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Group Projects: Working With & Learning From Classmates

Clearly identify the work required.

❶The Schedule page is the page that appears when you click the name of a project in the Project Center. E-mail was the tool that was ranked as first or second most useful tool for this stage of the process by most of the students.

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It allowed for an authentic opportunity to integrate communication theories into the design of communication. It provided support that relied on CMC tools for realistic environments in at least two of the groups work environments of two of the students. Some students acknowledged the strength of the PBL process in establishing a visible link between theory and practice; a link that is not always evident in academic work.

Students also spoke of the benefits of this learning process as an online experience. In spite of challenges in scheduling synchronous meetings, students pointed out the benefits of the flexibility of online meetings: Opportunity for review of synchronous conversations, tendency to engage in less small talk, and simultaneous access to multimodal sources of information during negotiation were mentioned as benefits of the distance education process. As mentioned in the conceptual framework, PBL has been described as a constructivist educational implementation.

The authenticity in learning that constructivist thinking attaches to education, together with recommendations to retain the complexities of the original context, place additional demands on students. Students sometimes referred to the process or some of its parts as overwhelming, challenging, frustrating and demanding.

Nevertheless, they clearly recognized the benefits of participating in such an experience and acknowledged those as inherent characteristics of meaningful learning. The frustrating and overwhelming nature during the activities was mostly present during the beginning when there was more uncertainty about the overall process.

A few students still expressed the wish to meet in person. This is consistent with theories about human communication mentioned above and also studied as part of the content of the class. The learning experience did begin for some with a degree of skepticism about the feasibility of conducting group work at a distance.

Nevertheless, in all cases, students acknowledged having gained confidence in the process once it was under way. Limitation of the media was one of the challenges most commonly mentioned by students. The volatile nature of synchronous communication was also cited as challenging in this context. Many ideas can be simultaneously exposed making it difficult to follow a single idea, to keep track of all potentially promising ideas and to keep the focus to consistently make progress towards the desired goal.

The fact that technology mediates communication adds a layer of access, literacy and readiness that can be transparent or can completely impede communication. Finally, different characteristics of different kinds of tools bear different effects on the communication and learning process depending on the time and purpose of their use.

In this particular experience, students resorted to e-mail the most accessible communication technology to share availability between group members to schedule synchronous online meetings. However, the limitations of the e-mail tool as a serial presentation of messages that does not layer or juxtapose similar information for comparison made it harder for students to negotiate things such as common available time slots for those meetings.

Thus computer-mediated scheduling was the other challenge that was most commonly mentioned as a shortcoming of conducting online collaborative educational work. Finally, the continuous intervention of the instructor and teacher assistants in providing feedback and guidance throughout the process was the most commonly cited benefit.

Upon submission of the project draft documents, feedback was promptly negotiated and provided by the instructor and teaching assistants. Three different perspectives joined to offer sound advice with regards to the direction of the project every time. One of the teaching assistants participated regularly in the synchronous conversations of the groups that requested her participation. This was deemed beneficial by members of different groups. Her participation helped clarify questions in a timely manner, guide students to make progress during chats, and reinforce them when needed to ensure they were on the right track.

E-mail inquiries received prompt responses from the instructor and assistants, who were also instrumental in facilitating discussion board conversations to help students understand course content and explore their relevance for group work.

As stated above, it is necessary to implement meaningful learning experiences in the research and practice efforts to promote quality online education. CMC presents opportunities as well as constraints in collaborative problem-based learning environments.

Student perspectives are useful in informing whether different kinds of guidance or facilitation, tools, rules or approaches need to be implemented to ensure the benefit of this methodology for distance learners. Consistent with PBL design theory, authentic problems must be aligned with the kinds of professional activities students would perform if engaged in subject domains as practitioners.

Providing these kinds of problems and allowing students to further customize them to better match their interests is a design decision that helps to get the process started with the right foot. These findings are consistent with adult learning theory that suggests that adult learners are more interested in immediate knowledge applications.

Moreover, allowing students to group themselves according to common interests facilitates a sense of ownership and thus enhances motivation and investment in the learning activities. This echoes what literature emphasizes as an effective method to encourage meaningful learning in face-to-face settings. Students relied heavily on synchronous communication to make decisions in their group work. For instance, scheduling was indicated as difficult through computer-mediated communication.

One way to address this need is to explore accessible calendar tools that will share schedules. It is important to ensure access and competence in the use of communication tools. Guidelines for use can be provided to students before they start collaborative work.

