Why Use Groupwork?


Welcome to Collaborative Group Work!


This module explores strategies and best practices needed to design, implement and assess group work assignments, including preparing students for online group work.


After you’ve completed this module, you will be able to:

  • state the challenges and benefits of group work
  • Design effective group work
  • apply strategies to prepare students for and support group work
  • assess group work using a variety of strategies and tools


Why use Groupwork?

In an online setting, interactions are key. Research has shown that students drop out of online courses when they feel isolated and lack opportunities to interact with their instructor and peers (Yuan & Kim, 2014). Using a variety of large group, small group, and individual strategies can engage students in your course (Boettcher & Conrad, 2016).

Community of Inquiry

As you will recall from the Student Engagement module, the connections and structure in an online course are often based upon The Community of Inquiry framework. This framework identifies the social, cognitive and teaching factors that shape how people learn in an online setting. Specifically, the framework looks at how learners actively engage with the instructor, other learners, and content in order to construct meaningful learning.

Moore (1989) described three types of interactions that would be necessary to include in online courses:

  • learner to instructor
  • learner to content
  • learner to learner

Click on the plus signs in the hotspot graphic below to review each type of presence and interaction and learn how it might be established and maintained through group work.



Benefits of Groupwork

In addition to helping establish the types of presence and interactions, group work has many benefits that make it a worthwhile learning experience.

Benefits include providing students with the opportunities to:

• Challenge assumptions

• Address misconceptions about a topic

• Collaborate with others about a topic

• Develop critical thinking skills

• Refine understanding through discussion and providing explanations to peers

• Develop project management skills

• Enhance communication skills

• Divide and conquer complex tasks

• Design and implement new problem-solving approaches

(Eberly Center, 2020 and Koh & Hill 2009).


Challenges of and Considerations for Groupwork

Though group work has many benefits, it must be carefully designed, supported, and assessed so that it can be a worthwhile learning experience. Many students dislike group work because of previous negative experiences stemming from unclear assignments, a poorly formed group, a lack of support, or perceived unfair grading.

In this module, we’ll explore various considerations, strategies, and tools for group work that can help it be an effective learning experience for both students and faculty.

(Eberly Center, 2020 and Koh & Hill 2009).



Before proceeding to the next section of the module, take a few moments to reflect on your experience with group work.


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Promoting Instructional Excellence Copyright © by Cathleen O'Neal; Constance Harris; and Olivia Pollard is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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