Deirdre Lee, Communications Writing Fellow

As the prevalence of teamwork in workspaces continues to increase, the Center for Academic Innovation partnered with three faculty collaborators in the College of Engineering to create the online tool Tandem to enhance teamwork in courses. 

Student with a laptop open to Tandem screenshot. Recently, Tandem was adopted in the Ross School of Business’s “Businesses and Leaders: The Positive Differences” (BA 200) course and the “Architectural Design” (ARCH 672) graduate-level studio design course from the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, extending the tool’s reach to both undergraduate and graduate courses.

Molly Maher, Behavioral Scientist, worked with instructors from these courses to determine the best direction for the tool in these new settings.

“We’ve adjusted content, added some more lessons, adapted lessons for each setting, and I think the biggest learning I’m having is how can we streamline implementation for new courses,” Maher said.

The team developed new features for Tandem to meet the needs of each course, as the tool was originally implemented in an introductory engineering course in the College of Engineering by Laura Alford, Lecturer in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering; Robin Fowler, Lecturer in the Technical Communication Program; and Stephanie Sheffield, Lecturer in the Technical Communication Program. Read why they proposed this project in this blog post

As one of the largest courses on campus, and part of the Foundational Course Initiative, the expansion to BA 200 required the Tandem team to adapt the tool to accommodate the more than 600 enrolled students in the course. Since this implementation is nearly ten times larger than Tandem’s initial use case in the College of Engineering, a new dashboard and filtering mechanism were developed to allow instructors to view students across multiple course sections.

The team also created a new student profile view in Tandem for students enrolled in ARCH 672. This feature allows students to introduce themselves to other students on the platform by answering a series of questions about their group work preferences, which helps students identify classmates who will be a good fit for them as teammates.

A male student on the left laughing with a female student on the right with her laptop open. “This new feature is an intervention to get students to think about the qualities of a teammate,” Maher said.

Another new feature in Tandem is an automatic, random team generator. In addition, instructors using Tandem now have the flexibility to edit teams. 

Ollie Saunders, Software Developer, was the lead developer for the expansion process. He said he hopes Tandem will be used in a wide variety of courses so a number of course archetypes will emerge, and new features can be created for each archetype.

“At that point, there will be features that we don’t currently have, and as new courses adopt Tandem, we’ll add features that will then be used by other courses so they’ll build on each other,” Saunders said.

David Nesbitt, Software Portfolio Manager, said the tool was built with flexibility and broad applicability in mind so it can expand to new use cases without requiring a rebuild of the platform.

“We wanted to expand to a diverse set of courses so that Tandem could be stretched,” he said. “When our team is building a software tool, we ideally want to find adopters that are very different from one another so that we’re forced to build the tool in a flexible way, ensuring that it will be usable for a broad variety of use cases.”

This expansion is just the beginning, according to Holly Derry, Associate Director of Behavioral Science.

“The Tandem expansion isn’t a single thing. It’s a collection of goals we have over time for bringing in more clients and expanding its features,” she said.


Interested in using Tandem in your course? Contact us to let us know. See what our Research & Development team is uncovering after the first semester of data from students using Tandem in this blog post.