Online Collaborative Tasks that Build to Group Projects
Online Collaborative Tasks that Build to Group Projects avatar


Today, so many options exist that allow for effective and meaningful collaboration in the virtual world. I have found that online collaboration often allows for much more engagement and interaction by each student than sometimes occurs in an f2f class. It is not easy to sit back and not contribute in an online group… it becomes so much more obvious and typically students will call out the non-engaged student. Interestingly, students might elect an online class because they prefer a more independent experience and don’t expect much collaboration. But in a process-based course, collaboration is going to be a key to students’ growth and success, and if set up from the beginning in our online (or on-ground) writing courses, students come to expect and enjoy the experience.


Just as in the traditional classroom, we must provide clear instructions, expectations, and outcomes which will more likely result in a successful outcome for any collaborative/group experience. And just as in the f2f, our role does not end with these tasks, but we often have to model, encourage, and facilitate to ensure that meaningful collaboration and learning occurs. I think the greatest challenge could be if the technology for some reason doesn’t work on the students’ computer, phone, or pad. So, the way I would work around this is before any group type project, students will have had to utilize the different technologies that are expected in the collaborative  group experience. In the group project I propose below, we are in about week 4 and students have managed to utilize the different technologies in simpler tasks that have been done on Canvas’ Discussion Board.

I’m in the process of developing an English 100 with a theme of uncovering what it means to live a meaningful/purposeful life. This would serve as a first group project that brings together other writing tasks students have done to work collaboratively to create an essay together. I do want to point out that many of these ideas have sprung from my observations of Jim Sullivan, Tony Burman, and curry’s English 100 classes. What I see these classes all have in common for the first couple weeks is that they are teaching and providing a lot of scaffolding to get students to write analytically and employ user-friendly tasks that the students connect with and enjoy writing about. So here goes:


1)     I will place students into groups of 4-5 based on previous paragraphs the students have written where they analyze a piece of advice or life lesson they have learned from someone in their life, e.g.- power of forgiveness, balancing work and play, spreading kindness, etc. If I can get the groups to have sort of a shared theme, I would go with that as they would already have a connection.

2)     Using Canvas’ Discussion Board as their work-group platform, students will each select and upload a YouTube music video and write a post about what life lesson is being communicated in the song/video and why this is meaningful to them. Further they will comment on what moves are being used (lyrics, rhythms, video images, etc.) to communicate the lesson.

3)     Once the videos and corresponding posts are uploaded, other members of the group will use the video feature on the Discussion Board to respond to each other’s posts, being directed to ‘communicate as if you are having a face to face conversation’ (in other words, it is video, not just audio). They will comment on the song/video, the writer’s ideas in the post, and add his or her own thoughts about the life message they perceive and other comments about how the message is communicated. The original writer will craft video responses to each member with his/her thoughts to close the loop.

4)     Once this interaction has occurred, the students will be directed to write an analytical paragraph about the song, with the life lesson identified in the claim/topic sentence and then providing their evidence and analysis which they will color-code to ensure balance. This will be the fourth analytical paragraph the students have written, so they would know the drill. Students will comment on the Discussion Board post using the designed peer review worksheet provided.

5)     After receiving feedback, the students will move their paragraphs to ONE shared Google Document. They will then watch an online video lesson about crafting a thesis statement and introductory paragraph. Based on the paragraphs and claims that have been submitted and using the online lesson as a guide, they will each propose an intro/thesis on the google doc in pre-set tables that would work for their collective paragraphs. They will then look at each other’s work and collaborate in writing to compose the most effective intro/paragraph, hopefully building on the initial entries, not simply picking one to use.

6)     The students will watch one final video on creating 1) an MLA Works Cited entry and will each be responsible for building their own based on the YouTube video, and then 2) formatting an MLA document.

7)     The final task will be to take the Google doc, format the work into a correctly formatted MLA document with Works Cited page and upload it to a new Class-wide Discussion Board Forum so all the students could see. I would then create a Camtasia video reviewing and commenting on each of the drafts.


 Okay, if you have any feedback and/or suggestions, I’d love to hear it. Thank you and looking forward to reading all your amazing ideas!