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Student to Student Interaction

Page history last edited by Anne McKinney 12 years, 5 months ago

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Reciprocity and Collaboration

Just as the communication between the students and you as the instructor is an important part of the online learning process, the degree of communication and interaction between the students themselves is crucial to that process as well. The students in your course comprise a community of learners. When you can bring them together in shared learning experiences it not only helps them to feel more connected to each other as a group, but makes the course activities more memorable, which facilitates the learning of the subject matter.

 

This style of learning implies more student independence and less "sage on the stage" direction from the instructor. The instructor structures the task or activity, then the students work with each other to sort out the details, assign tasks within the group, and collaborate toward a finished project.

 

Encouraging Collaboration

Some ways you can encourage students to collaborate together include:

 

  • Study groups - encourage them to form study groups for the duration of the semester, or in preparation of an exam.
  • Peer review teams - put students into pairs or small groups to review rough drafts of assignments before turning in them in for a final grade.
  • Discussion board comments - encourage students to help answer other students' questions when they arise in the discussion forums and offer each other praise for noteworthy insights.
  • Opposites - encourage students to appreciate the opinions of classmates whose ideas are different from their own.

 

"But everyone hates group work!"

Ah, group work: that nightmare of introverted scholars everywhere. It's not uncommon for well-educated adults to associate group work with disastrously imbalanced high school group projects in which successful students were yoked with group mates who didn't do their fair share of the work. It's also not unusual for many instructors to want to forsake the idea of assigning group work when students could accomplish the same amount of work by themselves and without the stress of relying on their peers.

 

Unfortunately, this attitude does not exactly do justice to the online student who will be competing with f2f students for the same jobs - especially when those jobs expect candidates to be team players. There are many good reasons why all students benefit from assigned group work, so it's for the greater good that you as the instructor lead them through collaborative learning exercises in groups. Rather than dragging them kicking and screaming, however, it helps to begin by communicating to them various reasons in favor of group learning:

 

  • Interpersonal communication skills can be just as important as learning the subject matter itself
  • Employers want to know how well job candidates can work with a group
  • Even negative group experiences can be turned into positive reflections in a job interview
  • Online group work experience is especially impressive to employers who want to promote global communication and technological development
  • The experience of the group assignment can help online students build valuable friendships with classmates more easily than by working on individual assignments alone

 

It is also a good idea to establish ground rules for healthy group activity. The Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning offers a helpful resource for developing your ground rules as the instructor.

 

The next page on Facilitating Group Work addresses tips and suggestions for making group projects effective learning experiences.

 

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