Working well collaboratively is an important skill to teach, but simply putting students together in groups and asking them to work together online doesn't necessarily result in learning. A good way to ensure learning is to provide a rubric to help students understand what is required from them. Students can use the rubric to provide constructive feedback to one another without the fear of alienating their peers because they are simply following the rubric.
At Temple University's Center for the Advancement of Teaching, we developed this rubric to help teachers facilitate online group work: http://bit.ly/2bVu7m3
. Each student fills out an evaluation sheet for each group member, including themselves. The evaluation criteria are group participation, time management and responsibility, adaptability, creativity/originality, communication skills, general team skills, and technical skills. A brief explanation of each rating category is provided by the instructor to eliminate any confusion of what these categories could refer to.
Students assign scores for each category from 0 (No help at all to the group in this respect) to 3 (Better than most of the group in this respect), with brief explanations of every score given. A good practice is to have students evaluate each other at various points in the project, rather than just at the end, so that they can use the feedback to improve their performance.
Another form of assessment is to have groups write out the shared goals of their project. Students can create a shared online document using Google Docs or a similar system. The document should include roles for each group member, including who is responsible for what, to achieve their goals. Students are assigned different responsibilities, but they also provide feedback to at least one or two other group members about their work and provide recommendations on how the other member can improve their work to meet group goals. This demonstrates to students that their individual efforts matter greatly to the whole group.
Finally, grading and assessing individuals, rather than just the group, is critical to achieve the goal of learning how to work in a group. Evaluating each student in a group can seem challenging simply because individuals are not working on their own, but rather with others. This is where peer assessments come in. The abovementioned rubric and communication on each other's work in the shared editing platform can inform the instructor's assessment of individual contributions to the effort.
Teachers can also assess individual contributions by having students record their collaboration. Students can be asked to host live meetings on systems such as Google Hangouts, WebEx, or GoToMeeting, and then save the recording for the instructor to view. The instructor can also view the chat logs and individual contributions of group members in the shared editing system, as a system such as Google Docs will keep a history of document development by color coding individual contributions.
These recordings can provide students with greater opportunity to reflect on their individual contributions to the group, and students can use them at the end of the group project as evidence of their contributions. If other group members report one student's weak performance, the instructor can refer to these documented records to evaluate the situation and eliminate any conflicts that may occur in a group because of an uneven distribution of the workload.
Generally, students who work and learn in groups are quite aware of their own and peers' contributions to the group work. This awareness can be used during the assessment. There are different techniques available to assess oneself and group members. Students can provide anonymous assessment of all group members by creating a pie chart to show how much each member contributed to the group. If a majority of the group reported someone as not a contributing member, the instructor should speak with that person about their performance. The instructor should provide guidelines to students for self and peer evaluation. Some examples of guidelines for the assessment report include participation (quality and quantity), preparation, punctuality, respect, contribution of ideas, creativity, and commitment. Ultimately, the instructor remains responsible for students' final grades, but he/she could utilize the student's recommendations when deciding how to reward individual contributions.
Emtinan Alqurashi is a senior instructional technology specialist at Temple University.