Developing group work skills online

How to develop group work skills online

To scaffold the development of group work skills, consider the skills that are required for effective collaboration on the particular assessment product.  These skills may be needed in addition to those required to produce a similar assessment product individually. The skills may include:

1. Organisation and communication

Organisation and communication cover a range of professional micro-skills that subject coordinators want students to demonstrate. Tutorial activities and online resources can be used to explain and develop these skills as well as planning and development of group assessment product. (Activity 1 - Form groups of 4 (PDF, 1325 KB))

Explaining expectations of students allows them to perform as required:

Give explicit instructions for online behavioural expectations (“netiquette”):

Use Stage 1 and 2 E-tivities on LearnJCU discussions to develop organisation and communication:

Description of the 5 stages of online community development with examples of e-tivities

Suggest (but do not mandate) to students that they upload profile pictures of themselves to facilitate personal connection in discussion boards

Asynchronous collaboration in LearnJCU:

Synchronous communication

  • Collaborate rooms
  • Google docs
    • Can be used to write documents synchronously, these can be shared with staff using staff gmail addresses.
    • Staff can see revision history of documents to monitor relative contribution by students.
  • OneDrive
    • Can allow students to have secure shared documents to avoid version control issues, however live documents cannot be shared with staff due to the different O365 tenancies.
    • Documents can be downloaded and uploaded to LearnJCU
    • O365: Email, One Drive and Office

Additional resources to support student group work including a group action plan and tips and tools for online meetings for students.

Get to know your online learning communication tools

2. Equitable contribution

Some assessment tasks require evidence of equal or equitable contributions from students in the group, for example, oral presentations may require each student to present a section, whereas other assessment products may not articulate contributions from each student.  Planning tools can assist the students to achieve equitable contributions, regardless of whether the product has identified student contributions.

Planning can reduce conflict between group members.

Explaining expectations of students allows them to perform as required:

Alternatively, group work can result in partial or completely individual assessment.  Assessment tasks can require collaborative process and yet maintain identifiably individual contributions which are then assessed.  In this example, peer-to-peer learning is used in a multi-staged assessment task with individual contributions.  The stages comprise an initial position statement, response to group members’ position statement and reflection.

Assessment task via discussion board

3. Leadership and self-management

Leadership and self-management development activities include:

  • Description of examples and contrast with non-examples for interpersonal behavioural styles (Archer & Hughes 2010)
  • Modelling of analysis of exemplars, scenarios of mixed communication or behavioural styles
  • Reflective prompts to develop self-awareness and social intelligence (Hasson, 2017)
  • Role establishment can provide structure to assist students in working effectively by utilising personal strengths: List of group roles and functions (adapted from Benne and Sheats (1948)
  • Awareness and management of communication style can assist with relationship management
  • See “Dialling down heightened emotions” in (Hasson, 2017)
  • Negotiation and conflict resolution (excellent student conflict support modules for tertiary students).

4. Giving and receiving feedback

Both giving and receiving feedback are nuanced and learned skills that require explicit instruction and many opportunities for development.

Subject coordinators can provide scaffolding such as:

  • Feedback banks to use in peer assessments
  • Clear instructions on the type and scope of feedback required for peer assessments
  • Modelling provision of feedback in context
  • Role playing opportunities with scenarios involving difficult conversations
  • Activities to develop giving and receiving feedback can include analysis and reworking of destructive, inaccurate or inconsiderate feedback, examples can be found in TV shows, YouTube videos
  • Reflection of previous difficult conversations, see Hasson (2017) for reflection prompts.