An, H., Kim, S., & Kim, B. (2008). Teacher perspectives on online collaborative learning: Factors perceived as facilitating and impeding successful online group work. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 8(1). Retrieved from http://www.citejournal.org/vol8/iss4/general/article1.cfm
Teacher Perspectives on Online
Collaborative Learning: Factors Perceived as Facilitating and Impeding Successful Online Group
William Paterson University
University of Missouri-Columbia
This study examined the factors perceived by in-service
teachers as either facilitating or impeding successful completion of online
group work in a virtual graduate school of education program. Based on a quantified
qualitative data analysis of open-ended questions, five facilitative factors were identified as (a)
individual accountability, (b) affective team support, (c) the presence of a
positive group leader, (d) consensus building skills, and (e) clear
instructions. There were
also seven impeding factors perceived by the teacher participants. Although
four of the factors described a lack of the aforementioned facilitative
factors, another three broached new, problematic issues that need to be further
considered in online teacher education programs. At the conclusion of this article, recommendations are provided that online teacher educators might consider as they initiate group projects in online environments.
Characterized as "anytime
and anywhere learning," online degree programs are currently attracting an
increasingly large number of in-service teachers who lack opportunities to
attend traditional face-to-face classes during
specific time periods (Belanger & Jordan, 2000; Birnbaum, 2001; Mehlinger
& Powers, 2002; Schulz, 2003; Zern, 2001). Consequently, there has been
much discussion regarding the most effective instructional approaches needed
for meeting their needs.
Within the literature in
this emerging field, there seems to be a consensus that online instruction
needs to move away from teacher-centered models toward more learner-centered
ones in which student collaboration is encouraged (Barab, 2004; Pierce, 2003;
Weiss, Knowlton, & Speck, 2000). Yet, this emphasis poses challenges for online teacher education
programs. In many instances, online teacher educators need to consider whether
the inclusion of collaborative work can provide a positive learning experience
and if it can be conducted in a manner that subsequently impacts the teacher participants’ own
beliefs about pedagogy (Pajares, 1992). This issue is important, given that in-service teachers are often required to implement student-centered
learning in their own classroom practice (Kochan, 2000; Schultz, 2003).
Although a significant amount of research has cited the
benefits of collaborative learning in face-to-face learning environments
(Johnson & Johnson, 1989, 2004), there are only a handful of studies
investigating how in-service teachers perceive online collaborative group
tasks. As more in-service teachers enroll in online programs, this issue
calls for the attention of faculty and instructional designers regarding the
teachers’ perceptions and viewpoints about group learning processes.
To better understand this dynamic, in a previous study we examined
teachers’ self-reported benefits while participating in an online group project
(An & Kim, 2007). We found that the three primary benefits perceived as valuable by
in-service teachers included the following: the development of their
metacognitive knowledge; their recognition of the value of a supportive
learning community; and their new understanding of the constructive use of
online communication tools.
To further examine collaborative learning in
virtual environments, the study
reported in this article explored the specific factors teachers
perceived as facilitating or impeding their
successful completion of online group projects. Without a proper understanding of in-service teachers’ viewpoints that come
from their own group learning experiences in online environments, the
implementation of a group project in an online teacher education program may
not be successful. Thus, by analyzing the facilitative and impeding factors,
this study has the potential to help online faculty in teacher education
programs better design and facilitate group projects in online environments. The
research questions driving this study were as follows:
- What are the factors in-service teachers perceive
as facilitating their
successful completion of online group projects?
- What are the factors in-service teachers perceive as impeding their successful completion of online group projects?
Learning for Teachers
learning has been utilized in educational settings for many years, taking on a
variety of forms. With the advent of the Internet, online learning has been
rapidly expanding into the realm of teacher education, since it provides a
convenient means for fitting coursework into busy schedules (Belanger
& Jordan, 2000; Birnbaum, 2001; Schulz, 2003; Zern, 2001). Further, online schools
of education vigorously market their programs to attract teachers who want to
attain recertification requirements and to update their knowledge and skills
for teaching methods and new technologies (Belanger & Jordan, 2000;
Birnbaum, 2001; Schulz, 2003).
