Improving the odds of students effectively engaging in collaborative work

Posted: Tuesday, October 7, 2008 | Posted by Joni Dunlap | Labels: , ,

One instructional strategy that I use a lot in my online and on-campus courses is collaboration -- group work, teamwork, peer review, connecting with professional communities, and so forth. I like to involve students in collaboration because:

  • Group work can help counter the isolation some students may feel in an online course.
  • Exposing students to multiple perspectives and approaches can open their eyes to diverse ideas.
  • Students can achieve higher expectations with collegial support.
  • The quality of individual student work can be enhanced through collaboration.
  • It is a valuable professional and lifelong learning skill.

However, when I am not thoughtful about it and don't provide some structure around students’ collaborative activities, these activities tend to lead to a lot of problems.

I have a put together a handout that lists several guidelines (24 actually, so I need at least 1 more because 24 is bugging me...chocolate to the first person who posts the 25th guideline!) for improving the odds of students effectively engaging in collaborative work. These guidelines cover:
  • Creating a supportive structure for students’ collaborative work
  • Forming collaborative student groups
  • Helping collaborative student groups manage the work
  • Assessing collaborative work

During our FLC online discussion on Friday, October 10th from 11am to noon, let’s explore how we engage online students in collaborative work, what types of collaborative projects we have going on, and what works and doesn’t work. See you then!


  1. Brian Yuhnke said...
  2. I had an interesting professor back in college that gave us a very strict format to writing our test essays. After completing the test we were then instructed to switch them up with a partner and grade them based on the format. We were also instructed to give the person we were grading an "A" At the time it seemed like the best way to collaborate (go figure) But now after reading your post I'm thinking I would have much rather have collaborated using your ideas.

  3. Rod said...
  4. Joni, I really appreciate the thought that you have given to this! I do some of these things, most by the seat of my pants, and I know that I can use your ideas to help mine get better. A 25th? Let me think on that.


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