About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 6690-6697
Publication year: 2017
ISBN: 978-84-697-3777-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2017.2527

Conference name: 9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 3-5 July, 2017
Location: Barcelona, Spain


B. Fortier, O. Laplante

University of New England (UNITED STATES)
Group work presents both opportunities and challenges in the asynchronous online environment. Yet, group interactions increase active learning. To foster more engagement, student satisfaction and better learning results, we have implemented a number of tools and will share our findings, strategic considerations, and significance for curriculum development and course design.

At the University of New England, online programs are rapidly growing, and we strive to maintain high quality courses and student interactions. Student success is increased by forming human connections, and group work is a contributing factor to this.

UNE Online offers both matriculated graduate programs and undergraduate, non-matriculated prerequisite science courses. In this paper, we review our implementation of group projects, discussions and collaborative assignments within two different programs – the Master’s of Social Work and the Science Prerequisites.

Currently, we use Blackboard (Bb) groups, discussions boards, and wikis to foster student interaction. Each of these includes a variety of formats. Students may have course-long group projects, which include informational or advocacy websites, group scripts using Google Docs, literature reviews in discussion forums, current event discussions, medicine compendiums using the wiki tool, etc.

While we have included group work and collaborative assignments in our courses, we have found limitations and challenges. In Bb groups, we have limited tools, no chat feature, poor group management, a subpar tracking and notification system, grading issues, unequal student contributions. As a way of tracking, instructors ask students to report on their group experiences, and it is invasive to the group process.

For these reasons, we have searched for collaboration tools that integrate with Bb, track student participation and contributions, allow students to publish their projects outside of the LMS (optionally), allow instructors to invite outside participants/experts as needed; and work on multiple platforms and devices. These tools must allow flexible membership (study groups, for instance).

We have collected data regarding student performance, course completion and overall student satisfaction and have used this data to inform implementation of collaborative assignments and group projects with faculty members who are willing to pilot various techniques and strategies.

After discussions were added to self-paced courses, many students reported they felt more engaged and more connected and they enjoyed the increased instructor presence. Faculty, similarly, reported they felt more connected to students. Furthermore, in courses with group projects, we have received student feedback indicating that they enjoy the group process and the increased learning that correlates with group work.

As we move forward, this research, along with literature review of the topic, informs many strategic considerations and sets the foundation for which we base pedagogical decisions. In addition to helping us to shape and structure our group projects, it has also helped us to identify technological tools that work best for group work in the online environment.
author = {Fortier, B. and Laplante, O.},
series = {9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies},
booktitle = {EDULEARN17 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-697-3777-4},
issn = {2340-1117},
doi = {10.21125/edulearn.2017.2527},
url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.21125/edulearn.2017.2527},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Barcelona, Spain},
month = {3-5 July, 2017},
year = {2017},
pages = {6690-6697}}
AU - B. Fortier AU - O. Laplante
SN - 978-84-697-3777-4/2340-1117
DO - 10.21125/edulearn.2017.2527
PY - 2017
Y1 - 3-5 July, 2017
CI - Barcelona, Spain
JO - 9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
JA - EDULEARN17 Proceedings
SP - 6690
EP - 6697
ER -
B. Fortier, O. Laplante (2017) BUILDING A COMMUNITY ONE GROUP AT A TIME, EDULEARN17 Proceedings, pp. 6690-6697.