Collaborate with Online Groups using Canvas


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 a 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 Canvas can help with regard to both collaborative work and logistics.


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

Structure of 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 a 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 help students understand and keep track of required tasks?
  • Will there be formative as well as a summative assessment of peers and self?
  • What gets assessed (and when)?
  • Who assesses whom?
  • What are the criteria?
  • How will group problems be handled?
  • What is the training in group process?

Use Canvas Tools for Group Work

The Canvas: Collaborate with Groups self-help guide shows you how to set up and facilitate groups within your Canvas course site.

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.

Additional Resources