Case Study: Hackathon Brainstorming and Team Judging


GroupMap was used as the collaborative idea management tool for teams to create new marketing ideas using the lean model canvas and as an online competition judging software so that judges could score the team pitches in real-time. The Curtin University Marketing Hackathon was a 2-day event held at Technology Park. High school students, current undergraduates, and professional marketing gurus came together to brainstorm innovative new ideas to improve student attraction and retention.


Kicking off was a spread of ideas from student festivals through to a make your own “course”, teams then formed comprised of a minimal of 3 skill sets along with the founders.

Hustlers (someone who has professional industry experience) hipsters (the creative types able to expand upon ideas and generate content) and hackers( the programmer and/or website-maker of the clan), combined with an honorary high school student create a dream team of mixed superpowers (special skills and talents).

at the wall

But how do you coordinate the diverse views and conflicting views to create a more consensus approach? With time ticking, it was important that each and every person in the team was focused in the same direction.

Using the Lean Model Canvas as the foundation – with a small tweak customized to suit – teams rapidly planned out their plan of attack, consolidating their idea.

Teams could plan their approach, share this with their mentors and test which assumptions they needed to most validate.

GroupMap lean canvas

“Using the lean canvas on GroupMap was a really handy tool that allowed our group to systemize our strategy. It helped us find our feet using the template as a guide as it was really easy to go astray,” said Sean Eamer – current student and Hackathon participant. “We had to deconstruct our grandiose business idea into smaller pieces and proved to be a good way to go through and re-evaluate things.”


The next 48 hours was a fun, intensive and gruelling event, with pivoting of ideas, validation with key customers and reaching out to people online, face to face and in classrooms.


Finally, it was time for teams to pitches. Judges representing internal departments, agency partners and student representatives provided feedback and scores against criteria, in real time, using GroupMap as a contest judging software.

GroupMap Scoring template
GroupMap judging

We obviously can’t share what the winning ideas were, but congratulations to the winning teams from both the judges and from the People’s vote. We wish you a truck load of success as you move to the next phase of bringing these initiatives to life.

pitch 2
winning team 1

So why run a Hackathon and how do you smash out amazing outputs over 2 days? Here’s what some of the judges had to say about the event. Read the full story here.

“We use startup methodology and processes to rapidly test some ideas on our customers, generate break-through thinking…. We were able to accelerate the design and development of new ideas over two days to such a degree that we had multiple test websites built, channel plans developed and initiatives practically ready to launch.”
Ty Hayes (Chief Marketing Officer)

“The diversity and quality of ideas generated demonstrated how a traditional marketing problem can be resolved quickly and effectively across a broad range of marketing platforms using innovative thought processes.”
John Discoll (CEO at Marketforce)

“With the university sector increasingly targeted towards online learning environments it is vital we maximise our use of emerging technologies and processes to become a recognised international leader in research and education.”
Valerie Raubenheimer  (VP Corporate Relations)



Feeling inspired to run your own Hackathon?

We thought we would share a few learnings and tips.

1. Support from the top

It’s great to have energy on the day. In fact, the participants bring this with them. But the message from decision-makers and leaders is about supporting both the wins and fails of the day and nearly shouting out from rooftops about why they are supporting the event. The last thing you want is a room full of personal mental blocks full of people worrying about what they need to get done by as part of their day to day job.

2.  Space matters

Over cater just by a little, don’t skimp on the coffee, keep the brain health and don’t forget the right levels of cush for the toosh. Whether it’s bean bags, sound bytes or a good dose of fresh air, make sure both the devices and participants are juiced up and ready for action.

3.  Structure for synergy

Using collaborative software to allow for the pollination of ideas. Set the ground rules but don’t be an administrative nazi. Give people space to think but capture things quickly and encourage quick but effective decision making so that they can get on with validating the idea. Use team voting to get past blocks. Coach mentors to be add ons. They should offer direction, not just critique. Finally set a few milestones to keep teams on track.