Although earlier efforts at providing distance education
were mainly based on a linear and behaviorist approach focusing on the transmission
of predefined knowledge and skills, newer initiatives tend to encourage social
interaction among participants (Vrasidas & Glass, 2003). Supported by
computer-mediated communication (CMC) technologies (e.g., discussion boards,
chat tools, etc.), many online courses have now adopted collaborative learning
methods so that students experience opportunities for sharing and constructing
knowledge (Dewiyanti, Brand-Gruwel, & Jochems, 2005).
the popularity of collaborative learning methods in current online programs,
educators must understand how participants experience their online learning so
that more effective courses and activities can be developed. This understanding
is particularly important for online teacher education programs, because the
experiences and perspectives teachers obtain there will influence their
willingness to implement this learning method in their own classrooms.
Collaborative Learning via CMC
and Duguid (1989) asserted that students
need to be able to work with and listen to others and develop ways of dealing
with complex issues and problems requiring different kinds of expertise. To
bring out expected learning outcomes, each person’s contribution needs to be
respected, and the community as a whole should be able to synthesize diverse
views (Bielaczyc & Collins, 1999). An emphasis on collaboration as an
essential element of this process can strengthen group processing skills,
subsequently enhancing citizenship in a diverse democracy (Cohen 2001; Dewey, 1902/1966).
Within this framework, knowledge cannot simply be transmitted from teacher to
student or from individual to individual. Instead, knowledge is developed
through the synthesis of social experiences transpiring in the classroom. In other words, the goal of the collaborative learning is not merely "knowledge
acquisition" and "participation," (Doolittle, 2001; Sfard, 1998), but
"knowledge building" focusing on knowledge creation (Paavola, Lipponen, &
The terms collaborative and cooperative are often used
interchangeably, even though they are considered as two different research
fields. Throughout this article, we use the term collaborative learning and define it as a learning method that
implies "working in a group of two or more to achieve a common goal, while
respecting each individual’s contribution to the whole" (McInnerney & Robert, 2004, p. 205).
Numerous studies have shown that learning
through collaboration, as compared to competitive or individual learning,
usually results in higher achievement, better psychological connections
(caring, support, and commitment), greater psychological health, social
competence, and self-esteem (Johnson & Johnson, 1989; Johnson,
Johnson, & Smith, 1991; Smith, 1995). It has been also argued that
incorporating well-planned collaborative activities into online teacher
education benefits teachers as well as their students, since higher order
thinking skills are more likely to be generated (Schultz, 2003) and to impact the
learning process by improving socialization skills, as well as enhancing
critical thinking (Jegede, 2002). Other benefits of online collaboration that
have been cited include reflection, peer feedback (Ruhleder & Michael,
2000), and the reduction of anxieties in social situations (Gokhale, 1995).
However, simply assigning students into a group and asking
them to work collaboratively will not guarantee that they will collaborate (Kreijns, Kirschner, & Jochems, 2003;
Johnson & Johnson, 2004). Johnson and Johnson (2004) specified five basic
elements needed for effective group collaboration: (a) positive
interdependence, (b) promotive interaction, (c) individual accountability, (d)
appropriate use of social skills, and (e) group processing.
According to Johnson and Johnson (2004), positive
interdependence, which is the heart of effective collaboration, transpires when
each member in a group perceives that he or she cannot succeed unless the group
does. Another element for effective collaboration is promotive interaction,
which exists when group members act as trustworthy members by acknowledging and
challenging each other’s ideas and facilitating each other’s efforts. To ensure
each member’s active participation in a group project, individual
accountability should be taken into account. This accountability can be
achieved when each group member’s performance is assessed. Using collaborative
learning requires group members to have social skills for trust building within
the team, clear communication, and constructive conflict resolution. Group
processing includes monitoring all members’ work to ensure the quality of the
work, facilitating social interaction, and ensuring reciprocal interaction so
that group members can collaborate effectively.
With the advent of the Internet and
communicative media, there have also been many attempts to incorporate
collaborative learning methods in online environments. Hiltz and Turoff (2002)
suggested that collaborative learning activities, which are well-suited for
online environments, include debates, group projects, case study discussions,
simulations, role-playing exercises, the sharing of solutions for homework
problems, and the collaborative composition of essays,
stories, and research plans. However, in reality, most online collaborative
work is usually relegated to discussion board conversations, in which students
merely generate a dialogue with their peers about the weekly readings. Although
this type of activity can certainly be of relevance, the extent of actual
collaboration is usually limited.
there have been more critical views taken by several researchers. Dirkx and
Smith (2004) found that learners are often reluctant, frustrated, and
dissatisfied with collaborative learning methods, especially when working
within small online groups, because they "struggle with the development of a
sense of interdependence and intersubjectivity within their online groups, but
end up holding fast to subjective, individualistic conceptions of learning" (p.