Features such as recording of synchronous exchanges and use of collaborative tools need to be understood before they take place. Students and instructors must know the purpose of each tools as well as its strengths and limitations. This can help to avoid possible frustrations associated with the selection of an inappropriate tool to support a given task. One last recommendation has to do with the design of instructor support during the experience.

Instructors need to take into account the characteristics of the learning experiences, especially when they are of a constructivist nature, in order to provide support that will allow students to benefit the most from a self-directed learning experience and avoid the frustration of not receiving help when needed. Instructors need to be sensitive of the kinds of support needed by students and its timing so that they provide it when the content or activities in which they are engaged demand it.

As a result of this learning process, it was verified that online collaborative work for educational purposes can happen and result in a positive educational experience for students who would otherwise be isolated by temporal or physical separation.

However, in order to ensure its success, educators need to carefully design learning activities so that benefits are maximized and anticipated shortcomings are overcome. Educators need to consider beforehand the combination of factors that stem from the subject matter, technology-mediation tools, and the nature of the activities in which students participate.

This way, online learners will be able to benefit from educational methodologies that have been recommended as effective in the practice of face-to-face implementations with the added benefits of the technology mediation and informed prevention of potential limitations. Discussion-based online teaching to enhance student learning: Theory, practice and assessment.

Space, time and modernity. University of California Press. The fact is, large tasks become far smaller when divided among a group of people -- regardless of what the job or goal at hand might be. This concept consistently proves itself in classrooms and workplaces all over the country as groups of students collaborate to accomplish a task or come up with the next big idea.

Online group projects also benefit the individual immensely by exposing them to unique perspectives and teaching them to rely on others to achieve a common goal.

The benefits of knowing how to work in small groups can also extend beyond higher education and well into the working environment. After all, the world beyond graduation is filled with opportunities to work with others, including co-workers, teammates and clients.

Participating in online group work in an educational setting can be an effective way for students to prepare for those situations. Furthermore, a growing body of research suggests group work may be far more beneficial than educators and students realized previously. A recent study conducted by the Institute of Education at London University involving 4, students between ages 5 and 14 found that children performed and behaved well while working in small groups.

Do not try to blend or mesh the parts. Group members may resist doing activities they perceive to be irrelevant to the overall goal or objective they envisioned when joining the group. Even those who go ahead and do the activities may feel resentful. Let the team members know how their work ties into the final objective the project , and how it ties into a larger world as well during virtual group work. Instead of envisioning one large group project, visualize the entire assignment as four or five smaller projects that will each require just two or three steps, rather than dozens.

The project contains too many steps to reach the final outcome. The complexity makes it difficult to understand and to delegate work, and to set achievable goals.

Resentment because of lack of work parity. Group members become angry because the work load is not evenly distributed. Some team members may be perceived as slackers or freeloaders, who take credit but refuse to pull their weight.

The converse can also be true. There may be resentment because one team member will attempt to dominate and not allow individuals to participate in the process. The dominant person may be perceived as a bully, much to his or her surprise. She thought she was simply being efficient, proactive, and "Type A.

List the roles and the responsibilities and behaviors expected of each role. Then, assign tasks to specific team members, and develop a realistic set of due dates. Make sure that there are clear ways to be in touch with each other if there are questions. Required collaborations do not reflect the real time commitments of the participants, nor do they reflect schedules or time zone differences.

Give the group at least a week to do each project, no matter how small. Try to communicate live-time if you can, either with instant messenger, chat, video chat, or with Internet telephony, such as Skype. The way team friction manifests itself can be subtle. Group members disagree, express frustration, or stop communicating altogether.

Some team members are deliberately obstructive, or criticize work, endlessly debate small points, or refuse to contribute at all. Instead of working on the problem, the energy of the group is spent in conflict resolution. Some may drop out.

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Group work for class projects can sometimes be difficult, especially for online students. Follow these useful tips to help guide your online group project! For a better experience, click the icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is . Powerful Project Portfolio Management in the Cloud. As an integral part of Office , the cloud-based Microsoft Office solution, Project Online, provides almost all project and portfolio management functions via your browser.

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Group projects might seem more daunting in an online format, but instructors say they've found ways to foster collaboration and avoid logistical roadblocks. This group is intended to give everyone basic access to Project Online. These SharePoint groups have the same global and category permissions that are assigned to them in Project Permission Mode. In SharePoint Permission Mode, you cannot create additional custom groups, categories, Resource Breakdown Structure (RBS) nodes, or .