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Information on Collaboration Tools for Working from Home

Table of Contents

In the current Corona-related situation the need for collaborative tools is on the rise, especially as many are working from home. This page will guide you concerning tools available at the Univ. of Cologne.

Further information concerning general services of the RRZK during the current situation can be found here: Current changes in RRZK services

Synchronous and near-synchronous collaboration

Video conferencing

Face-to-face communications and meetings, be it lectures, oral exams, official and professional meetings, are an important part of everyday University life. Such meetings are near impossible at the moment. Especially lectures, webinars, public University and internal meetings, which would be quite difficult to hold if relying solely on E-Mail, chat or telephone conferencing, are more easy when using the proper video conferencing tool.

The UzK follows the lead of many other universities by providing Zoom licenses. Zoom proved to be most powerful VC tool during the first phase of the current situation.

You can get your personal Zoom license by logging into the UzK’s Zoom Portal with your UzK account. This is the same account that is used for KLIPS, ILIAS, your “” mail address and so on. You can not use Verwaltungs-, WiSo- or other accounts.If you want to use Zoom with the web client or the mobile app, choose “Login via SSO” and enter “” as corporate domain, then continue with your UzK account.

Further information on using Zoom in a UzK context can be found at the Zoom-FAQ along with helpful tips and tricks.

Also, Zoom provides video tutorials and weekly webinars in German and English and further information on Teaching with Zoom on the Digital Education portal.

Please read and comply with the notes on data security and privacy for hosts and moderators.

In case of further questions regarding the access to Zoom please contact the RRZK-Helpdesk (

As an alternative to Zoom, you can also use "BigBlueButton" within Rocket.Chat (see below) for spontaneous, short video chats.

For particularly confidential occasions the DFNconf service or for small online webinars the Adobe Connect Tool via DFN are available as alternatives. Members of the university can also use these services free of charge and without additional registration.

Chat and E-Mail

The e-mail service provided by the RRZK is a very stable one. Nevertheless, in these times it would be prudent to use available and easy-to-use solutions like mailing lists as a consolidated way of e-mail communications to avoid sending multiple mails when one is sufficient. Also please avoid sending massive mail attachments - to exchange data in an easy and secure way, please use other services provided at the UzK like Sciebo, SoFS, BSCW or Gigamove.

The RRZK also provides a RocketChat server. This is an easy way to supplant the need of daily face-to-face communications. There is a fine new manual.

To use RocketChat, please log in here using your UzK credentials:

RocketChat der Uni Köln

Only employee accounts are eligible. Besides text, you can also send small files (RocketChat is no data management tool; please use it only for small files!). You can use RC either in your browser or as a desktop or mobile app (server name in the mobile app is which you get at the usual places like Playstore or Appstore for free. The desktop app is available from RocketChat’s website.You can also initiate video conferences with other RC users via "BigBlueButton". Again: RocketChat is a chat system, the video conferencing feature is meant as a quick tool for seamless communication, not as a replacement for a fully-fledged video conferencing system.

Collaborative document editing

If you use Sciebo, there is the integrated OnlyOffice app to collaboratively edit Office documents - concurrently and synchronously from anywhere, within your browser. If you work with multiple participants, you see multiple cursors and are able to keep a versioned, consistent document, which is much safer and easier than sending it back and forth via e-mail. The only requirement is for all participants to have writing permissions on the document’s folder. For this, everybody involved needs a Sciebo account which you can obtain by registration with your UzK account and then setting a separat Sciebo password.

If you need to collaboratively and simultaniously edit non-Office files and documents, you may consider using Git. Git may require more extensive knowledge of working with computers. Further information on this can be found under Special cases of collaboration.

Digital Whiteboards

The online tool Mural provides a collaboration platform for digital whiteboards. Mural can be used for workshops, planning or brainstorming together. You can signup via your university account. Institutions can collaborate via central workspaces. Mural boards can be designed variably using various templates.

Digital whiteboards with Mural ->

Further information on setting up and using Mural boards and workspaces can be found on the portal pages for digital teaching at the UzK.

Asynchronous tools

Project management

Daily communications aside, which may easily be supplanted by RocketChat or similar tools, there may be the need to engage in long-term consistent remote project management. For these needs, the RRZK provides licenses of MeisterTask and a Redmine server.