134). They further asserted that these aspects can be exacerbated in online
environments, due to the difficulty in providing the emotional dynamics, which
are often cited as being a critical element of the collaborative learning
process. Likewise, Birnbaum (2001) argued that
difficulties might be more likely to occur when group members try to reach
a consensus in online group work, since there are no verbal or facial cues
to help resolve possible conflicts.
online learning environments equipped with communicative technologies improve
upon distance-based collaboration in an asynchronous manner, computer-mediated
communication puts other demands on participants (Hron & Friedrich, 2003).
Hron and Friedrich argued that online participants need to possess or be
trained to have enough computer literacy so that technology does not interfere
with their communication. They also warned that less motivated participants may
withdraw from active participation due to the extra steps involved in
computer-mediated communication when reading and writing discussion board
postings. Even highly motivated participants
can be frustrated when they do not get timely feedback from group members. In
addition, the accumulated messages on the discussion board may become
overwhelming for participants to digest (Hron & Friedrich, 2003).
Furthermore, unlike in face-to-face environments, an individual’s actions or
activities are not easily visible to others in online environments.
researchers have argued that an awareness of information, defined as an
"understanding of the activities of others" (Dourish & Bellotti, 1992, p.
1), provides the groundwork for collaborative activities (Carroll, Neale,
Isenhour, Rosson, & McCrickard, 2003; Dourish & Bellotti, 1992).
Gunawardena (1995) pointed out that in computer-mediated collaborative learning
environments failure is more likely to occur on a social rather than technical
level, because computer-mediated collaboration is far more complex than
online collaborative learning tends to focus on the cognitive process by
emphasizing task-oriented communication, while assuming that the social
dimension will occur automatically via communicative technologies (Kreijns et
al., 2003). However, individuals will not willingly share their tentative ideas
or critically challenge others’ opinions unless they trust group members and
feel a sense of belonging (Kreijns et al., 2003; Rourke, 2000). Therefore,
collaboration often remains shallow due to the lack of affective group support.
Given these critical viewpoints
toward collaborative learning in online environments and the dearth of
empirical studies on teachers’ perspectives toward online collaborative
learning, An and Kim (2007) examined the ways in which in-service teachers
enrolled in an online master’s program perceived their online group project
experiences. They found that the teachers reported difficulties from
participating in online group projects, yet the positive experiences outweighed
the negative ones. Teachers reported that their participation in the online
group project facilitated the following three benefits:
- Their belief that such practices could develop their metacognitive knowledge, which was
defined as knowledge about one’s own cognition and the ability to monitor the
assumptions and implications of one’s activities (Cordero-Ponce, 2000; Flavell,
1979; Gagné, Briggs, & Wager, 1992).
recognition of the value of a supportive learning community.
- Their new understanding of the constructive use of
online communication tools.
Yet, the students also reported that difficulties in
doing online group projects. Such
issues included cognitive conflicts, individual
differences, group grading, different
time-zones, and the
unique challenges caused by not being able to communicate face-to-face.
current study builds on previous research by revealing the factors that
facilitate or impede the successful completion of online group projects. The
study was accomplished by analyzing the perspectives of in-service teachers.
Twenty-four students (16 female and 8 male) enrolled in an
instructional technology course during the summer 2005 semester at an online
graduate school of education located in the southwestern U.S volunteered to
participate in this study. The course was taught by the first author of this
paper. The majority of
participants were K-12 in-service teachers, except two participants (one
participant was a technology coordinator, while another was an academic
counselor at a K-12 school). Participants ranged in age from 29-56 years old
and logged in to the course from locations throughout the U.S., in states such
as Arizona, California, Colorado, Ohio, Missouri, New Jersey, Tennessee, Texas,
Utah, and Washington.
The instructor randomly formed groups
of three to four students, and each group was provided with a group discussion board situated in the Blackboard
Learning SystemTM. They were also welcome to use other types
of communication methods, such as the phone or email, but most students reported
that they primarily used the BlackBoard discussion board. The instructor did
not intervene in any group processes, except for answering student
questions in relation to the project. Student
assessment was based on the group’s work, rather than the efforts of any
particular individual. A description of the 4-week group project can be found
in Appendix A.
