Group work is an essential part of any university learning experience as it helps students develop a range of transferable skills including teamwork, organisation, negotiation, communication, creative thinking and critical evaluation. Providing opportunities for students to work online in groups strongly supports their development as self-directed learners.
There are many online tools which can support group work. The choice of tool varies depending on the nature of the learning activity, and so the following examples from UCA courses are intended to illustrate why the tools chosen were appropriate to the specific activity.
Using wikis for a group research activity
The purpose of this activity was to enable students to work in small groups to research a fashion or film celebrity. Students were required to provide evidence of their research and organise their findings in a logical manner.
Why was a wiki used?
A wiki consists of one or more web pages and enables students to upload images, videos, text and links. It was suited to this activity because students were able to create a separate page for each new topic of their group work such as ‘film photos’, ‘brand booklet’ and ‘time plan’. The ability to add comments under each page meant that students could comment on the work of their group members and discuss their progress before making changes to the actual wiki pages.
The use of a myUCA wiki also made it possible for tutors to assess the contributions made by each individual group member and award marks accordingly.
Using blogs for group project development
This activity required students to work in groups to research their visual inspiration. Students were asked to upload images of the work of other artists, spaces, exhibitions and found objects, and write short text descriptions to explain why the image had inspired them.
Why was a blog used?
A blog makes it possible to view progress over time, as each new post appears above the previous one. The use of a blog for this activity made it possible for tutors to view and assess how students’ thinking evolved during the unit and understand how their thinking had been shaped through online discussion with group members. The use of a blog also made it possible for students to apply ‘tags’ to each blog post, enabling them to organise their thinking into topics and themes such as ‘exhibition review’, ‘painting’ or ‘sculpture’.
As with the above activity, the myUCA blog tool made it possible for tutors to assess each group member’s contributions.
Using Prezi for visual research
For this activity, the tutor wanted students to work in groups to develop a new fashion trend, replicating the experience of working in a professional design team.
Why was Prezi used?
Prezi is a tool which enables you to work on a large, blank canvas, rather like an enormous sheet of paper, and this makes it an ideal tool for collating and arranging a large quantity of images and videos. Students worked in small groups and each group was allocated a Prezi, into which they uploaded images and videos around the themes of Past, Present and Future. Prezi made it possible to zoom out and obtain an overview of all the uploaded content, and this could then be dragged and arranged on the canvas around the designated themes.
The case study below describes the activity in detail and the rationale informing its design.
Using Padlet for crowdsourcing and collaboration
WHAT IS PADLET… Paddle is a simple blogging platform that can include text, links, photo, video, audio and documents. The page can be arranged in free-form, grid, or stream layouts. In stream format it’s a good way to create a simple, collaborative blog for students. Padlet can be open access and allow anyone to contribute or password protected and even moderated if you require that option. It can be embedded into myUCA while at the same time viewed from any device via a weblink.
WHY USE PADLET… To work together from anywhere on any device.
– A simple blogging platform to collaborate and disseminate
– One place to easily contribute together
– Simple crowdsourcing tool
IDEAS FOR USE…
- Group Note taking (lectures or seminars)
- Literary Reviews (books, journals, articles, blogs, tweets, etc)
- Peer Reviews/Critiques (peers artwork/theory/practice/presentations)
- Deliver Feedback (unit delivery, course program, learning value, teaching quality)
- Topic Summary (presented using links, images, video, audio, text)
- Group Message Board (thank you, good luck, congratulations, condolence)
- Suggestion Board (written and visual ideas)
- Collective Research (themes, topics, study areas, projects, etc)
- Share experience (work placement, past activity, knowledge transfer)
- Icebreaker/Community Building (bonding, networking, support)
- Digital NotePad or FlipChart (allowing collective contribution
FLEXIBLE FORMATS TO SUIT YOUR ACTIVITY…
This slideshow demonstrates the flexibility of Padlet – making it easy to tailor into your planned teaching and learning activities. The example above was a conference workshop activity with six contributors. The layout can be changed in the controls according to type of planned activity.