applications including Outlook, Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business etc. However, institutions may support or promote the use of different applications within the Microsoft Office Suite, so check with your university first (links below).

We have put together our top tips for collaborating online and resources to help.

GW4 Portal

The GW4 Portal is available to all our GW4 universities. The GW4 Portal is a secure intranet platform (SharePoint) to enable collaboration across the Alliance. Staff and postgraduate students at GW4 universities can share documents securely, discuss projects in real-time, exchange best practice tips on research collaboration and share internal news and events. The GW4 Portal can also be used to work together with external collaborators. The GW4 Portal is already used by our research communities and we recently launched the GW4 Data Science Network.

Sign up to the GW4 Portal.

Microsoft Teams

Teams is available to all GW4 universities but institutions are at different stages in their implementation, so some colleagues may be more familiar with this application than others.

Within Teams you can meet on video, chat, talk, collaborate, share documents online and more. It is fully integrated with Office365 bringing your OneNote, SharePoint and Outlook together. The main feature of the Microsoft Teams experience is the Teams persistent group chat facility. It provides a space for real-time conversations with status availability for all group members. Conversations in Teams work best over a short time period.

There are two ways to communicate and collaborate with people outside your institution. The first – external access – lets you find, call, and chat with users in other domains. The second – guest access – lets you add individuals to your teams, as guests, using their email address. You can collaborate with guests as you would with any other users in your organisation.

Skype for Business

Skype for Business is supported by both the University of Bristol and Cardiff University. It can be used as an instant messenger, to make audio or video calls and allows screen sharing. You will be able to search for contacts within your institution but to connect with others outside your organisation you will need their Skype username/email address.

(Note: Microsoft will be replacing Skype for Business with Teams).


Zoom is audio and video capable, has screen sharing and whiteboarding facilities and a chat function. One benefit of using Zoom is that you can invite anyone to Zoom meetings, even if they don’t have a Zoom account. Cardiff University recently subscribed to Zoom, allowing staff and students to create accounts.

Blue Jeans

Bluejeans provides video, audio and web conferencing, together with collaboration tools suitable for small groups to up to 100 people in it’s Meetings tool. The University of Bristol’s account with Bluejeans offers unlimited time and up to 100 invitees for a meeting. Invitees do not need an account, they can join from the invitation sent to them

Top 10 Tips for Collaborating Online

  1. Be patient with yourself and others who may be working in new ways and using new tools and technology.
  2. Ensure your workspace is set up correctly – follow guidance on university webpages.
  3. Set an agenda or key points to discuss.
  4. Start meeting 10 mins early to allow for set up.
  5. Don’t forget introductions – make sure everyone knows who’s who.
  6. Check in with everyone at start of meeting.
  7. Think about having someone to chair the meeting and allow everyone to have their say.
  8. Take quick and easy notes/actions that you can share during or after the meeting.
  9. Mute your microphone if not talking.
  10. Worried about your background? – Teams allows you to blur your background and you can upload virtual backgrounds in Zoom.

University and Doctoral College links

Remember to check which platforms are recommended or supported by your university.