The instructor invited
class participants to fill out an online survey (see Appendix B - PDF) during the last
day of the course on a voluntary-basis. Besides the participants’ profiles and
communication method questions, the survey consisted of open-ended questions,
in an effort to better understand students’ beliefs and
perceptions regarding online collaboration (as in Ellis, 2004; Leow, 2000). The participants were
asked to comment on the factors they perceived as important for the successful
completion of the online group project. Similarly, there was a question
regarding the factors believed to have hindered the successful completion of
the online group project.
We adapted a quantified
qualitative data analysis of the open-ended questions (Chi, 1997; Creswell,
1994; Rourke & Anderson, 2004; Wilson, 2001). The literature suggests
blending both qualitative and quantitative analyses in order to remove
shortcomings of each method when investigating what a learner knows and how
that knowledge influences the way the learner solves problems (Chi, 1997;
Creswell, 1994; Wilson, 2001). In order to do this, coding schemes were
developed, the raters were trained, and interrater reliability was established.
To begin with, two coding schemes (Facilitative and Impeding factors)
were developed through an iterative process
by identifying themes in students’ written production and by referring to the
literature (see appendixes C and D). The Facilitative Factors Coding Scheme consisted of five major categories, while the Impeding Factors Coding Scheme consisted of seven major
Analysis of students’ written protocols occurred at different
phases. First, two coders segmented all the features in the students’ answers using the coding schemes (Segmenting
stage). This served as a preliminary
data set. Following the preliminary segmentation, interrater
agreement on the preliminary segmented units was determined. The interrater reliability
reached 92% and 93% on the Facilitative Factors and the Impeding Factors,
respectively. Interrater reliability
for the analysis of the written protocols was computed by percentage agreement,
set at the acceptable level of 85%.
Discrepancies were resolved through discussion. The two coders
(the first two authors of this article) then individually coded the segmented units based
on the coding schemes (Coding stage). Lastly, interrater reliability was again checked for all answers and discrepancies were again resolved by discussion.
Caution was taken to rule out the possibility that some students were
simply more articulate or fluent in their written protocols. For instance, if a
student described the same idea using different expressions, such as "being able to
work together" and "cooperation from all parties" only one point
was assigned to the answer. In a similar manner, if one student combined a
couple of ideas in one sentence, the sentence was divided into subcategories
of those ideas. For example, one student wrote, "A leader who took charge in delegating roles as well as people within
the group accepting those roles and completing their parts on time." This sentence was
broken into three units: "A
leader who took charge in delegating roles," "people within the group accepting those roles," and "…completing their parts on time."
Appendixes B and C show the examples
of students’ written protocols on two survey questions along with definitions
of each category.
Results and Discussion
Through the data analysis process, we found a
total of 68 units for the perceived facilitative factors and 51 units for the
impeding factors. Table 1 lists, in order of percentage, the factors
contributing to successful online group projects: individual accountability,
affective team support, presence of a positive leader, consensus building skills, and
clear instructions. Table 2 lists, in order of percentage, seven impeding
factors indicated by the participants: lack of individual accountability, challenges
inherent to virtual communication relying solely on written language, technology problems, unclear instructional
time zones, lack of a positive leader, and lack of consensus building skills.
In-Service Teachers’ Perceived
Number of Units
% of Total
- Meeting the necessary due dates
- Completing the assigned work
- Participation /Feedback
Affective team support
Presence of a positive leader
Consensus building skills
In-Service Teachers’ Perceived Impeding Factors
Lack of individual accountability
- Not meeting the necessary due dates
- Not completing the assigned work
- Lack of participation / feedback
Challenges inherent to virtual communication relying
solely on written language
Unclear instructional guidelines
Different time zones
Lack of a (positive) leader
Lack of consensus building skills
This study revealed
many other insights regarding online group projects that need to be
examined further. To begin with, among the factors that either facilitated or impeded
progress, individual accountability was perceived as being the most critical
factor. A lack of individual accountability is consistent with what Latane et
al. (1979, cited in Levine, Resnick, & Higgins, 1993) referred to as "social loafing." This
term was defined as meaning that when individuals think they are working in a
group, they anticipate doing
less work than when they think they are working alone. This decreased effort
has been proven in various studies to occur on cognitive tasks, such as
evaluating written materials and brainstorming (Levine et al., 1993). Johnson and Johnson (1989, 2004) also emphasized
the importance of individual accountability by adding it as one of the five
essential elements for successful group work.
