Below is my contribution to a discussion forum on the topic of group work in online courses.
“What are the advantages (for students and instructors) of putting students into groups? What are the disadvantages? Do you believe that self-selection of groups is a better idea than having instructors determine groups? Why or why not?”
All of us have had experiences working in groups at some point in our lives as students. Some memories of our experiences are pleasant and some are like horror stories that we would prefer not to revisit. It seems there can be many reasons why some of our experiences were like a nightmare. The reasons may include; we like to work alone, we didn’t understand how to work in a group, personalities within the group did not work together, at least one person in the group did not do their share and someone else took on their work, work was not completed on time by each team member, conflicting schedules, etc. This list could be extensive to say the least.
Jean Mandernach (2010) provides some tips for adapting proven f2f group work strategies to the online environment. She states that the key is to design tasks that are truly collaborative, meaning the students will benefit more from doing the activity as a group than doing it alone.
Mandernach also states that effective online group activities often fall into one of three categories:
- There’s no right or wrong answer, such as debates, or research on controversial issues.
- There are multiple perspectives, such as analyzing current events, cultural comparisons, or case studies.
- There are too many resources for one person to evaluate, so a jigsaw puzzle approach is needed with each student responsible for one part.
Based on the three categories above, I plan to use a case study with my participants. As my group are new franchisees learning to run a successful restaurant using our system having a case study of an individual store’s performance will allow the group to collaboratively work together to analyze, apply their knowledge and create an action plan for the store.
Bart, Mary (2010) How to Design Effective Online Group Work Activities