One of the biggest challenges I have faced when teaching online is getting students to work collaboratively and successfully to complete a group assignment online. Over the years I have discovered that it takes a lot of planning and thought to make sure that the students will have a positive experience. However despite all of the effort put in designing a group assignment if the students are not willing to collaborate and work together. It seems that their biggest issue is responding to each other in a timely manner. Some things I have discovered in order to make the process smoother are:
- Have clear guidelines on about the group assignment. I create assignments that are straightforward with as much information about my expectations as possible.
- Offer different types of online collaborative tools such as Google docsor Evernote
- Resolve any issues quickly. I let the students know that if there are any issues they need to email me or post a question in the Q&A and I try to resolve any issues within 24 hours.
- Keep groups small. No more than 3 students per group because if it is more or less then it can become complicated. When there are only 2 students in the group I have found that many times 1 of the student does not communicate quickly enough with their group member to complete their work and either end up doing the work at the last minute or the other student is left to write the whole assignment on his/her own which is not what I want. On the other hand, if there are 4 students in a group it is harder for the students to coordinate and collaborate with each other because there are too many emails and texts occurring to keep track. On the other hand, if there are 3 students in a group things seem to work better because they are able to work better with each other. Even if one of the students does not end up participating during the group assignment there are still 2 students that can successfully complete the assignment.