How to Use Study Groups to Help Your Students Connect and Learn in WebAssign

study groups
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Study groups are a great way for students to study for a test or work through challenging topics with their peers. Physical distancing doesn’t mean study groups can’t meet – they just require a little extra planning to be effective.

As an instructor, you can facilitate study groups in WebAssign for your students by helping with the organization and set up. Plus: You can even have students complete an introduction assignment to make sure they’ve connected with their group.

Keep reading to find out how to facilitate study groups in your WebAssign course.

Step 1: Create a Study Group

How to Organize Students into Study Groups

Within WebAssign you can organize your students into groups by creating your own groups through the ‘Group Creation Tool’, or allowing WebAssign to randomly assign groups. Once the groups are set up, don’t forget to tell students which groups they’re in via email or an announcement in WebAssign.

Pro Tip: Before exams, organize students into study groups with a mix of students who did well and those who struggled on homework assignments. This will allow high performers to help those who may be struggling in a group setting, saving you time and enhancing your students’ confidence.

OR: Encourage Students to Make Their Own Study Groups

Do you prefer to encourage students to make their own study groups? If so, be sure to give them a little support to make the process a little easier. Here are a few quick strategies you can use to help your students. Share these strategies with your students via email or in a WebAssign announcement:

  • Create a discussion board forum in which students interested in a study group can post to find members. In the instructions, ask them to include their email and availability to encourage coordination.
  • Create an online excel document or survey and share the link with your students. Ask them to include their name, email and availability if they’re interested in a study group. You can use this document to organize students into groups in WebAssign per the tip above or share the final with your students so they form groups on their own.

Step 2: Outline Study Group Goals & Available Resources

Determine Your Expectations

Are you using study groups as a part of your students’ course grade, or to support students and help them practice your course material? Make sure to clearly define your expectations for your students including:

  • How often they should meet with their group (or a set number of group meetings).
  • What they should cover in their group meeting – whether it be reviewing a study guide, or weekly meetings to go over current course topics. Make sure you include the information in an announcement, the syllabus or within assignment instructions if assignments or requirements change weekly.
  • How you plan to monitor their study groups (if applicable). If groups are required, ask them to complete an assignment or post in a discussion board forum after each meeting. However, if the group is optional you likely won’t require any action.

Provide Study Group Resources

For effective study group meetings, make students aware of what resources they have available to them. These could include:

  • Suggestions for virtual study rooms: Help them host their meetings by including information in your study group brief or assignment overview that suggests free video conference room platforms like Zoom or Skype.
  • eBooks: Show students how to find them on their homepage as well as how they can bookmark, create flash cards, highlight, and print book material. Plus, many eBooks also have additional interactive examples and practice questions with solutions to odd-numbered embedded in the text.
  • Reference resources such as lecture PowerPoints, videos and study guides, which can be easily included on their student homepage.
  • Class Insights: Use the Student View to show students how to get to My Class Insights and highlight how they can use it to review their past assignments or practice a topic. This tool can be used if there isn’t a required assignment and you’d like students to practice or review past assignments with their group.

Step 3: Grade Your Study Groups

Set Up Your Gradebook for Study Groups

Before grading study group participation, you’ll need to follow these steps:

  • Set up a new assignment category in the gradebook for study groups. *You’ll use this category for any assignments you require study groups to complete.
  • Include the new category in your gradebook under ‘gradebook settings’.

Determine How You Plan to Evaluate Participation

If you’re requiring study groups for a grade, make sure you determine how they’ll be evaluated. Consider one of the following:

  • Require one group member to post in a discussion board forum recapping their meeting topics or answering a prompt you’ve created. Be sure to remind them to include their group number, or all group member names so you can easily identify which groups they’re in.
  • Create an assignment and have your students complete it as group work. You can schedule group work by choosing the assignment you’d like to use and click ‘edit restrictions’. Within the ‘Edit Restrictions,’ page, you’ll be able to select ‘Group Assignment.’  Make sure to include the assignment in the ‘study group’ category for easy grading. Only one student from each group will need to submit their group’s work.

Grade Assignments and Study Group Participation

Depending on how you plan to evaluate participation, this will affect the way you grade students.

If you’ve chosen to:

  • Ask study groups to complete an assignment, you’ll be able to grade the assignments through the ‘Grade Answers’ link on the Scores page.
  • Use an automatically-graded assignment from your textbook, your gradebook will assign the same assignment score for all group members. No further action will be needed.
  • Require groups to participate in a discussion board, you’ll need to enter the assignment scores into the gradebook under the ‘study group’ category. Since discussion board submissions are subjective, set requirements for length or criteria to include in each submission for full credit.

Pro Tip: You can change scores for individual group members if a student didn’t contribute.


Study Group Best Practices

Keep in mind these best practices to help your students get the most out of their study group!

  • Don’t make the groups too big. Effective study groups should have between 3-5 students. With larger groups, there can be unequal participation or no participation from some members of the group.
  • Encourage students to assign study group roles to increase participation. Students should assume roles within their group to take ownership and demonstrate their strengths. Common group roles include:
    • Manager – The group leader who ensures the group completes the task and hosts each meeting.
    • Organizer – The student responsible for coordinating schedules and setting up each group meeting.
    • Recorder – The student responsible for developing consensus, recording group decisions in the meeting, and submitting answers.
    • Skeptic  The student responsible for ensuring that the group considers alternative ideas and does not draw conclusions prematurely.
    • Energizer/Summarizer – This student is responsible for helping to motivate the group and reiterating what has been accomplished.
  • Create group diversity. You can easily create groups in WebAssign that use either class or assignment grades to pair stronger and weaker students in groups. Also, you can change groups to distribute students based on other criteria not stored in WebAssign or randomly assign students.

Have some tips for study groups? Tag us on Twitter @WebAssign and share them! We may retweet you or feature your tip in an upcoming blog post.

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