4. Start with the end in mind

Okay, so this is a concept espoused by Steven Covey, but it applies even in the world of Hackathons. With limited time frames, teams need to focus on the key action points that will drive the greatest value and aim for a particular outcome by the end of the session. The judging criteria will drive behaviour and so it makes sense to create the context about how teams will be judged on their final outputs. Making sure your criteria meets the goals of the event. Think of this way…imagine the perfect demo and then work backwards from there.

5. Give feedback to teams and plenty of it

Whether or not your judges scribble things on little bits of paper or a worksheet, or use a real-time judging software, the key thing is to get that feedback to the actual teams. They have worked hard, and if there’s no feedback, there’s no learning. And isn’t that the whole point? Of course, we would recommend you open it up to the audience to give feedback to teams.  The worse teams have the most to improve so every piece of feedback matters.
Take a peek at what happened.

Want to use online brainstorming or competition judging software at your event? Get in touch with us.

5 Great Ground Rules for Effective Meetings


Effective meetings are important to our working life; after all, no one wants to waste time, engage in unhealthy dissent or increase workloads. 

If you’re holding a meeting to share ideas, solve problems, build team morale or train your team members, establishing meeting ground rules (or house rules) can help ensure your time is well spent. 

Just like the rules of a sporting match, meeting ground rules ensure all team members are aware of – 

  • the parameters in which the meeting will operate
  • what they can expect of others
  • what is expected of them

Meetings that have ground rules are more likely to – 

  • run on time
  • achieve their purpose
  • deliver value
  • nurture positive connections 
  • foster a collaborative environment

Of course, some conventions may already exist within your workplace (having phones switched to silent at all times), so meeting ground rules are in addition to those understandings. 

At GroupMap there’s nothing we like more than coming together to share, create and inspire each other. 

Here are the five great ground rules we use to help us get the most out of our meetings.

We agree to – 

1. Hit the Ground Running!

To kick off a productive momentum, show up to the meeting on time, and be prepared to get cracking! 

Read through the agenda and supporting documents, and make sure you have delivered any action items assigned to you.

2. Stay on Task and Start on Time!

Keep one eye on the timer and another eye on the agenda. 

Adhere to the time allocated to a topic, and if a decision, action item, or consensus has been recorded there’s no need for further discussion. 

Don’t assume that if you are happy for the meeting to go over time, everyone else is too.

3. Be Critical of Problems, not People!

Everyone should feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, opinions, and ideas. 

A great way of achieving this is to unpack ideas. Importantly, if people stick to this rule everyone should feel comfortable enough to tackle difficult topics, safe in the knowledge that –  

  • healthy dissent is an exploration of ideas not an exercise in judgment 
  • differing opinions are to be embraced as they can foster creativity and positive change

4. Listen then Speak!

Sticking to this rule may be more difficult than you think as most people ‘listen to speak’ rather than ‘listen then speak’. 

Adhering to this rule helps meeting participants maintain an open mind, and actively listen to what is being said. It also gives them time to think before they offer feedback. 

Lastly, but by no means least, this rule is a wonderful mechanism with which participants can demonstrate respect for each other.

5. Use a Common Language!

Words really do have power. They can be inclusive, positive, and empowering, and they can also be the opposite. 

Sayings, idioms, and other figures of speech that are usually culturally or generationally based have the potential to be confusing, or even divisive. The use of acronyms can be isolating. Management speak has a reputation for being unnecessarily convoluted.

Keep it positive and simple, while avoiding colloquialisms and corporate jargon.

Supercharge your Ground Rules

Buy-in is the secret ingredient that will supercharge your ground rules and keep your meetings focussed and efficient. That’s because the greater a participants’ sense of ownership of the rules, the more likely they are to stick to them. There are some simple ways to achieve this.

1. Have the Meeting Participants Shape the Rules

Put some time aside to brainstorm, explore and talk through potential ground rules with the people who will be using them. You will discover what they think is important in the meeting space.

GroupMap has made this easy; our House Rules template has been designed to guide you through the process. It helps you capture, discuss, and then decide upon your rules as a group.

