GOOGLE GROUPS FOR COMMUNICATION ENHANCEMENT IN COOPERATIVE LEARNING STRATEGIES
In this paper we would like to show our experiences in the use of Google Groups and other Google services to improve the communication between students and lecturers in a cooperative learning environment. We will present the details of using these internet tools in three courses of Industrial Engineering studies at Miguel Hernández University.
Since 2007, we are using cooperative learning methods to improve the quality of teaching, motivate students and develop more skills. Cooperative learning is the instructional use of small groups so that students work together in order to maximize their own and each other’s learning. This process is performed using a strategy which promotes mutual collaboration, obtaining a more harmonious and comfortable atmosphere to achieve the learning objective. The evaluation results have shown that the cooperative learning approach really improves the student learning, but we have found some problems in the communication among students from the same group or team and between students and their lecturers.
The communication from the teacher towards the learner is simple, as is done through the publication of documents and notices on the website of the course. However, communication of students to teachers is more expensive, and is done primarily through the use of email. In order to enhance this communication we have experimented in the use of Google Groups to increase the discussion between all the people related to the course.
Google Groups is a service from Google that supports discussion groups based on common interests. Membership in Google Groups is free of charge. So, we have created a Google Group for each course with all the participants in the course (lecturers and students) as the group users. The users can discuss and participate in threaded conversations, either through a web interface or by e-mail. They can also share documents in the site, create and edit new webpages and create and edit documents online while collaborating in real-time with other users (through Google Docs). So, it offers a powerful way of improve the communication between all the members related in the course.
In a Google Group, teacher can make different announcements, publish slides, documents, exercises, old examinations, etc.; the students can share their own solutions to the exercises or they can deliver them to the teacher. Google groups can be managed as a e-learning software platform or Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), but its management is simpler than other popular e-learning platforms as Moodle or Claroline.