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image showing unhappy team member

Most students have mixed feelings about group work and usually moan and groan when they find out they are required to work on a group assignment. This is also true for students taking online classes. Group work is more challenging for online students because they may have to work with peers in different time zones, use different technologies for online collaboration, and communicate in ways that can make it difficult to understand someone’s personality or tone.

Many students cite lack of cooperation, work equity and dependency on others as major factors in disliking group work. Ironically, this is precisely why group work is essential for learning.

Online Group Projects — Yikes! You can hear the moans and groans of students echoing through your computer monitors as you start the first week of your online course. The reasons for requiring a group project vary from one discipline to another, but there are educational and career motives for requiring group projects.

Steven Johnson’s "Where good ideas come from" video gives an excellent explanation as to why group work is important.

Successful online group collaborative assignments can be a challenge in an online course. In a Faculty Focus article, Gregory Wells, instructional designer at Colorado State University, provided a few suggestions for improving online group work assignments. Those suggestions are:

Define the Project - the project should be integrated into the course objectives and not be viewed as an extra assignment or busy work. The project should allow students to practice specific skills based on the objectives of the course and demonstrate the ability to apply learning to a specific project.
Establish Milestones - the project should include specific milestones during the course. For example, require an outline, a project scope, a requirements document, and other pertinent deliverables.
Use the Learning Management System (Brightspace) - offer private group discussion areas and other collaboration tools that will encourage both communication and participation.
Simplify and Clarify Grading - it is imperative that you establish clear grading expectations for the group project.
Provide Encouragement - it is important to encourage and communicate the specific details of the project. Instructors can not assume students have the knowledge, competencies and skills necessary to engage in group work. They must prepare students for the obstacles they may face.

Following Gregory’s suggestions will not eliminate all of the potential issues that come into play with online group work, but these suggestions will certainly minimize the issues and can turn those moans and groans into excited and energized students that understand the importance of group work.

For more information on Gregory’s suggestions, read his article, “Five Steps to Improving Online Group Work Assignments.”

teamwork word cloud

Additionally, you may find helpful information in the following resources:

1

gears silhouette teamwork

Online groups can enrich class discussion and provide a virtual environment for sharing information. You can use groups to organize users’ work on projects and assignments, or you can create special work areas for users with different learning needs. The Groups tool allows instructors to form virtual groups of students to support peer collaboration.

Users can belong to multiple groups within the same course. For example, each user can simultaneously belong to a group for class projects, a group for special interest discussions, and a group for advanced users. Each group can have its own discussion forums, assignments, and locker area to work in. You can grade members of groups individually or as a team.

Groups can be designated as Self Enrollment (allows students to add themselves to a Group), No Auto Enrollment (instructor assigns students to Groups), or random enrollment (Brightspace system distributes students equally into Groups).

Group Enrollment Type Description
# of Groups

Groups of #

Groups will be created by either number of groups (i.e., 4 groups total) or group size (i.e., groups of 4 students). Students will be randomly assigned to each group.
# of Groups - No Auto Enrollment This option allows instructors to manually assign students to groups.
# of Groups - Self Enrollment

Groups of # - Self Enrollment

# of Groups, Capacity of # – Self Enrollment

Blank groups will be created for students to sign-up for. Students will be able to see the other members of their group.
Single user, member-specific groups This option creates groups of one (1). Each group has a single user where the first name and last name of the learner is the name of the group.

Important: Currently, there is no way to hide the names of group members from other students who are in the same group. Therefore, creating groups for remedial or disability purposes could violate confidentiality laws if group names and/or group members makes the purpose of the group obvious.

Follow these steps to do it.

To create a group category you should:

  1. On the navbar, click Groups.
  2. On the Manage Groups page, click New Category.
  3. Enter a Category Name and Description.
  4. Select an Enrollment Type from the drop-down list.
  5. Depending on the chosen Enrollment Type, enter the Number of Groups to create, the Number of Users per group, or both.
  6. To apply a distinctive prefix to each group name and code in the category, enter it in the Group Prefix field. If you do not fill in this field, the prefix defaults to "Group".
  7. Depending on the chosen Enrollment Type, to automatically enroll users to groups, select Auto-enroll new users.
  8. Depending on the chosen Enrollment Type, to randomly place users in groups, select Randomize users in groups. If you do not choose this option, users are placed alphabetically based on the Classlist.
  9. If you select an Enrollment Type that supports self enrollment, to set a deadline after which learners can no longer self enroll in the group, select Set Self Enrollment Expiry Date.
  10. Click Save.

To create a group you should:

Note: Groups reside in categories. You must create a category before you can create a group. These instructions assume you have already created a category for the group.

  1. On the navbar, click Groups.
  2. On the Manage Groups page, from the View Categories drop-down list, select the category you want to add a group to.
  3. From the context menu of the category, click Add Group.
  4. If you do not want to use the default name provided, enter a group name.
  5. If you do not want to use the default group code provided, enter a group code.
  6. Enter a description for the group.
  7. Click Save.