2. Remind People of the Ground Rules

It may seem obvious, but referencing the rules in the meeting is the best way to help people remember them. Include the rules in the agenda itself and have the facilitator start each meeting by running through the rules. Putting aside some time at the start of your meeting to discuss the rules will help people remember what they have agreed to.

3. Meeting Observer

If meeting participants agree, appoint someone as a meeting observer who can give feedback on how well the rules are being followed, and how they help the meeting flow. This can act as a reminder as to why you set the rules in the first place. 

When the rules are followed during the meeting in order to support the meeting experience, the observer can highlight what happened and the positive consequences that resulted. Similarly, if people are not sticking to the rules, the observer can outline what happened, and suggest what could be done better next time.

It’s important the meeting attendees are comfortable with this and see it as a mechanism for continuous improvement rather than judgment.

An alternative to appointing an observer is to have an anonymous feedback mechanism such as a survey designed to help gauge how well people feel the rules have been applied.

4. Regularly Review the Ground Rules

Effective rules make effective meetings. To ensure the ground rules are doing what they are meant to do, put aside time to revisit the rules with the participants and update them if necessary.

Set your Meeting Ground Rules Today

GroupMap captures individual thinking first, then reveals the group perspective, all in real-time. 

It’s just one of the many ways we can help you conduct effective meetings and collaborative sessions.

Think better together with GroupMap! Start your 14-day trial now!

Have more questions or would like a demo?

Outcomes from student engagement in collaborative brainstorming.

Outcomes from student engagement in collaborative brainstorming

Educators in the 21st century know learning is enhanced by getting students to engage collaboratively, contribute ideas and to provide targeted, specific feedback from online brainstorming tools through to richer facilitated classroom discussions. The transition does not require a re-writing of curriculum, a redesign of tasks or having to spend copious amounts of time generating new content. It can be as simple as letting go of a control-oriented mindset to one that guides and helps students accelerate their own learning.

Moving from being the ‘sage on the stage’ to a flipped classroom where students become independent learners who work as a collaborative cohort has been the main benefit experienced by Sophie Giles from the University of Western Australia. Rather than having students simply sit and listen, she has been able to get 88 to 92% of students to actively contribute to learning outcomes with 300 students over a 3 year period. Getting such high levels of engagement has been shared by her colleagues and reflected in student evaluations.

Giles is the Head of the Department of Architecture, Landscape and Urban Design at the University of Western Australia. She has worked as an Architect on projects ranging from residential luxury fit-outs to renovations and extensions. She teachers in a blended learning classroom where students are challenged with applying ‘real-life’ codes to their current design projects, they are also given opportunities to contribute collaboratively. 


Students undertake four extensive site visits, in order to analyze, explore and evaluate a building. Then across the term, thoughts, images and resources would be added by each student, branching out from a central theme. The goal is to understand the construction of the building from practical features, relevant building codes, services provisions, through to material choices 


Student-centric teaching philosophy and collaborative mind mapping

As with any great educator, her goal is to engage students, allowing them to contribute and share ideas and to deepen their learning through interactivity and collaboration. Whilst Giles is an experienced Architect in the industry and could easily note the key features and design elements from a site visit, her goal to deliver a more student-centric, socialized, and engaged learning experience meant she had to find the right solution. “I used to define the top 10 terms from each site visit, prepare the material and then have to broadcast these as the ‘sage on the stage’.”


Image courtesy of Sophie Giles

“I wanted to increase contributions by all students,” Giles explains, “specifically the goal was to encourage much more detailed content, by many. [This meant] an increased investment, by the students, in the co-creation of content.” This is a great way not just to get students engaged, but also deepen and socialize the learning experience.

 Giles uses a collaborative mind map format for students to share architectural content and to brainstorm online having conducted a site visit. She elaborates, “Importantly, for the architectural content, I needed the students to have the ability to upload images and files, so each ‘mind-map’ is a rich repository of co-created content. GroupMap does this better than any other platform.” As Giles shares, “we have an excellent digital platform and a place, outside of the tutorial room,  in which we all come together to contribute, synchronously and asynchronously.”

