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Before an instructor starts assigning group projects in their online classes, it’s important to ask, can they work? In “Teacher Perspectives on Online Collaborative Learning: Factors Perceived as Facilitating and Impeding Successful Online Group Work”, 24 students in an online instructional technology course participated in a group project to determine the challenges of online group work.
According to the study, individual accountability. A lack of individual accountability can also be called “social loafing.” Social loafing refers to the concept that when individuals think they are working in a group, they anticipate doing less work than when they think they are working alone. While the lack of individual accountability is common in general group projects, not just online group projects, it is more serious in online environments because students are not always exposed to the pressures and responsibilities of group based work found face-to-face.
Relying on virtual communication and written language. While there are many virtual communication options, there are limitations using them. For example, there can be time lags in discussions, or students in different time zones.
What are some ways to help students communicate?
Overall, the study consensus is that in order for students to have success in online group projects, individual accountability, and virtual communication needs to be addressed. Approaching students beforehand with solutions to these roadblocks will help students learn how to collaborate together, as well as collaborate to learn, which is the overall goal for group projects.