To Group or Not to Group

Though I don’t use groups very much in my classes, opting often for whole-class discussion after a lesson or to unpack a text (or for any other various reasons), I appreciate their value. I also, of course, understand that synchronous whole-class discussions do not transfer in any practical way in an online format.

From Warnock, “People all over the world are collaborating [online]–why not students?”

Online group project tools for consideration:

  • Collaborations (Canvas): I am currently using this tool in my on-round class, and students like it. Creating groups using this tool leads students to a shared Google Doc.
  • Shared Google Docs: Simple and familiar.
  • Chat rooms: maybe. Unless they were used in an exercise for credit, I’m pretty sure students would find them unnecessary. I made a note, however, below about a possible use for a chat room for conferencing essays.
  • Whiteboard: possibly. I’ve only recently worked a bit with this tool, but I would surely consider it.
  • Message/Discussion Board: of course. This tool is familiar to most student and it is easy to craft assignments for grading using it.
  • Conferences: I am in the process of exploring this Canvas tool for possible synchronous groups. I currently conference in small groups after students have read the essays of three other group members. The five of us meet and discuss those essays in half hour conferences. I may try that exercise using Conference or perhaps Chat Room.

I do like group activities because it nudges otherwise non-participatory students to get involved. In on-ground classes, students can still be silent in groups, but online, they have to add comments if they want to be credited.

Clear, simple instructions and clear roles for group members, maybe rotating on a long-term project. Students would log the work they had done in each role.

In any case, I look very much forward to continued explorations of ways to craft a tightly organized and productive online course that includes group collaborations 🙂