that the lack of individual accountability may be a more serious problem
in online environments, since students are not always exposed to
the pressures and responsibilities of group based work found
in face-to-face environments. Therefore,
online instructors need to provide mechanisms to foster individual accountability
when designing collaborative learning activities. One way is to assess and
provide feedback on the performance of each group member in terms of his or her
level of commitment, responsibility, and participation. Examples include peer
evaluation on other members’ contributions or self-evaluation on their own
students can share their work progress and obtain feedback from other members.
To facilitate this feedback, online instructors can provide students with
explicit guidelines on the group work process, while also asking each group to
develop group rules and plans. Monitoring is also important for easing the
negative effects of social loafing. That is, online instructors need to
encourage students to ask questions and share their concerns regarding group
work so they can take immediate and proper action to remedy problems regarding
It is also
important to note that affective team support was the second highest (25%) of
the facilitative factors. Besides individual accountability, which is directly
related to the work itself, participants felt that affective team support was a
significant factor in order for the group to complete the project successfully
in an online environment. This finding supports Kreijns et al.’s (2003) argument that effective collaboration
necessitates an affective structure. It also leads to some new questions: Is
affective team support a more critical factor when the course is held in an
online environment? Might gender play a role? What can be done to create an
affective structure? These issues each require further examination.
noteworthy response is related to the perceived role of the group leaders. Having
a positive group leader was recorded as the third highest facilitative factor (16%), while the absence of this factor was
believed to have negatively impacted the completion of collaborative tasks
(5.9%). For our study, it should be also noted
that the course instructor merely suggested that each team elect a team leader,
rather than making this a requirement. To avoid a confounding variable caused
by the instructor’s feedback, the instructor was not directly involved in any
group communication, except during instances in which participants specifically
asked for help. In line with this, the groups were not instructed to determine
how the team leader was to be designated or what specific role the team leader
was supposed to have. Some responses about the importance of leadership focus
on these concerns. For example, the following statements were made:
- "A ‘leader’ who took charge in delegating roles…
- "One person in charge of compiling,…"
- "Selecting a person to be the team leader and proving this
person with the support
he/she needs to organize everyone’s submissions."
three examples support the facilitative role of the group leader, some
participants also indicated that there were problems in identifying an
appropriate group leader. For example, one student said, "My experience in this
course was horrendous because we had a control freak in our group……….our group
leader really tried to manipulate other team members in order to get his way." Concerns were also raised about the group
leader selection process. Another student said, "Since no one seemed to
want to begin early, I ended up assuming the leadership role, which I really
Since there was no instructor intervention on
group communication processes (except in relation to the topic), students tended
to look for a strong leader who could help organize the workflow. However, it cannot be assumed that adult
learners (in this case, K-12 teachers) will be able to handle such group tasks
in a proactive manner without the assistance
of the instructor, especially when they need to take on a leadership role. Instead, appropriate instructor intervention may still be needed through the provision of guidelines and feedback on group-based
communication (e.g., explaining the role of the leader, suggesting a new leader
via group vote, giving the designated leader recognition, and the provision of
feedback regarding the way the leader and the group members are working). After
all, participants need to know if their contributions are recognized, appreciated
and verified by the instructor as well as the other group members.
Findings from Dewiyanti et al. (2005) also support this suggestion. They
reported that students who received guidelines and feedback on their group
process from their instructors actively planned and monitored their
collaboration process more than those who did not, although there were no significant differences in participation and
students’ experiences with collaborative learning in these two instructional
Participants indicated that the challenges
inherent to virtual communication relying solely on written language was the second highest impeding factor (19%). Although online communities can provide a
supportive context that makes new kinds of learning experiences possible
(Bruckman, 1998), online faculty need to consider the inherent limitations of asynchronous, written communication. Because of the
challenges of its usage (time lags, lack of spontaneity), and the dependence on
the written word, a number of students indicated that they were overwhelmed,
especially when they faced conflicts and when they felt isolated from the
group. Using written communication as the sole medium caused some students to
seek out other communication tools. For example, one student answered,
Messenger was used to assist in completing the group assignments. All students are not willing to use it, but I
found it extremely helpful to recognize when students are online and to be able
to real-time talk with them, without the cost of a telephone.