The University of Cologne has got a contingent of licenses at the cloud service MeisterTask, which allows everyone, who registers at MeisterTask using a "" to use the "Business" functions. You also get the extended functionality "MindMeister" for mindmaps, which will be deactivated after a certain time of non-use. If you want to activate it again later, please contact

MeisterTask offers a lot of useful, modern features like kanban boards, timelines, filters, checklists, attachments and tags. It is a very good and data privacy compliant alternative to well-known services like "Slack" or "Trello". Many functions are explained via video tutorials and clients are available for all common operating systems, including mobile versions for Android and iOS. 

Please be sure to note: If you are already working with MeisterTask and then receive a license from the UoC, check immediately whether your existing projects have been converted to "team projects". These are then visible for the whole university, you should convert them to a private project via the project properties directly after the license has been activated. For MeisterTask "the university" is a team, the software does not know anything about internal structures. Therefore, please refrain from setting up a team project and only use "private projects".


Redmine is a flexible project management web application. At first glance, Redmine looks quite spartan, but further investigation will reveal a plethora of clever, seamlessly interacting project management tools. It can’t hide its origins in software development when it comes to terminology (“versions” instead of “milestones” for example), but it offers granular, hierarchic control over work packages and to-dos. It helps to read up on it here before jumping straight in.

Responding to e-mail requests collaboratively

To manage and collaboratively share the workload of requests via e-mail, the RRZK provides the OTRS ticket system. Via OTRS, requests can be commented on and answered by multiple persons synchronously and asynchronously. The OTRS ticket system gives a transparent history of communication concerning topics and requests  - and it works straight in the browser.

Sharing data

For sharing data in general, without the need to collaboratively edit the same document at the same time, there are several services available to UzK account holders. Details on these services can be found here:

  • SoFS (online storage - only for students, guests and employees of UzK)
  • Wikis (shared documentation with very shallow learning curve)
  • BSCW (sharing documents, provides access for non-UzK personell)
  • Gigamove (single-use short-term data sharing service, e.g. for files too large to send via e-mail. One of the parties involved in the data exchange, either sender or recipient, must be an account holder at UzK.)
  • Sciebo (see above)

For further and more complex data sharing topics it might be helpful to consult the University’s Research Data Team's website.

Sign documents digitally: electronic signature

With a real electronical signature it is possible to sign a digital document. With an electronic signature, your identity can be prooven.
For certain documents (e.g. application for guest accounts) we require at least an electronic signature. As for now, you may sign those documents by using e.g. the touchscreen of your tablet or your computer, unless it is requested otherwise. XODO is a free app you can use for this procedure. It is available for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and iOS.

You can use our short introduction into XODO to learn how to sign a PDF with your digital signature.

Instruction: How to create a digital signature

Sign documents with a certificate: advanced electronic signature

The more advanced and more recomended way of signing a document is the use of a "real" electronic signature, by using a certificate. You can use a S/MIME-certificate to sign your PDFs. Have a look at this to learn more about how to apply for a S/MIME certificate and how to use it. Since your real identity is checked during the application process, the signature of a document by using a certificate is approved as advanced electronic signature according to the eIDAS regulation.

To learn how to use your certificate to sign documents in Adobe Reader DC with windows, have a look at:

Configuration and usage of the certificate in Adobe Reader (Adobe Acrobat)

Special cases of collaboration

To work collaboratively on files other than office documents, it might be useful to employ Git. Git is a versioning system which keeps a full history of edits, supports branching in case there is the need to fork off different versions from a single point onward, also supports merging of different branches and a sophisticated user and access control system. Conflict resolution is dealt with in the form of difference editors, and keeping a special branch for production-level versions of files. Git is commonly used for software development, but also quite common for other kinds of digital data, for example 3d models. At RRZK, Git is fully integrated into the Redmine project management software.

Further remarks

Teaching personell may also reach out to students of specific lectures via KLIPS and ILIAS. Use this! Teaching material for lectures should always be provided via ILIAS. Concerning the recording of lectures, please read this.

If you have any questions or problems, please contact the RRZK-Helpdesk