Executive Summary

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The 2008 Engage Technology Enhanced Collaborative Group Work (TECGW) Adaptation Award provided 40 instructors with technical and pedagogical support to implement technology enhanced group projects in their courses. The support included a literature review of research related to group work, pedagogical and instructional technology consultation, evaluation consultation, support for technology tools and services, and hosting community events to share challenges and solutions in facilitating group projects.

The award program was divided into 5 phases: 1) Topic Selection, 2) Planning, 3) Call for Proposal, 4) Implementation, and 5) Dissemination. Evaluation was a key part of each of Phases 2 to 5.

Technologies for the award program were evaluated and selected by campus staff using a variety of criteria. Ultimately, the Award supported the use of Drupal, TWiki, and Google Docs. Learn@UW and MyWebspace were also used in the award program and are centrally hosted services. In the event none of the supported technologies matched the pedagogy for a project, Engage staff worked with the instructor to find a solution.

An evaluation of the program was conducted to gather evidence of methods of good practice in facilitating technology enhanced group projects. Engage administered student and instructor surveys to gather data on: attitudes toward group work; methods of good practice in designing, implementing and assessing group projects; and, how and if, collaborative technologies enhance group work and alleviate the challenges of group work. The results of our evaluation, in conjunction with the literature on group work, provide evidence of how task design, group process facilitation, and technology choice influence the success of the group project.

The methods of good practice below, resulting from the instructor, student, and consultant surveys, provide methods of good practice for instructors planning to implement technology enhanced group projects. The results of our award program, in conjunction with the literature on group work, provide evidence of how task design, group process facilitation, and technology choice influence the success of the group project. The recommendations follow.

Be sure the task is worthy of collaborative group work

  • Consider the pedagogical challenge. Will a group add value to the task?
  • Specify how the group project aligns with the course learning objectives.

Design the task

  • Identify the types of interactions desired (student-student, student-instructor, student-content).
  • Identify the tasks students will need to complete.
  • Identify challenges students might face. Where have students had problems in the past?
  • Choose a technology tool that aligns with the interactions, tasks, and challenges.
  • Develop an assessment plan for the process as well as the assigned product.

Prepare students for collaboration

  • Communicate the rationale for group work, including why the challenge is worthy of collaborative group work and how the group project relates to course objectives.
  • Help your students understand what makes good collaboration.

Do regular assessments of process and product

  • Use milestones or check-ins to ensure groups are on the right track.
  • Provide students the opportunity to evaluate their group members’ contributions to the group project.

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