Group Projects in Online Classes

You’ve heard it before — perhaps you’ve even said it before: teachers love group projects because they mean less work.

Apparently I am doing group projects wrong, then!

Here is what I have done leading up to Day 1 of a major group project (report + presentation) in my online technical writing course, which has just 25 students enrolled. LMS means Learning Management System, like Moodle, Blackboard, WebCT, etc.

inspirational teamwork quotes (graphics created in Canva)

inspirational teamwork quotes (graphics created in Canva)

  1. Write report and presentation assignments; code and load into LMS.
  2. Create report and presentation grading rubrics; upload and link in LMS.
  3. Write up five different proposal scenarios, with problems, audiences, and brainstorming questions, all based on the distribution of student majors; code and load.*
  4. Create five LMS discussion forums available only to students in that project group.
  5. Create Google docs and slides files for five teams.
  6. Write a lecture on being aware of group dynamics and creating team contracts; upload and link in LMS.
  7. Find appropriate readings on Belbin team roles and teamwork pitfalls in online courses; link in LMS.
  8. Create two video lectures, one on effective teamwork and one on using the group Google doc, including editing, commenting, inserting images, etc.
  9. Write a discussion activity asking students for primary and secondary Belbin team roles, as well as the email they use for a Google account.
  10. Create spreadsheet of students’ majors and Belbin team roles.
  11. Slot students into proposal groups based on preferred team role, gender distribution, and major distribution, made more challenging by the fact that many students waited to complete the discussion activity.*
  12. Assign students to groups and groupings in the LMS.
  13. Post to each group forum a summary of members’ Belbin role strengths and weaknesses, with summary “here’s what you will be at your best” and “here’s what to watch out for” statements.
  14. Give students editing access to their group’s report Google doc.

* no, I don’t let students choose their topics or their groups, because in the professional arena, often both of these are selected by management for you.

For the next several weeks, I’ll be monitoring group postings in the LMS and on the Google doc, fielding questions, checking group contracts, offering advice, examining weekly peer evaluations, assigning collaboration points and hopefully not working with students who have been removed from their teams and who therefore must complete individual projects. I’ll also have to give everyone access to Google presentation files.

If team assignments are done well, to teach students HOW to work effectively together, I don’t know that they are easier on the teacher…

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