Good Practice

Collaborate with Online Groups using Moodle

Challenge

Working in small groups on activities and assignments can be beneficial even for "routine" tasks, as students have the opportunity to learn from and help one another. When conceptual learning, problem-solving, and deeper understanding of content are the goals, students benefit greatly from working in groups.

While group projects can be rewarding and enriching for students, group work presents both pedagogical and logistical challenges to instructors and students. Students with busy schedules must work and learn collaboratively, collect and organize materials, and communicate with one another. Whether your course is hybrid or online, activities and resources in Moodle can help with regard to both collaborative work and logistics.

Solutions

One step towards successful group work is to consider whether you have developed a "group-worthy" project. A second step is to use Moodle tools to organize groups and help students learn and work together more effectively.

Structure the Group Project

Group work might be structured as a research paper and/or presentation, debates, role play, or case study, to name a few examples.

Coordinating group work and learning collaboratively requires a set of skills that your students may not have yet fully developed. Creating structure for group projects can make things easier for both students and instructors.

Consider the following:

  • Group composition: Will groups be created randomly, assigned, or self-selected?
  • Will assigning roles can help students understand and keep track of required tasks?
  • Will there be formative as well as summative assessment of peers and self?
  • What gets assessed (and when)?
  • Who assesses whom?
  • What are the criteria? and
  • How will group problems be handled?
  • What is the training in group process?

Use Moodle Tools for Group Work

Organizing Groups

The Group Choice activity can be used for students' self-selection into groups. Or, the instructor can use the Choice activity to offer some options and then organize groups based on the choices students make. For example, the instructor can create groups of students who take different positions on a controversial topic.

Groups and Groupings can be used in combination with other Moodle activities and resources, such as the Forum, Wiki, and Assignments. Some learning activities might be directly related to a group assignment, while others might prepare students to work together as they collaborate and get to know one another.

Collaborative Work

Forums can be used for discussions about topics related to the group assignment, or as a space to organize group work. Students can post work in progress, respond to one another, and request help and input.

Wikis can be used for posting and organizing research and other resources, and for collaborative writing. Wikis are particularly useful if the assignment requires creating a web of writing and resources.

Assignments now have a setting to allow students to submit in groups, so instructors easily can assign one grade to all members of a group.

Signs of "Group-Worthy Activities"

"Group-worthy activities" are:

  • Open-ended and require complex problem solving
  • Provide students with multiple entry points to the task and multiple opportunities to show intellectual competence
  • Deal with discipline-based, intellectually important content
  • Require positive interdependence as well as individual accountability
  • Include clear criteria for the evaluation of the group's product

Effort Required

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High

Learning Objectives Addressed

Analyzing
Applying
Creating
Evaluating
Remembering
Understanding

Teaching Applications

  • Support collaborative learning
  • Foster critical thinking, free thought, and discussion
  • Check for comprehension or completion