Examples of Collaborative Group Work Assignments

Crash Course in Cyber Collaboration - Beth Martin

Beth Martin is an Assistant Professor in the School of Pharmacy. She was asked to develop and teach a new hybrid version of Pharmacy 728 - Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experiences using experiential learning. Developing this course was particularly difficult because she was accustomed to teaching lab courses in which she had face-to-face contact with her students for three hours at a time. In this new course, she would see her students for just five hours over the entire span of the semester. She knew that facilitating collaborative group work in an online forum would be challenging.

Through the Engage Adaptation Technology- Enhanced Collaborative Group Work Award she developed effective collaborative group work strategies. “We have had them work collaboratively in the lab before, but we had never explained to them how to function as a team,” said Martin. “Teaching a hybrid course, I knew I would have to make that information available to them in a different way. It made me more conscious of providing my students with a collaborative, problem-solving vocabulary that they can use to discuss and evaluate their own group work.”

Bringing Bach Back to Life - Jamie Henke

Jamie Henke is a Faculty Associate in the Division of Continuing Studies. She wanted her students to learn more about the composers covered in the course Music 151 - Basic Concepts of Music. Traditionally, she asked her students to choose and research a composer and post what they learned in a Learn@UW discussion forum. Looking at the past results of the assignment, however, she found that some students weren’t participating at all. She also realized that few students were reading others’ postings. She needed a different approach.

Through the Engage Adaptation Technology- Enhanced Collaborative Group Work Award, she moved the assignment from a discussion forum to a role-playing forum using a social media site called Ning. The students were expected to work in groups to create pages in Ning for each composer. When this was done, they, as the composers, had to converse with one another. “They really had to know the history of the composer,” Henke said. “To complete the task, the students had to think about what one composer would think about another composer.”

Wiki Brings a Class Together - Tim Paustian

Timothy Paustian is a Faculty Associate in Bacteriology. He teaches Microbiology 551 - Physiological Diversity of Procaryotes Laboratory, an independent study course. Paustian observed that the research groups in the course worked like a puzzle. “Each group studied their own piece of the puzzle, but at the end of the course, when all the pieces should have come together to form the big picture, the students couldn’t see what it was.”

Through the Engage Adaptation Technology-Enhanced Collaborative Group Work Award, he created a collaborative learning environment using a wiki. According to Paustian, the results were pretty dramatic. “It made a huge difference. They finally got it. There was some initial resistance to using the wiki. They thought it was a real pain to learn how to use it. Once they understood how to use it, however, they saw the value. Students felt it helped them to keep track of what they were doing on their project, and it allowed them to follow along on projects from the other groups. The students’ grades and their writing were much better after the implementation of the wiki, but this wasn’t due solely to the intergroup collaboration that was taking place. The wiki allowed me to monitor the progress of student work and provide them input while they were still working on their projects.”

Wiki Improves Peer Editing - Erica Halverson

Erica Halverson is an Assistant Professor in Curriculum and Instruction. She has taught special sections of the course Educational Psychology 301 - Human Abilities in Learning for several years. The sections are designed for students in the secondary education program who are studying to be high school teachers. “The students work in groups to design an instructional unit in their content area around an instructional problem that traditionally is a struggle to teach,” said Halverson. “The students in the class always bemoaned how busy they were and how hard it was to get together for group work and projects. So I thought, ‘Great, let’s set up an asynchronous workspace, and that way they won’t have to figure out a time to get together and meet.’”

Through the Engage Adaptation Technology-Enhanced Collaborative Group Work Award, she designed a collaborative editing site that was used both internally, within a group, and externally, between groups. One outcome of the project was an improvement in peer feedback. While she had struggled in the past to get students to give each other meaningful feedback, the online arena helped tremendously. “The fact that the site was public meant students couldn’t be glib about what they wrote. It had to be constructive,” Halverson said. “The fact that people had an opportunity to be more reflective was very helpful.”