KFUPM - UBC Workshop July 2009
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One of the misconceptions about group work is that it is less work. While group work and group assignments can facilitate some aspects of the course, it can also be challenging, and evolve into total chaos if students aren’t clear about how they should function as a group. Group work also takes practice, so be patient in the process!
This section is a resource for:
- Group collaboration strategies
- Collaborative writing tools that are useful for group work
- Collaborative visual tools that are useful for group work
Group Collaboration Strategies
Below are recommendations for how groups should get going.:
1. Establish ground rules
This involves agreeing on how the group will work together.
For example, you will want to think about how you will communicate respectfully with each other, and how you will address conflict.
• How will you make sure that everybody participates equally? What are the rules for dealing with a member who has not been in contact with the group for a certain period of time?
• How will you ensure that everybody participates meaningfully, and that everybody’s contribution is seen as being important?
• How will you negotiate agreement? For example, democratically, or role based?
2. Time planning
This involves reviewing assignment or project expectations, planning a group schedule, then agreeing and committing to a plan.
3. Plan the process
In planning the schedule, it is important to first identify roles and tasks. These can be structured or unstructured, but you will want to be clear up front on what everybody is responsible for.
Some suggested roles (for structured groups) might be helpful: http://www.ntlf.com/html/lib/faq/cl-utenn.htm
Group facilitation is an important role in collaborating. You can take turns with this, but you may want some strategies for facilitating a meeting successfully.
Here are some tips from a student perspective: [Teamwork Skills for Group Projects]
4. Be familiar with tools that can help
Tools of Online and Hybrid (Mixed-mode) Learning
Synchronous and Asynchronous Tools
Many different technologies (sometimes called ‘educational technologies’ or ‘learning technologies’) are used to support online learning. These tools can be divided into two groups, synchronous and asynchronous.
Synchronous tools allow live interaction - learners exchange ideas and information with other participants simutaneously, such as a ‘live’ online chat session or a web-conferenced meeting.
Examples of current synchronous communication tools include:
- Windows Messenger  (also known as MSN) is an instant messaging client created by Microsoft
- iChat is an instant messaging client created by Apple
- Skype is software that allows users to make telephone calls over the Internet, other features include instant messaging, file transfer and video conferencing.
- Microsoft NetMeeting is a videoconferencing client included in many versions of Microsoft Windows
- WebCT Vista Chat Tool
- Wimba Classroom or Live Classroom at UBC
- uStream TV is a website made up of a network of diverse channels that provide a platform for lifecasting and live video streaming of events online
These tools simulate group discussions but some limitations are that ‘text chat’ sessions can be difficult to follow, equipment to support high quality video or web-conferencing is extremely expensive, finding a good time to ‘meet’ can be a challenge due to multiple time zones, and synchronous learning activities reduce flexibility of access for busy learners.
Asynchronous tools allow participants with very different schedules, and in different time zones, to work together online, at their own pace.
Examples of current asynchronous communication tools include:
- discussion forums or ‘bulletin boards’
- blog - (a contraction of the words web log) is a personal publishing space that you maintain 7 Things you should know about Blogs
- Google Docs
By ‘slowing down’ communications, asynchronous tools level the playing field for learners working in a second language. Many studies have also reported that learners who are typically reserved or shy in face-to-face classrooms feel motivated and encourage to participate in asynchronous discussion forums – asynchronous forums reduce the likelihood that conversation will be dominated by only the ‘loudest voices’.
Importantly, by giving participants time to reflect on each others writing, and to carefully draft and edit their own replies, asynchronous technologies powerfully support the kind of collaborative critical reflection that motivates participation and promotes meaningful learning and transformation of perspective.
**Add other tools that were helpful for your group work here by using the Edit button at the bottom of the page, then click Store when you're done:**
Collaborative Visual Tools
Gliffy is another web-based tool that allows you to quickly create visual maps and then share and edit with group members. It is basically a visual version of Writely and Zoho Writer.
- Did your group use Gliffy? If so, add your tips and tricks here by using the Edit button at the bottom of the page, then click Store when you're done:**
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