A similar approach to implementing alternative communication methods was
found in another student’s reflection:
We used both Group Discussion Board and the
telephone equally. We used instant
message the first half of the course because everyone felt comfortable with
it. In the second half we used the Group
Discussion Board and used the telephone only to confirm things.
problems could have been reduced further if the instructor had encouraged students to
use synchronous communication
tools such as an instant messenger (IM) program or a built-in synchronous chat
program within the learning management system. Furthermore,
providing some techniques about writing effective online written expressions
(e.g., utilizing emoticons or avoiding the use of capital letters, which can be
interpreted as "shouting") might have also added value. Yet, the
problems students faced with text-based communication may have still
remained unless video-based synchronous communication tools were also utilized.
For example, it could have been possible to have incorporated the use of webcams
into the course.
Additionally, in regards to "consensus building skills," which was recorded
as 13% of the facilitative factors and 5.9% of the impeding factors, we noticed
that some students utilized a more passive strategy than others:
- "I feel sometimes you have to give in to some
other people’s ideas so that you can finish the project."
- "Learning to be patient with others who are against my ideas and opinions…"
- "Ensuring that personalities don’t get in the way of accomplishing a task."
- "Sacrificing for the team and the benefit of others."
Additionally, some students viewed the consensus
building process as being a unique opportunity to reflect on their own
- "I expect my students to learn to disagree and
figure out how to still be able to finish a project."
- "Broadening my students’ understanding of a
subject by hearing what others have to say."
[difficulty building a consensus] definitely made me think about my students
and their complaints about group work."
In many circumstances, it seemed easier for the students to give up their
original assertions in order to reach a group decision, in which every group
member was willing to accomplish the task at hand. Nevertheless, it is also important to note that the group disagreements
generated unique learning opportunities.
Overall, it appeared
that individual accountability, affective team support, the presence of
positive leadership, and consensus building skills were particularly critical
for designing and facilitating online collaborative group tasks, as they seemed
to be closely associated with the challenges of different time zones, as well as the challenges
inherent to virtual communication relying solely on written language. After all, these two challenges sometimes made it more difficult for individual
opinions to be heard, which led to more serious roadblocks, subsequently
preventing group consensus.
participants were unable to meet face-to-face, they felt emotionally isolated
and became less likely to take on their responsibilities, such as meeting
assignment deadlines. However, unlike these impeding factors, the challenges
associated with individual accountability, affective team support, the presence
of positive leadership and consensus building skills could have been addressed
through better design and instruction. There is clearly a need for more
in-depth research on each factor listed here, in order to better facilitate
online group work for teacher educators.
Online learning can be an effective avenue for teachers to
accomplish academic or external motivational goals such as salary augmentation or certificate
maintenance, while also meeting various personal commitments (Ortiz, 2006).
Using computer-mediated communication technologies in such online courses can
be an effective means for facilitating collaborative inquiry within a group,
since participants can process information, increase their knowledge, and
conduct reflective thinking about their own and others’ teaching practice
(Branon & Essex, 2001; Dede & Kremer, 1999; Thomas, 2002). Yet, despite
the popularity of online discussion boards and
chat rooms, there needs to be a realization that merely putting students
together in an online group does not mean they will engage in meaningful
collaborative inquiry (Kreijns et al., 2003).
Similarly, there should be a realization that the attributes
of online discussion (e.g., written, asynchronous communication) may cause
different problems that might not surface during face-to-face group work. In
order to generate more educative group learning experiences, it is necessary to
reconceptualize the ways in which such online group projects transpire when
utilized by in-service teachers. Additionally, online faculty should be
prepared to recognize the aforementioned facilitative and impeding factors, so
that they may anticipate the appropriate pedagogical strategies which
may be needed during the online group learning process. A
failure to do so might result in the
perpetuation of ineffective and inefficient teaching practices (Parajeres,
1992; Wang, 2002).
when designing group assignments, it is
important for online instructors to provide not only a clear description
of the assignment itself, including the way the work will be assessed, but also
guidelines for how the group work will be facilitated in order to meet the
The assessment of collaborative work should be
designed to include both group and individual performance based tasks, in order
to increase individual accountability. Positive
and effective collaboration does not happen automatically. Students need to learn how to collaborate as well as to learn how to collaborate to learn. Group members must be able to collaborate and
be willing to collaborate with others. Consequently, when group assignments
are developed, instructors may want to consider adding an orientation
component, providing guidelines in which students have the opportunity to learn
about the group leader selection process, as well as each group member’s
expected responsibilities. Effective
online writing strategies should also be discussed. These actions will
certainly help to facilitate collaboration and make each class member’s online
experience more meaningful.