Giles has used GroupMap in the core unit ARCT4430 in the Master of Architecture for the last 3 years. “Each year has had around 100 participants. So over 300 students have created at least 30 separate mind-maps.” she highlights.”The ease of use for students, the clarity of the page and the ability for students to search for appropriate images to illustrate and communicate are really useful features… [There has been] Very little resistance by students in immediately embracing the platform, as they could see how easy it was to use and the benefit they receive from contributing to help grow the content together.”

Forrest Hall, University of Western Australia. Kerry Hill Architects, construction by Jaxon


Now, rather than simply telling students what the top ten terms are Giles states that “now the students are contributing 50-100 terms together, curating these and learning from each other with such a level of engagement and appreciation” This 5x to 10x multiple in terms of familiarizing students with terminology, understandingand developing the vocabulary of the discipline all demonstrates the power of harnessing the wisdom of the crowd. 

Of course, it is important to give feedback to students, ensure accountability and to be able to differentiate between student contributions. Giles explains, “ I monitor the maps and comment on student contributions to validate them, as well as mention them in face to face settings during the lecture or tutorial if there are particular posts which are detailed and content-rich.” She continues, “the list of contributors in each map has also been really helpful to keep track of who has been active and engaged, and who has not.”Giles also appreciates how quick it is to use and set up which she says is “also another great benefit and remarkably helpful in the pre-term crush of preparation.” 

Insights into students brainstorming ideas online

Giles elaborates her observation as to  how students engage with GroupMap, “the timing of their posts, which have been in the hours directly after a site visit and prior to a lecture and tutorial the following day has given them each a reflective outlet that is not onerous to engage with.” She continues, ”often the students are posting or contributing at around 8-10pm and then the following day will then more deeply read through the other material that has been contributed, saving links, ‘liking’ or curating the mind-map. This double use reflection has remarkable benefits in the retention of this newly gained knowledge.” 


“The students then use their co-created ‘maps’ later in the semester to revise from and to draw on for further information in their own assessments. In the three years I have used GroupMap the contributions have always been voluntary by the students in the unit, but each year only 4-6% of students have not contributed anything, with the majority (88-92%) contributing to each of the maps across the semester. I am really appreciative of the strengthened learning that the GroupMap platform has availed to my 300 students over this time.” Giles explains.

Digital environments can have positive impacts on student creativity and idea generation but it does require guidance and structure to help proliferate and promote the process in a non-intrusive, but moderated fashion. Giles’s love of digital, online collaborative brainstorming ensures that students have a safe space to contribute and receive feedback allows for ideas to proliferate and for learning to be both visible to all and evident.


Image courtesy of Sophie Giles

By using the number of students in the cohort to each contribute on the remarkably easy to use Groupmap mind-map platform, the depth and scope of content each week grows enormously. When previously I would have selected and prepared the ‘top ten’ terms each week to broadcast, the students now contribute their own, coupled with links and images. This has increased the content by more than ten times, while being relatively quick and easy to use for the students. This is work I don’t need to do. 

For the students this increased content is then also about inclusion, engagement and investment through this co-created knowledge. My role in moderating the contributions is really easy and enjoyable and can be done synchronously or asynchronously while the students are posting.  

The contributions by all students, including those who in face-face classes have a much quieter presentation is really successful, with appreciation of each others contributions in a ‘safe-space’ digital platform, without any anxiety of a tutorial setting. I am so glad GroupMap has helped me to find these benefits to the students in their learning and their investment in co-creation. – Giles


Sophie Giles’s TIPS for building student engagement

  • You can easily scan the map for unread comments so it’s an excellent function to streamline moderation of pages and to give feedback.
  • Use the reports to gauge engagement in your student cohort. This will allow you to positive reinforce excellent contributions as well as put in strategies to address students who may not be engaging, struggling or lacking confidence.
  • Giving students the freedom to contribute their findings. They learn so much more when given the opportunity to develop and apply the knowledge to real life situations.
  • Creating maps is easy and a real time saver because students are in charge of co-creating content and it allows you to manage knowledge gaps rather than having to prepare content all the time.
  • Having an artefact of learning from a site visit and activity is a great reflective outlet as well as a useful revision piece for students to help them retain the newly gained knowledge.

