Online Collaboration Lab

We'll explore the challenges of collaborating online (and not face-to-face) using a series of puzzles. For each puzzle, teams will meet to develop a strategy for completion. Teams will then work independently online to complete the puzzle. Be prepared to discuss your experiences at the end of class or the beginning of next class (depending on the time available.)

Puzzle One: Wall Street Journal Crossword Puzzle

You may ONLY use the collaborative tools listed below to solve this puzzle. You may NOT work on this puzzle in any synchronous fashion (meeting in person, IM, chat) nor may you use more sophisticated asynchronous tools (blogs, wikis, etc.)

1. Email
2. Polling ( or similar tool)


Rules: No internet search allowed to find the answers to this puzzle!

Puzzle Two: Logic Puzzles

You may ONLY use the collaborative tools listed below to solve this puzzle. You may NOT work on this puzzle in any synchronous fashion (meeting in person, IM, chat).

1. Email
2. Polling ( or similar tool)
3. Blogs
4. Wiki’s (using or or similar)

Rules: No internet search allow to find the answers to these logic puzzles!

Logic A

The warden meets with 23 new prisoners when they arrive. He tells them, "You may meet today and plan a strategy. But after today, you will be in isolated cells and will have no communication with one another.”

"In the prison is a switch room, which contains two light switches labeled A and B, each of which can be in either the 'on' or the 'off' position. I am not telling you their present positions. The switches are not connected to anything.”

"After today, from time to time whenever I feel so inclined, I will select one prisoner at random and escort him to the switch room. This prisoner will select one of the two switches and reverse its position. He must move one, but only one of the switches. He can't move both. Then he'll be led back to his cell. No one else will enter the switch room until I lead the next prisoner there, and he'll be instructed to do the same thing. I'm going to choose prisoners at random. I may choose the same guy three times in a row, or I may jump around and come back. But, given enough time, everyone will eventually visit the switch room.”

“At any time any one of you may declare to me, 'we have all visited the switch room’. If you are right, then you will all be set free. If you are wrong, and somebody has not yet visited the switch room, you will be fed to the alligators."

What is the strategy they come up with so that they can be free?

Logic B

Three men were standing in a row, all facing the same direction, so that there was one in back who could see the two in front of him, one in the middle, and one in front who could not see either of the other two. There were three blue and two red hats. One hat was placed on each man, without them seeing which two were left over. Each man was told the total number of each color of hat. First the man in the back was asked if he could deduce what color hat he had on, but he said he couldn't. Neither could the man in the middle, when he was next asked. But then man in the front, who could see neither of those behind him but could hear their answers, correctly deduced by logic what color hat he was wearing. What color was it and why?

Logic C

A traveler meets a native in the jungle at a the fork in the trail, where only one path goes to the village. The traveler does not know which path to take and knows that the native could be either from the tribe of Truth-tellers, who always tell the truth, or from the Liars, who always lie. What is one question he could ask the native to discover the path to the village?

Logic D

A farmer has a fox, goose and a bag of grain, and one boat to cross a stream, which is only big enough to take one of the three across with him at a time. If left alone together, the fox would eat the goose and the goose would eat the grain. How can the farmer get all three across the stream?

Puzzle Three: Australian Twenty Questions

You may ONLY use the collaborative tools listed below to solve this puzzle.

1. Email
2. Polling ( or similar tool)
3. Blogs
4. Wiki’s (using or or similar)
5. Group Chat (using Skype or Google Talk or Zoho or similar)

Instructions (taken directly from

1. This game is timed in two minute rounds. You will need to use a timer to ensure that you limit each round to two minutes. One person on the team can be responsible for timing each round. The links below are web-based tools for countdown timers. Of course, you can use a physical timer (in a watch or phone) instead.

2. During each round, you will randomly select a letter. Letters cannot repeat. The best way to do this is to use the web application below. You’ll see that each time a letter is “drawn”, the list of letters changes to omit that letter for the next round. One person on the team can be responsible for the random letter “drawing”.

3. Before the “game” starts, each team member will create a list of questions that have more than one answer. This is simpler than it sounds, but you'll still want to think out your list of questions well before the “game”.

Some sample questions:

o An animal indigenous only to the United States

o A movie in which at least ten people die

o A popular tourist attraction in France

o A breed of dog

o An actress who is no longer living

Continue until you have 3 such questions (we are going to play the 3 question version of the 20 questions game.) Be sure to leave space between questions since each team member will be writing in this space on a hard-copy of your questions. You can write up the questions in a word document that you send around in email or as a document in the Group Chat. You can, of course, also use tools like a wiki or a blog. I recommend a wiki as it will be a quick way to confirm that everyone has completed their questions and it will make it easy to print out each set of questions.

NO CHEATING: Don’t read through the questions before the “game” starts. Just print them out so you are ready to start.

4. Have the designated letter picker (#2 above) draw a letter. Use Group Chat to “announce” the letter to the group.

5. Have the designated time keeper (#1 above) set the timer for two minutes. Use Group Chat to “announce” that the round has started. For each round, all team members attempt to write an answer to each question with a word beginning with the letter that was drawn. No IM’ing during the two minute period. The answers should be completed in complete “silence”. In answering each question, your goal is to:

o Answer as many questions as possible within the five-minute time limit.

o Come up with answers NO ONE ELSE will think of. This is harder than it sounds — but this is how you win. If no one else comes up with the same answer to any question, you get a point for that question. If even one other player comes up with the same answer as you (for the same question), you both get zero for that question.

6. When the timer signals that your two minutes are up, everyone stops writing. One team member (it doesn't matter who) uses Group Chat to type out the first question. (Or you can use some other system like “Mike-1” for Mike’s Question #1.) In turn, each team member IM’s his or her answer to that question.

7. There will often be “discussion” (which is encouraged!) on whether or not an answer is valid. If the only "P" word a player can think of for "breed of dog" is "Pooch," the other players can (and should) disqualify that answer. Additionally, answers are often very subjective. The first "popular tourist attraction in the United States" that might come to mind is "Point Reyes" — which is a popular tourist attraction, but may not be familiar to anyone outside Northern California. If the majority of players think "Point Reyes" is invalid, you wouldn't get a point for that answer (even if you still think it is valid!)

8. With each point you earn, put a "1" next to that question on your own hardcopy of the questions. If you don't earn a point for that question, put a "0" next to it. Note that more than one person can get “1” point for a question. (For example, if 3 of the 5 team members have unique answers, all 3 will get “1” point for the question.)

9. When everyone is finished IM’ing his/her answer to the first question, repeat the process with question #2, and so on, until all the questions and answers for all team members have been shared (3 questions x 6 team members = 18 questions).

10. At the end of the round, add up your points. Designate someone as score keeper to track the results for the team.

Puzzle Four: Word Search

You may use any and all online collaborative tools to solve this puzzle. The only thing you cannot do is work together face-to-face.

Find all the words and phrases in the official word list and circle them in the puzzle grid. Words always run in a straight line either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, and run forwards and backwards; entries never wrap around the edges of the puzzle grid.

Sometimes a word may also be part of another longer word, for example, WOOD and WOODEN may be on the list. Both words will appear separately in the grid; however, the solver will be given credit whether he/she finds the shorter word separately or as part of the longer word.



Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 License.