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Monday, February 01, 2016

Designing Effective Team Projects in Online Courses | Faculty Focus

Photo: Stephanie Smith Budhai 
Stephanie Smith Budhai, assistant professor of education at Neumann University summarizes, "Participating in team projects offers students the chance to develop interpersonal communication skills (Figueira & Leal, 2013), build relationships with classmates, and increase the level of collective competencies as each group member brings something different to the group."

Photo: Faculty Focus

However, in the online environment where the majority of the work occurs asynchronously, students may resist having to work with others (Smith et al., 2011) on graded assignments.

Students often say that they do not like group work because they expect that they will have to contribute more than their teammates or that they will have difficulty scheduling times to meet with other group members. They also may be uneasy about being assigned an individual grade based on the work of the team.
After teaching fully online courses for the past five years, I offer seven best practices for teamwork in online courses:
Intentionally create teams.  
The best teams are formed when each member can bring something different to the group. Having three leaders may cause tension, as there would be no one willing to be led. At the same time, if there are no leaders present, it may be difficult for the group to form a vision for the project and get the work started. Get to know your online students and their preferences. This can come from a survey or preference inventory or through online discussion boards or other interactive course features. In a traditional class, you would see who the students are sitting next to and engaging with; do the same within the online class. Are there certain people who always respond to each other’s discussion board responses? Have you noticed that some people work at the same organization? Get to know your students as much as possible within the online course, and be very intentional in creating teams.

Keep groups small and odd. 
Every student is very busy with professional and personal obligations, making scheduling to meet as a team difficult. One of the most attractive features of online courses for students is the ability to learn at times most convenient for the individual, without the requirement of being in class at certain times and days each week. The larger the teams, the more complicated scheduling can be. Teams, particularly in online courses where there are no regularly scheduled meetings, should be capped at approximately three students. Having an odd number also eliminates the potential of groups being split when forced to make a decision. I encourage teams to come to a unanimous decision, but this may not always be possible. Having an odd number guarantees that there will always be a majority in the event of a team vote. There will be times when, because of the overall number of students in the class, one group may need to consist of more than three students, but in general, a team of three is more manageable and conducive to best practices in online teamwork. 

Additional resources

Teaching the 4Cs with Technology: How do I use 21st century tools to teach 21st century skills? (ASCD Arias)
"This book shows how teachers can more purposefully integrate technology into instruction to facilitate the practice and mastery of each of the 4Cs along with other learning objectives. It's packed with practical and engaging strategies that will transform the way students experience learning." 
Read more... 

Source: Faculty Focus