Developing Small Group Work in Online and Blended Courses
Considerations in small group pedagogy
Group work in the online environment facilitates the building of peer networks and online community, which are noted aspects of a quality online course. In this workshop we will further discuss the benefits to using groups in online and blended courses. Also, we will discuss overcoming challenges to small group work, creating small groups, developing small group learning activities, and assessing group performance.
Why use groups in blended and online courses?
· Aids in building learning community
· Provides students with an opportunity to apply concepts and theories
· Allows students to develop skills that are representative of real work life
· Fosters active learning
Challenges to online group work
· Social loafing
· Transaction costs
· Student self-management
· Frequent feedback
· Individual time and effort - peer assessment
· Team performance – product or process (rubrics)
Issues to consider in group creation, forming and managing groups
· Group size by task, project completion or discussion
· Heterogeneous groups for better group performance
· Instructor driven for diversity of ideas
· Team-building activities for cohesion
Types of group learning activities promoting learning and team development
· Charter Development
· Project Teams
· Case Studies
· Simulations and Role Playing
· Audio or Video Analysis
· Debates or Negotiations
Group activities should be engaging and focus on higher order learning
1. What aspects of the content lend themselves to group activities?
2. How can the activity utilize the many experiences of students into making a higher quality product than working individually?
3. How can the activity allow students to work together to maximize their own and each other's learning?
4. How can the activity allow students to search for understanding, solutions, or meanings, or creating a product?
5. How does the activity meet a course objective? Do your learning objectives for the course including working as a team? Working collaboratively?
6. What are the goals of the group activity?
7. Is the activity too challenging for an individual to complete?
Group activities should facilitate learning community
1. How can the activity allow for group discussion and resolution (if possible)?
2. How can the activity be structured to ensure participation by all members?
3. How can the activity provide an opportunity for students to develop a connection with each other?
4. How does the activity promote peer teaching/learning?
Group activities require student support in self-management
1. What activities will you include for students to build trust and cohesion (e.g., group charter, team picts, team blog, etc.)?
2. What is the timetable for completion? Have you taken into account time dependent on the medium (discussion board, synchronous meetings, etc.)?
3. Are the tasks scaffolded into manageable chunks? Is there frequent feedback opportunities?
4. What technologies will be used? (Asynchronous Discussions? Drop box? Locker? Synchronous Chat? Others?)
Group activities require individual and group accountability
1. How will accountability be built into the process?
2. Is individual and group performance assessed (e.g., peer evaluation, group grade on product)?
3. Is reflection built into the activity (self-assessment)?
1. What do I want my students to be able to do (i.e., not just “know”) achieving higher order learning?
2. What evidence or documentation do I require to demonstrate my students’ achievement of these desired results? Individually? As a group?
3. What group learning activity will produce this evidence or documentation?
4. What materials and resources are best suited to assist students in accomplish these goals?
(a) What communication tools with the students use?
(b) How will you facilitate interactions?
(c) How much time will they need to get to know each other, develop a charter, accomplish the tasks, etc.?
(d) Will you provide a sample product?