Want more information?

Groups Tool Quick Reference Guide (pdf)
Create Group Work Areas for Learners
Create a Group (video)
Understand Group Enrollment Options (video)
Modify Group Enrollment (video)
Best Practices for Setting Up Groups

View all the Brightspace training recaps
Brightspace Known Issues
Continuous Delivery release notes
Request a sandbox course
Sign-up for Brightspace training sessions
You can find Brightspace help at D2L's website.
Join the Brightspace Community.
Try these Brightspace How-To documents.
Visit our Brightspace FAQs for additional Brightspace information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Note: Are you doing something innovative in Brightspace or perhaps you've discovered a handy tip? Share how you are using Brightspace in your teaching and learning in The Orange Room.

by Janice Florent

image showing unhappy team member

Most students have mixed feelings about group work and usually moan and groan when they find out they are required to work on a group assignment. This is also true for students taking online classes. Group work is more challenging for online students because they may have to work with peers in different time zones, use different technologies for online collaboration, and communicate in ways that can make it difficult to understand someone’s personality or tone.

Many students cite lack of cooperation, work equity and dependency on others as major factors in disliking group work. Ironically, this is precisely why group work is essential for learning.

Online Group Projects — Yikes! You can hear the moans and groans of students echoing through your computer monitors as you start the first week of your online course. The reasons for requiring a group project vary from one discipline to another, but there are educational and career motives for requiring group projects.

Steven Johnson’s "Where good ideas come from" video gives an excellent explanation as to why group work is important.

Successful online group collaborative assignments can be a challenge in an online course. In a recent Faculty Focus article, Gregory Wells, instructional designer at Colorado State University, provided a few suggestions for improving online group work assignments. Those suggestions are:

Define the Project - the project should be integrated into the course objectives and not be viewed as an extra assignment or busy work.
Establish Milestones - the project should include specific milestones during the course.
Use the Learning Management System (Blackboard) - offer private group discussion areas, chat areas, and other collaboration tools that will encourage both communication and participation.
Simplify and Clarify Grading - it is imperative that you establish clear grading expectations for the group project.
Provide Encouragement - it is important to encourage and communicate the specific details of the project. Instructors can not assume students have the knowledge, competencies and skills necessary to engage in group work. They must prepare students for the obstacles they may face.

Following Gregory’s suggestions will not eliminate all of the potential issues that come into play with online group work, but these suggestions will certainly minimize the issues and can turn those moans and groans into excited and energized students that understand the importance of group work.

For more information on Gregory’s suggestions, read his article, “Five Steps to Improving Online Group Work Assignments.”

teamwork word cloud

Additionally, you may find helpful information in these online group work resources:

2

image showing a someone drawing light bulbs on a  blackboard

Online groups can enrich class discussion and provide a virtual environment for sharing information. The Groups tool allows instructors to form virtual groups of students to support peer collaboration. Groups can be easily created one at a time or in sets. Groups can be designated as Self-Enroll (allows students to add themselves to a Group), Manual Enroll (instructor assigns students to Groups), or Random Enroll (Blackboard system distributes students equally into Groups). Once created, each Group has its own space in the course which allows the students to work together. The instructor can enable an assortment of tools for the Groups (i.e., blogs, wikis, journals, discussion boards, file exchange) to help students collaborate. Students can belong to multiple Groups simultaneously, so an instructor might assign students to different Groups for different assignments or projects.

Follow these steps to do it.

To create a group and assign students to the group you should:

  1. In the [Control Panel], click on [Users and Groups] to expand it, and then select [Groups].
  2. Click on [Create Single Group] and select [Manual Enroll].
  3. Select whether the new group is available to students.
  4. Select the collaboration tools to make available to the group. Select the grading option if the Group Blog, Group Journal, or Group Wiki contributions will be graded and type points possible. Once the grade setting is made, it cannot be reversed.
  5. Select whether to allow members to add modules to the group home page. Only the person who added the modules can view them.
  6. Select members by moving them from the Items to Select box to the Selected Items box using the right-pointing arrow.
  7. Click [Submit].

To create a group set and assign students to the groups you should:

  1. In the [Control Panel], click on [Users and Groups] to expand it, and then select [Groups].
  2. Click on [Create Group Set] on the action bar to access the drop-down list.
  3. Select the type of group set you want to create (i.e., Manual Enroll, Self-Enroll, or Random Enroll).
  4. Choose your Group options. The options presented are dependent on type of group set you are creating.
  5. Click [Submit].

Want more information?

Getting Started with Groups (pdf)
Working with Course Groups
Create Single Group Video [03:39]
Create Group Sets Video [02:28]
Explore Blackboard’s On Demand Learning Center.
Try these Blackboard How-To documents.
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.