Peer Collaboration in the Online Classroom

February 6, 2024

Fostering collaboration allows students to interact with one another in a classroom setting where they aren’t physically going to see their peers everyday. 

Why should you foster online collaboration through group work?

Though they sometimes have a bad reputation, group projects are undeniably useful in a classroom and real world setting. First of all, collaboration offers extra help on topics that could be challenging to one student but are easily understood by another. Assigning group work online also requires students to build their own autonomy and responsibility to succeed as each group member takes on different responsibilities. Creating this intentional collaboration improves learner engagement and can help them to achieve higher level learning outcomes. Think of group work as a way to shift you, as the instructor, into a passive teaching role to help students take responsibility for their own learning.

How to implement collaboration 

The first step for implementing collaboration is to make it mandatory.  Glenda Hernandez Baca, a professor at Montgomery College, told Faculty Focus ” If [collaboration and participation] is a choice, if you give students a choice of participating, I think you are telling them that collaboration is not that important.” You can create this through assignments that reflect the learning outcomes of your course. The assignments could be cumulative such as a large semester or midterm project that learners work together to complete over the span of a few weeks. Or the projects could be smaller scale such as using breakout rooms, office hours, or a discussion board for students to interact. With any of these options, making the assignment mandatory for a grade will create the incentive that learners need to participate. 

Select a collaborative structure that requires students to use one another and benefit off of the collaboration more than it would if they were completing the project as an individual. Semester long presentations or papers are a great way to facilitate this. The students will have to work together for a prolonged amount of time, dividing up tasks and communicating to deliver a cohesive project. One way to ensure this runs smoothly is to require your students to develop a project plan.

A project plan can be an ongoing document that you have your students outline their individual roles as well as a timeline for completion of various aspects of the project. The plan should give students a direction to start in and a pipeline that they can follow to deliver a successful result. You can choose to have students develop their own project plan as a team and share it with you or you can provide a project plan outline depending on what fits best for achieving your course learning outcomes. Regardless, the project plan serves as an open-communication tool that you should have access to. If it is a cumulative project progressing over a few weeks or more, splitting the project into parts with separate due dates will deter procrastination. It also allows you to monitor group participation and offer feedback. Group communication and instructor-group communication is crucial to the assignment and should be established as soon as you create the group assignment.

Canvas has the ability to create separate teams within a course that learners can communicate through or provide their contact information to communicate outside of the classroom. The benefit of the Canvas tool is that, as the instructor, you can have access to these groups to oversee and offer feedback to your student groups. It is important to provide frequent feedback and oversight to online group projects to ensure progress as well as engagement in the group assignments. It also allows students to communicate any issues that may arise within the group to you and to ask questions as a team unit.

With online teamwork it is also a good idea to provide advance notice that group work is expected for the course and explain how it will be evaluated. Including a project plan and due date into the course schedule or syllabus is a way to be sure students are aware of the collaboration aspect of the class. Since students approach and complete group work differently, it is important to provide this notice to them as soon as the term starts.

Remember that regardless of which type of assignment you choose to make a team project (research paper, presentation, discussion posts, etc.), the objective is to create meaning out of the collaboration. Team projects online should be a beneficial tool that help bring meaningful peer interactions into the online space.

Want to learn more?

Tomorrow, February 7th, there will be a workshop facilitated by Dara Abimbade, Ph.D, Digital Learning Strategist, that outlines the best practices for online group assignments. 

Upcoming Events

Best Practices for Designing Online Group Assignments

Wednesday, February 7th, 1:30-2:30 PM

Join this training to learn more about designing effective online group assignments! Whether you have a specific question or simply want to learn more about the pedagogy of online group assignments, this training has you covered. 

Facilitated by Dara Abimbade, Ph.D., Digital Learning Strategist.

 Registration: Best Practices for Designing Online Group Assignments.
Modality: Virtual and synchronous—an Outlook Calendar invite, with the Zoom link, will be sent.

Training will be recorded. Registrants will receive a recorded training on this topic. 

Quick Hits: Turnitin Feedback Studio

Thursday, February 15th, 3:30-4:30 PM

Join this training to learn more about the Turnitin Feedback Studio and AI detection. Whether you are completely new to Turnitin Feedback Studio, want to see a demonstration, or just have a question related to the topic, this training has you covered. When registering, choose whether to have a specific topic covered, enter your question, or both. 

Facilitated by our Learning Tech Team.

When: February 15th, 3:30-4:00 pm.
Registration: Quick Hits: Turnitin Feedback Studio.

Clemson Online Spring 2024 Events Calendar

Review our Spring 2024 Events Calendar to see what Online Instruction Development opportunities await!

We have a robust lineup of topics and live training formats to support your use of Canvas and other e-learning tools. Topics cover demonstrations of using Kaltura, presentations on group assignments in online courses, and workshops to get your Canvas site ready to teach!

All of our live training is recorded. Registrants will automatically receive a link to that day’s video after it has been processed.

Contact Millie Tullis with any questions regarding these sessions.

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