Etherpad is a collaborative document tool that allows multiple users to work on the same document in real time on the web. Think of it as a hybrid of Google Docs (which is not quite as synchronous) and a live chat tool.
I’ve used this tool for many collaborative projects, and for quickly drafting a collaborative document it is fantastic. Easy to use and free and with a document revision history so that you can see previous versions of the document. Today, that particular feature got a nifty little boost – an interactive document timeline. Now you can watch a video of your document, from birth to finished project.
For educators, this is a really handy evaluation tool. If you are trying to monitor group contributions to a collaborative project, this feature will be incredibly useful. All participants are colour coded so their contributions to a document are highlighted by colour, which let’s you quickly see who made major contributions to the document as it was being constructed.
In addition, the video timeline allows you to see the groups progress on the task at hand. If they got off topic, you’ll be able to see where they went wrong, in what context (what changes were happening that might have led them to the diversion), and who might have brought the team back on track (if they did). It’s a transparent way to quickly view the process unfold.
Unfortunately, the timeline view is not available on the free public version (which allows many concurrent users), but you can get a free professional version for up to 3 concurrent users that does include the timeline.