What Worked– shifting much of the learning management from the instructor to the students.
Groups : Instructors often use group work as a way to divest some of the interaction involved in an online course. Not only can group work offset instructor workload but it can foster a sense of community among learners. Groups also enable students to save time by collaborating on assignments and time consuming projects and encourage accountability and student interaction.
Suggestions from the field include:
Setup a group structure whereby group members are graded not only on the assignment they complete, but also on their ability to provide feedback to other group members. Setup a group of students to work on a project, versus many individual assignments. Set up multi-disciplined groups (e.g. Marketing major, Accounting major, etc.) to provide a more holistic approach to problem solving.
- It is often difficult to know how far to go when organizing groups. Instructors recommended:
- Requiring a group work plan in which roles and responsibilities are assigned.
- Develop a group charter whereby students identify strengths/challenges, barriers to success, as well as determine strategies for overcoming barriers to success and dealing with group conflict.
- Require a weekly progress report detailing group successes, and roadblocks, and how they might mange those roadblocks in the future.
- Assign students to grade each other on their performance in the group as well as reflect on their own performance.
The following applications were found to be helpful in managing Groups online:
- Groove: Microsoft product promoting peer-to-peer collaboration.
- GoogleDocs, ZohoOffice, ThinkFree: open source products allowing for collaboration, with multiple writers/editors.
- Elluminate’s Vroom: web-conferencing tool enabling the sharing of documents, desktops; incorporates audio, video, text messaging and is free.
- Social bookmarking e.g. Del.icio.us
- Social networking sites: MySpace; FaceBook
In summary, setting group guidelines and managing expectations helps minimize instructor workload with regard to answering questions, mediating group problems. Students have more time to devote their energies to learning. Workload Management by Shari McCurdy Smith
Online Social Networking on Campus
Where do you see social networking among students headed next?
A: SNS will become an instructional tool soon. Facebook has already partnered with a course management system; some faculty have begun to use Facebook groups to foster peer learning, conduct group projects, etc. Computer mediated communication technologies have already made it necessary for academic faculty to modify or simply transfer traditional modes and norms of real-life academic and pedagogical communication online. It’s just a matter of time before we see a SNS as a “classroom” experience.
Among students, SNS communication has already graduated with them i.e. it has become part of their alumni relations, part of their socialization as new professional external to the campus, part of their socialization as young adults heading into graduate school, forming permanent relationships, and becoming parents. As developmental as their Facebook use was to them as college students, so is their use after college. Profession, graduate schooling, and adult relationships already typify their use. Class reunions are now mediated and planned on Facebook and don’t just happen once or every five years.