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Tuesday, April 15, 2014 How might technology help improve students experience of group work? Greg Benfield and John Prior.

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Presentation on theme: "Tuesday, April 15, 2014 How might technology help improve students experience of group work? Greg Benfield and John Prior."— Presentation transcript:

1 Tuesday, April 15, 2014 How might technology help improve students experience of group work? Greg Benfield and John Prior

2 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development Learners are immersed in technology Images deleted to reduce size of file

3 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development … they may not make good choices or be skilled users (JISC 2009) Images deleted to reduce size of file

4 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development Is any group work not mediated by technology? Images deleted to reduce size of file

5 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development Case 1: Laissez faire Om, 3 rd year Business 7 modules (one a double), five include an assessed group task (presentations mostly) I think it is okay, because in the real world its all about group work Communication (group of 5) blends the following weekly f2f meeting in a library study room some bring their laptops and they work on PowerPoint all share files on USB flash drives file sharing between meetings SMS messages to alert people to meeting location Last days: furious exchanges of drafts (up to checks a day

6 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development Laissez faire technology mediated group work At each weeks meeting they sit around a single computer and read through what the leader has done, agreeing or making minor changes A versioning problem: What happens is they keep on editing the report and sending it to everyone, so there is about 5 different types of reports in 2 hours, each a different version. Leader/editor spends a lot of time checking for the correct version and errors creep in

7 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development Hierarchy, control Om & the leader solve this problem with the rule of the leader Sometimes, for others in the group, this means it is just they couldnt get the output in terms of quality, which we had required. Which in turn could be said, they did less work

8 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development Case 2: Social bookmarking Jessica lacks comfort with new technology Substantial time investment to become familiar Non-supported software: works differently at home and on-campus some peers have problems using it Jessica seldom explores the technologies she is provided beyond the basics (Sharpe, Beetham et al. 2009) her behaviour with technology is largely tutor- and assessment-driven

9 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development Case 5: Team Challenges First year module Large (average 200), diverse cohort Teamwork skills Group behaviour, team dynamics and behaviour Experiential Learning Series of tasks to relate theory to practice Week 2 teams commence series of 7 face-to-face tasks Week 4 commence Virtual Task, in different teams

10 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development Our Challenge Groups make an online PowerPoint presentation using VLE Teams selected randomly Students have very little experience of VLE The need to provide structured developmental process (Salmon, 2002) But, tutor time constraints Would students engage in the activity? Would students adapt to online communication or revert to, more familiar, synchronous methods?

11 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development Methodology Task co-designed by module leader and educational developer Data collected over 4 runs of the module Surveys (free response, 400+ returns), individual interviews and focus groups Inductive analysis using NVivo © Three investigative themes Communication strategies Motivational Factors Design implications

12 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development Discussion Activity Number of Discussion Posts Cohort 1Cohort 2Cohort 3Cohort 4 Total Postings High per team Low per team Average per team

13 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development Findings Generally, positive perception of the task Over the 4 runs significant improvement in learners acceptance of the task and its management steady reduction in problems experienced by students By the 4 th run, 101 teams taken part, all completed successfully Tutor involvement at manageable level (1:200 for 5 weeks) Task is sustainable – 3 module leaders over 5 years (10 runs)

14 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development Student feedback Cohort 1Cohort 2Cohort 3Cohort 4 No Difficulties to report 5% 8%18% No suggestions for improvements 24%27%33%58%

15 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development Uneven participation Cohort1234 No (% of responses) 12 (16%) 16 (17%) 14 (13%) 10 (10%) Each run the free response survey attracted comments (in effect complaints) about uneven levels of participation Of these, just a tiny proportion (no more than 3 or 4 percent of the responses) explicitly mention assessment weighting or want individualised marking

16 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development Complex decision making about technology use Consistently around 10 % of each cohorts survey respondents recommended that online synchronous communication should be used, usually MSN Such preferences were at times seriously misplaced

17 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development Disempowering/excluding In Team Challenges we found: Group members can be disempowered or excluded through inappropriate use of synchronous communication toolsIf most of the group meet up online at one point then they can decide virtually everything. And then whoever couldnt meet up at that time is just left with whatever theyve decided. James, focus group discussion Focus group recommended no synchronous meetings for future cohorts