Sophie Giles is the Head of Department (Architecture, Landscape Architecture + Urban Design) in the School of Design, coordinating and teaching in Design as well as Architectural Technology in the Master of Architecture. Sophie has worked in an award-winning Australian practice since registering as an architect, and is now a director of her own practice. In all of her work she is passionate about design and the realising of design in physical form.

Very much a ‘hands-on’ architect, she developed a Master of Architecture elective Built Work to enable final year students to construct 1:1 details, to understand ‘the great works’ in their physical form as well as their theoretical place. She was a member Australian team felix._Giles_Anderson+Goad for the Biennale di Venezia, 2014, working closely with the AIA. As a Fay Gale Fellow she was a visiting academic to ETH-Zurich and the Graduate Emtech Program at the Architectural Association in London.

In her recent sabbatical she has been researching tall-timber structures, structural optimisation to massively reduce material waste in construction as well establishing an open source multilingual construction glossary for increased internationalisation of the curriculum.  Her recent connections with academics, architects and engineers in China, Japan, Finland and the US will help in the capacity building of the School and community engagement of the University.

Learn more about the School of Design at the University of Western Australia.

Inspired? Create your own online brainstorming activity for your classroom.

Facilitation tools and techniques for critical thinking at a Teacher’s PD workshop.

Case Background


Organizing workshops and brainstorming sessions can be a daunting task. If engagement levels are not high, people start to get bored. The fast-paced audience of the 21st Century demands real-time sharing of ideas to get more meaningful discussions. 


This case study shows how GroupMap was used by Teach for Australia (TFA) to facilitate a week-long professional development program for 80 associates and 3 workshop facilitators with multiple concurrent sessions and a range of group brainstorming, discussion and idea-sharing activities. These events are designed to cultivate learning and the acquisition of new skills, tools, and knowledge that empower associates to become more effective teachers and community leaders.

Teach for Australia is an innovative non-profit organization that aims to address the dilemma of educational disadvantage in Australia by providing all children, regardless of their background, with quality educational opportunities. 


They offer extensive programming and resources to both train and give support to up-and-coming teachers and leaders. These activities blend academic practice, with on-site mentoring, practical learning, and leadership development. 


Using GroupMap’s highly customizable tools, TFA was able to easily assist with fulfilling a wide array of tasks from scheduling of activities, generating discussion over key topics, uploading and sharing of resources, to a voting system to determine the best pitch. GroupMap addresses these demands to ensure everybody can participate without fear or worry.

Workshop and event goals

After speaking with TFA facilitators, three main goals were identified: 

  1. Provide trainers with a better way to facilitate idea sharing sessions using a range of different teaching strategies. 
  2. Create an easy way for all of the 80 participants and facilitators to share and access teaching resources. 
  3. Use a digital platform that encourages critical, creative and collaborative thinking.

Creating a Student-Focused, Collaborative Experience

With GroupMap, TFA was able to enhance their workshop using unique tools that provided real-time feedback and allowed better engagement.  Here’s how they did it!

1. An easy schedule to plan workshop activities

With GroupMap’s intuitive interface, the organizers at TFA found an easy way to plan the workshop sessions and activities, as well as share the learning materials for each session. According to Adelheid Stelter, Teaching and Leadership Adviser at TFA:

The first map we created was a schedule, outlining daily sessions… Under the individual session tabs, we then uploaded any resources needed, e.g., pre-reading articles, handouts, PowerPoint presentations or links to relevant web pages. This calendar could be accessed by all participants… [and] was also very useful to participants for catch-up purposes…

The participants, on the other hand, found it easier to access the resources they needed including links to websites, videos, Boxx, Youtube and other resources.


2. Customized workshop templates for break out activities. 

TFA facilitators wanted to create a broad range of activities, such as analyzing journal articles, considering the pros and cons of assessment strategies and brainstorming and exploring alternatives and choices for classroom management case studies.