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William Paterson University
University of Missouri-Columbia
Description of the Four-Week Group Project
your group to discuss a special interest project that deals with multimedia
technology. Each member of the team should come up with one topic and provide a
reason why this topic would be of interest to the team. After the discussion,
all members should come to agreement in choosing one topic for the final paper.
You will write a paper of interest to your team that deals with multimedia
technology. (This topic can focus on discussions from the readings or articles
in the class). You will expand on the topic of choice by discussing
opportunities and challenges presented by multimedia technology and its
equitable access to all students. Your paper should also discuss the latest
trends in multimedia delivery for teaching and learning. The topic selection
should also include an explanation as to why you chose the topic. The paper
your group will write should be 8-10 pages in length, not including the title
page, abstract, and references section, and should also adhere to the APA
format of writing.
Scheme for Facilitative Factors
Meeting the necessary due dates
Each individual does his / her work in a timely manner.
- "Everyone was determined to get the assignment done on time."
Completing the assigned work
Individual completion of the assigned task
- "Each person being responsible for parts of the assignment."
Participation / Feedback
Participants support each other by responding to group
members in a timely manner.
- "The feedback I received from my group members."
- "Working together to brainstorm and complete the project."
Affective team support
The presence of team camaraderie.
- "Everyone has the team spirit to get the assignment completed."
- "Everyone encouraging one another."
- "Making friends with no faces."
Presence of a positive group leader
Presence of a leader who can play both functional and social / emotional
leadership roles. Functional leadership refers to the necessary interventions
to accomplish precise tasks within the groups. Social / emotional leadership
refers to the facilitation of group dialogue (Hotte & Pierre, 2002).
- "Proactive group leader"
- "A leader who sets appropriate timelines for completing a project."
Individuals are willing to reach agreement
without sacrificing their own opinions.
- "Learning to be patient with others."
- "Making decisions as a group."
The instructor’s clear guidelines about the group project and
clarification regarding the questions.
- "Everyone understood the assignment clearly."
Coding Scheme for
Lack of individual accountability
Not meeting the necessary due dates
Individual members’ negligence in meeting the deadlines.
- "People who are lazy and are procrastinators."
- "People who procrastinate because they are trying to be a perfectionist."
- "A member not
submitting his part of the work on time."
Not completing the assigned work
Individual members’ negligence in completing the assigned work
- "People who didn’t do what they were
supposed to do,"
- "Team members submitting poorly done work
and not having the ability to work with others to improve the final product."
Lack of participation / feedback
Not communicating with other group members’ during the online
discussions and not providing adequate responses to peers.
- "Not all members participate in group discussions on a regular basis."
Challenges inherent to virtual communication relying
solely on written language.
Not being able to access methods of synchronus and spontaneous communication as well as the inability
to access tones, facial expressions, pitch, volume, and other non-verbal
elements of communication that help convey emotion and meaning in
face-to-face learning environments.
- "I found it difficult to communicate with group members with only
words. It is difficult to understand what tone is being used and when there
is a disagreement, it can be frustrating."
- "Inability to express yourself in written words."
-"Facial expressions: not able to see what people mean when they are
- "Not being able to communicate online immediately when I needed to."
Difficulties related to the use of technology
- "Poor or unavailable internet operation."
- "Incompatibilities (file, web, technology)."
-"BlackBoard access problem."
Unclear instructional guidelines
Insufficient and ambiguous instructor guidelines
for the project.
- "The project itself was vague."
- "Not completely understanding the assignment."
- "Poor instruction and not being able to get clarification in a timely
Different time zones
The difficulty of having online discussions at one designated time,
across different time zones.
- "Different time zones would not have been an issue in a face-to-face
Lack of a positive leader
The absence of a leader or the absence of a positive leader.
- "Not designating a group ‘leader’ because no one was responsive to the
Lack of consensus
The absence of skills to
reach consensus among group members
- "People who fail to ‘work’ with the group."
- "Each member willing to take a back seat with their ego."