Business challenge

Experiencing disappointment with project deliverables in the University Student Collaboration Initiative competition, USC Marshall School of Business professors sought a way to improve virtual team collaboration.


After teams standardized on the SocialStudent platform for virtual collaboration based on IBM® Connections™ social business software, students collaborated more effectively.


100% improvement

in project deliverables after standardizing on the SocialStudent collaboration platform

62% boost

in team coordination after implementing SocialStudent software

65% improvement

in ease of students doing their jobs when using the SocialStudent solution

Business challenge story

Teams needed better tools

A key goal at USC Marshall School of Business is to prepare students for the virtual teams they will be part of in the business world after graduation. Thus professors created the University Student Collaboration Initiative, a competition among 20-plus virtual teams composed of some 100 students from three universities: USC Marshall, the University of Arizona and Aalto University in Finland. Each team collaborated on a consulting project to analyze and improve a company’s social media and presented findings in oral and written presentations, without ever meeting face to face. In the initiative’s first two years, students choose their own collaboration tools, such as Google Hangouts, Skype and texting. Team member participation could have been better, and two-thirds of the teams’ deliverables were below the quality acceptable in business. To remedy this, in the third year and under IBM’s sponsorship, all teams were required to use the same collaborative platform.  

With SocialStudent, we were impressed by what students could do in a virtual setting without ever having met.

Peter Cardon, Associate Professor, USC Marshall School of Business

Transformation story

Empowered by SocialStudent

That platform was SocialStudent, a toolset for virtual collaboration from IBM Business Partners Anderson Technical Services, Inc. of Birchrunville, Pennsylvania, in the US, and Opus Neo ApS of Hørsholm, Denmark. The platform has two main parts: IBM® Connections™ social business software and the Neo.Dashboard solution for navigation. IBM Connections software provides tools such as web conferencing, file sharing, document management, to-do lists, blogs, communities, activities and status updates—all useful for virtual teamwork. The Neo.Dashboard solution simplifies access by putting the tools, as well as needed applications and websites, no more than two clicks away. According to Peter Cardon, associate professor at USC Marshall School of Business, students quickly took to SocialStudent. They used it extensively for virtual meetings, coauthoring and reviewing reports, coordinating tasks, getting to know one another, and following one another’s progress. Teams also benefited from the platform’s structure—one set of virtual tools and one place to share content.  

Results story

Deliverables much improved

Professor Cardon believes that the SocialStudent solution enhanced virtual team collaboration and the overall level of the competition. Mutual accountability among team members increased, camaraderie improved, and students reported a highly focused team effort. These benefits and the sheer power of the platform led to higher project quality, according to Professor Cardon. Whereas previously only one-third of deliverables were of business-level quality, with SocialStudent software, twice this number was of an excellence that USC Marshall could be proud of.  

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About USC Marshall School of Business

The Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California (USC) ranks among the US’s premier schools, recognized for its focus on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and meaningful research. Located in Los Angeles, USC Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and global experiential opportunities. Throughout their academic programs, USC Marshall students gain international perspectives as they explore the opportunities that cross-cultural collaboration presents.

Solution components

  • Educ: Open and Aligned Learning
  • IBM Connections Engagement Suite

Take the next step

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