For each of these sessions, they were able to choose an appropriate map from GroupMap’s extensive template library and then customize it to fit the activity.  

As Stelter points out, “Each session facilitator employed a suitable map for their activities, be it a SWOT analysis of teaching resources or strategies, a brainstorm, a connect-extend-challenge reflection or a check for understanding activity such as claim, explain, question.”


Each template also had organized headings so people knew what was needed, could their thoughts more easily, and thus add their ideas in a more orderly fashion. These maps were run across several concurrent sessions to capture activity which could later be compared and shared in a large group setting.


Unlike post-it notes and butcher’s papers which could only be seen by a small handful of people, the fact that ideas were instantly collected and shared to everyone’s screens allowed everyone to see and learn from each other. This helped to both encourage greater participation and interest. Not to mention it also saved loads of time since someone did not have to retype all the handwritten notes.


One interesting session significantly enhanced by GroupMap’s platform was the “pitch night”. To encourage innovation in the classroom, the activity called on teachers to pitch their ideas for educational advancement to their peers. The winning presenters then received a cash prize to help bring those ideas to life. 

Their peers in the audience were able to listen to the pitch and share comments and feedback via their mobiles. At the end of the round of pitches, they could then vote for their favorite top 3 ideas. The results were tallied in real-time to determine the winner while the other presenters received valuable feedback and support on their ideas.

3. Collaborative resource sharing. 

Another big benefit TFA found when using GroupMap for their professional development workshop was that it allowed them to create a space for everyone to add and share teaching resources across subject areas and year levels. 

Participants were able to break out into their discipline areas and share their ideas for particular subjects. 

In the end, the associates had built up a resource library of subject resources that made it easier to plan their upcoming semester. This meant that each associate saved a tremendous amount of time and stress in terms of planning and gathering resources to help them plan for the term ahead.




Extending the Benefits

For the facilitators, the data was also particularly helpful for after-workshop reviews. “As facilitators, we downloaded reports and could see how many ideas each participant contributed and what those ideas were. GroupMap is a most valuable tool for assessment…”, states Stelter. Being able to monitor and record participation levels allowed them to implement strategies to improve future engagement among participants.

The benefits of using GroupMap are still seen even after the workshop ended. According to Stelter , TFA now has a resource depository where all the participants can continue to share and discuss ideas, strategies, resources and support beyond the seven-day training: “Following the Intensive, participants continue to share and draw ideas from this page. [This is] an excellent way of fostering a sharing teacher community spirit.”

Using GroupMap also allowed both facilitators and participants to experience firsthand the platform’s powerful teaching tools and applications, such as the virtual whiteboard and brainstorming tool, many of which can be used to enhance education in the classroom. “GroupMap… has wide applications across all aspects of teacher education as well as in-school and classroom practice. GroupMap fills a definite gap in teaching and learning practice as a partner in students’ cognitive development,” concludes Stelter.


Want to Learn More?

Our award-winning online collaborative brainstorming and group decision-making platform are designed to help people think better together. Use GroupMap for your next meeting, workshop or event. With our unique tools, customizable maps, easy-to-use recording and reporting, you can be sure that you and your team succeed in achieving your event outcomes. 


Start your 14-day free trial today, or contact us with any questions. 


Finally… “I” can come back into Team

We liked this… The secret to team collaboration: Individualism article.  

It echos the thought that collaboration isn’t just about collectivism. Consensus isn’t about Groupthink and that Teams are still made up of individuals.

It’s part of the reason why GroupMap makes things just a little more awesome. It allows individuals to create their own maps, have space to think and form their own opinions, critically analyzing the ideas from others. GroupMap then aggregates all that information into a collective form for voting and prioritizing for action.

Allowing each individual in the group to express their thoughts, form their opinion and then discover the common ground is the foundation block to building towards a collaborative state. The alternative feels like “well if no one is listening to me, then why should I bother listening to them.”

It makes you realize that in any room, the 3 most important views are yours, mine, and ours!