Examples of Collaborative Group Work Assignments
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Crash Course on Cyber Collaboration — Beth Martin
Beth Martin, Professor and Assistant Dean for Teaching and Learning in the School of Human Ecology, was asked to develop and teach a hybrid version of Pharmacy 728 — Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experiences using experiential learning. Developing this course was particularly difficult because she was accustomed to teaching lab courses in which she had face-to-face contact with her students for three hours at a time. In this new course, she would see her students for just five hours over the entire span of the semester. She knew that facilitating collaborative group work in an online forum would be challenging. To deal with these challenges, she developed effective collaborative group work strategies. "We had had [students] work collaboratively in the lab before, but we had never explained to them how to function as a team," said Martin. "Teaching a hybrid course, I knew I would have to make that information available to them in a different way. It made me more conscious of providing students with a collaborative, problem-solving vocabulary that they can use to discuss and evaluate their own group work."
Bringing Bach Back to Life — Jamie Henke
Jamie Henke is a Distinguished Faculty Associate in the Division of Continuing Studies. She wanted her students to learn more about the composers covered in the course Music 151 — Basic Concepts of Music. Traditionally, she asked her students to choose and research a composer and post what they learned in the online course discussion forum. Looking at past results of the assignment, however, she found that some students weren't participating at all. She also realized that few students were reading others' postings. She needed a different approach. To address this challenge, she moved the assignment from a discussion forum into a role-playing forum. Students were expected to work in groups to create pages for each composer. When this was done, they (as the composer) had to converse with each other. "They really had to know the history of the composer," Henke said. "To complete the task, students had to think about what one computer would think about another composer."
Collaborative Writing Brings Class Together — Tim Paustian
Tim Paustian is a Distinguished Faculty Associate in Bacteriology in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. He taught Microbiology 551— Physiology Diversity of Procaryotes Laboratory as an independent study course. Paustian observed that the research groups in the course worked like a puzzle. "Each group studied their own piece of the puzzle, but at the end of the course, when all the pieces should have come together to form the big picture, the students couldn't see what it was." To address this challenge, he created a collaborative writing project. According to Paustian, the results were pretty dramatic. "It made a huge difference. They finally got it. Once the students learned how to use the software, they saw the value. Students felt it helped them to keep track of what they were doing in the project and it allowed them to follow along on the projects from the other groups. Students' grades and their writing were much better after the project, but it wasn't due solely to the interactive collaboration that was taking place. The software allowed me to monitor the progress of student work and provide them input while they were still working on their projects."
Peer Editing — Erica Halverson
Erica Halverson is a Professor in Curriculum and Instruction in the School of Education. She had taught special sections of Educational Psychology 301 — Human Abilities in Learning. The course was designed for students in the secondary education program who are studying to be high school teachers. "The students work in groups to design an instructional unit of their content around an instructional problem that traditionally is a struggle to teach," said Halverson. "The students in the class always bemoaned how busy they were and how hard it was to get together for group work projects. So, I thought 'Great, let's set up an asynchronous workspace, and that way they won't have to figure out a time to get together and meet.'" She designed a collaborative editing site to improve peer feedback. While she struggled in the past to get students to give each other meaningful feedback, the online space helped tremendously. "The fact that the site was public meant students couldn't be glib about what they wrote. It has to be constructive," Halverson said. "The fact that people had an opportunity to be more reflective was very helpful."