The benefits of group work in higher education are backed by research. It enhances student learning, engagement and overall success. If you’re seeking innovative ways to implement group work in your course, WebAssign offers opportunities for your students to connect and collaborate in multiple ways. Here are three easy steps to help you deliver effective group work in your course with WebAssign.
Determine Your Goals for Effective Group Work
Before you start planning and assigning group work, it’s important to think about what goals you want it to accomplish. Your goal may be to:
- Empower students to engage with and practice course topics as a group
- Facilitate discussion among students, enabling them to hear different perspectives or approaches to the course material
- Help students understand the course material better by giving them the opportunity to connect with their classmates and ask questions. Remember: Sometimes students are more comfortable asking their peers questions instead of you!
Once you determine your goals, you’ll have a better idea about what types of assignments and activities will make for effective group work in your course.
Strategically Organize Your Students’ Groups
Within WebAssign, you can organize groups yourself, at random, by the students’ overall grade or by a specific assignment score. Each of these options has its own advantages and can be used strategically to help achieve your goal. For example, you may:
- Create groups with a diverse mix of students to bring different perspectives and ideas to each group
- Construct groups based on overall student performance, including some higher performing students along with struggling students so they can mentor and help one another
Once you’ve decided on your groups, don’t forget to tell students which group they’re in.
Choose Your Delivery Method
Instructors use group work in a variety of ways—to help students practice, collaborate and even study. Let’s look at the most common ways you can deliver group work and some tips to make the process even easier.
Give Students Something to Talk About with a Discussion Board
Help students get to know one another and collaborate by giving them something to discuss. Create groups for your class and then assign a topic to the class or to each individual group. You can ask each group to explain the topic to the class or have them work through a problem and share the steps they took to get the answer. When the group is ready, they can post their response to your prompt in a discussion board. Be sure to ask students to include their group name or number.
For grading purposes, you’ll need to enter the students’ scores into the gradebook under a study group category. Since discussion board submissions are subjective, create a rubric or set requirements for students to receive full credit.
Help Students Practice with an Assignment
After you’ve introduced the class to a new topic, group work can be a great way to help students practice a new topic or complete a lab assignment. Remember, you can schedule any assignment as group work on your Class Schedule page. Then, only one group member will be required to complete the assignment. You can also save time by using pre-built assignments from your course packs.
Alternatively, you may decide to use a pre-made worksheet for an in-class activity. If you’d like to collect these assignments digitally, create an assignment with a file upload question and make it a group assignment. Then, ask students to scan or take a picture of their completed worksheet and submit it within the assignment.
Encourage Long-Term Collaboration with a Project
Projects facilitate student collaboration on a longer-term topic or course objective. Make sure your project is successful by designing it with best practices in mind.
Set clear expectations for your students, including a rubric if necessary, and build in accountability to ensure all group members participate. You can request that each group member complete an individual write-up on the project status to enforce accountability. Alternatively, you can have each group member take an end-of-project survey anonymously rating their group members’ participation. You can lean on the ability to change scores for individual group members if a student didn’t contribute.
WebAssign Tip: Don’t forget that some courses like Statistics have pre-built project templates available in your course packs.
Enhance Student Understanding with Study Groups
Prepare students for your upcoming exam by using group work for studying. In this instance, you can require students to meet for an upcoming exam—or give them a study guide or assignment to complete together.
To grade their participation, require one group member to post in a discussion board forum recapping their meeting topics or answering a prompt you’ve created. You can even ask them to take a group photo, in person or on Zoom and post that instead. If you’ve given them an assignment or study guide, ask one person to submit the assignment in WebAssign for group credit.
Looking for more ideas for effective group work? Watch this webinar recording to learn how two El Paso Community College professors effectively use group work and in-class activities throughout the semester.