18 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development Task design Self-contained within VLE Online support materials How to use discussion boards Nettiquette and discussion protocols Schedule of weekly activities Task developed on the basis of student feedback Role of assessment Ensuring participation Achieving learning outcomes

19 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development Design Developments Assessment stage 1 introduced Team plan posted Encourages early participation Provides focus for tutor involvement Tutor provides timely, effective formative feedback Dealing with recalcitrant team members Identifying them in week 2 Removal from existing team + recombination into new teams Closure of open discussion forums Module leader remained available by – very few problems reported Encouraging equal participation Participation slide Guiding the choice of communication tools

20 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development Summary Use of student feedback to inform redesigns Improvements derived directly from student feedback Pro-active use of online tracking Use of assessment – reward, penalty, + activity organiser Supporting students to make right choice of communication tools Benefits of online group work as a learning method Develop students online collaboration skills

21 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development Peer review In Team Challenges students were uneasy about how they would offer feedback to others if they felt their work was inadequate and about how their own work might be treatedIm in the role of putting it all together and stuff. I may need to delete bits and edit and maybe reword stuff so it makes sense as a whole. And some people may be a bit weird about that or it might cause conflict. This has been found elsewhere: Many students appeared unable, or unwilling to comment constructively on each others drafts (Macdonald 2003, p 387)

22 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development A sense of fairness and moral order * There should be a relationship between individual marks and individual effort Everyone should be able to engage fully Everyone should have a voice Participants should have the opportunity to learn the skills required for the task, e.g. peer review, team leadership and roles, protocols for group functioning * Entwistle, N. (2003). "Concepts and Conceptual Frameworks Underpinning the ETL Project." [Online] Retrieved 29 June, 2006, from

23 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development Academic panopticon Students using institutional technology (e.g. the VLE) are aware of its monitoring capabilities. They may hide (e.g. use private communications) use it to register activity (without regard to quality) expect active support and policing by tutors Benthams design for a panopticon

24 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development Case 3: One-stop-shop of group learning It is an information repository for the group: All our photos, all our scans, all our texts, all our PowerPoint presentations, every book, every piece, every piece of data has either been scanned in and posted there or umm, posted there as a link. Erica uses a Wiki to manage her group projects:

25 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development One-stop-shop 2 Ericas wiki is also a group organiser

26 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development Issues with case 3 one-stop shop makes storing, searching, organising, synthesising information easier not fit for the all tasks the group uses it for requires clear, agreed protocols group is very reliant on the technology Lack of institutional support brings risks: Environment may not exist tomorrow Greater responsibility on individuals to protect their data No recourse if it fails How much of its success is due to Ericas influence?

27 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development Case 4: Basecamp one-stop-shop reduces mess, increases efficiency and accuracy alerts project management tools support group organisation technological inertia/conservatism prevents the group taking advantage of group authoring facilities Up to10 weeks for members to learn to use this environment (even then not all of it!) Other group issues: not the real world group size what is the role of the academic panopticon?

28 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development A project organising environment Basecamp (basecamphq.com) To do listsFile storeMessage boardMilestonesOverview 1.Late items 2.Due next 14 days 3.Log of recent activity 4.RSS feed 5.Whos logged in

29 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development What do students need from a group work environment? Easy authoring File store with version control Visible activity monitors alerts Secure data User activity logging Convenient communication tools built-in Group formation tools

30 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development The new Brookes Wiki might develop this way

31 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development … the old one already extensively used for collaboration

32 Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development References Entwistle, N. (2003). "Concepts and Conceptual Frameworks Underpinning the ETL Project. Retrieved 29 June, 2006, from JISC (2009). "Learner experiences of e-learning. Retrieved 9 April, 2009, from https://mw.brookes.ac.uk/display/JISCle2/Abouthttps://mw.brookes.ac.uk/display/JISCle2/About Macdonald, J. (2003). "Assessing online collaborative learning: process and product." Computers & Education 40(4): Sharpe, R., Beetham, H., Benfield, G., DeCicco, E. and Lessner, E. (2009). "Learners Experiences of E-learning Synthesis Report: Explaining Learner Differences." Retrieved 10 June, 2009, from https://mw.brookes.ac.uk/display/JISCle2f/Findings


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