collab handsThe Importance of Collaborative Skills

One student concern about online courses is the group work. Some students even go out of their way to ask instructors for the opportunity to do a group assignment alone, promising to do all the work that a group would do as an individual. With a well-designed collaborative group assignment, the probability of success of completing the assignment alone would be unrealistic for a student to take on alone.

When you decide to add group assignments to your course, consider the reasons why you are doing so. Is it to make grading easier or is it to teach your students the importance of learning collaboration skills that they will need at some point in their careers? If it is the latter, you will need to make this very clear in your online course. Include information at the beginning of your course about the collaborative project and its important. Timothy Quinn’s article on group work presents that “Inequality, unfairness, interpersonal conflict, bureaucratic hurdles” are all a part of life and students will experience these things at some point in their personal lives or careers. It is important for students to know how to overcome these problems and true collaborative group work is one effective way to teach these important skills.

Once you help your students understand why you are using group work in your course, you must ensure that the group work is truly collaborative. Having students write a paper together does not necessarily require collaboration and can easily be jig-sawed to where the students never have to see each other and come back to put their pieces together. The remainder of this article gives you an example of a group project in which students must collaborate.

A Collaborative Project

To begin, create an assignment in which the students must choose predefined roles in their group. Include criteria for collaboration or the roles in your instructions and grading rubrics. While it may be easy to ask if you can complete a group paper alone, it’s more difficult to split up an assignment in which each role carries the weight of work that can be easily completed by one person, but not so easy that one person can easily take on several roles.

Take for example a group research project with 3-5 students per group. Students can decide on a problem to work on and maybe complete a Six Thinking Hats activity on their issue to demonstrate their understanding of the problem. One or two students in the group could find research articles (maybe 10 or more articles to force them to divvy up the work) related to the problem and write up a short literature review. One student may choose to do this, but a discussion of the literature review and the articles can be a requirement in order to ensure the entire group understands the background literature.

From there you can require that students create a survey to gain information on their own and they must go out and collect survey data about a particular topic from multiple people and places in their community like the library, college campus, and a church community. Require a student in the group to write a Methods section to the paper explaining where they collected all of the data based on where the individual group members collected their data. All students in the group could be required to submit 20 or more completed surveys—depending on the instructor’s preference—and then scan and upload those documents with personal images of the location in which they obtained their survey data.

Another student can take on the role of calculating the results of the data, and writing up the results. Require a final discussion about the data to assist students with writing a conclusion and implications section of their paper. Finally, a student or students from the group could create a presentation of their report in a short 2-5 minute video or narrated PowerPoint.

A group evaluation throughout the project in a reflection or form would help students identify the collaborative skills they are learning by working together.

This kind of group assignment would not only force students to work together and collaborate, but they would also gain valuable life skills they need to be successful in their careers.

For a group project of this magnitude, the instructor needs very detailed instructions and rubrics, as well as a dedicated instructor with solid facilitation skills. Part II of this blog post will cover facilitating group work.

Dreamweaver LogoIf you’ve been keeping up with technology news, then you’ve probably heard about the recent discovery of the Heartbleed bug that has compromised many Internet sites.

Information Technology Services changed the private key on Osprey, the UNF web for personal websites, to remediate this bug.

This change has made some versions of Dreamweaver unable to connect to Osprey. To fix the problem you need to restore your Dreamweaver preferences. Click here for Adobe’s directions.

If you’re using a Mac, you may have have problems getting to the Library folder. A quick way to get there is:

  1. Click Go in the Finder menu  and select Go to Folder…
  2. In the input box type: ~/Library
    (this is case sensitive)
sisyphus

Sisyphus–Google Image Search

I have always been fascinated by Albert Camus’ interpretation of the myth of Sisyphus—the classical Greek character condemned to roll a rock up a hill only to have it roll back down again. In Camus’ estimation, Sisyphus transitions from a cursed creature into a symbol of existential strength. One portion of Camus’ telling in particular is utterly intriguing.

 It is during that return, that pause, that Sisyphus interests me. A face that toils so close to stones is already stone itself! I see that man going back down with a heavy yet measured step toward the torment of which he will never know the end. That hour like a breathing-space which returns as surely as his suffering, that is the hour of consciousness. At each of those moments when he leaves the heights and gradually sinks toward the lairs of the gods, he is superior to his fate.
He is stronger than his rock. (Camus 2007, p.543)

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In case you didn’t know… Google has combined its automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology with the YouTube caption system to offer automatic captions. So, what does this mean? It means a larger percentage of the YouTube videos you’re linking to from within your online course will have captions, which means you won’t have to bear the burden of creating those captions. However, the captions generated by the system are not perfect and might even be awful for some videos, but at least you don’t have to start from scratch, and the technology is continuing to improve.

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Recently I was discussing with a faculty member why it is difficult to truly measure the feeling of appreciation from his students. The course material can be presented and instructors can hope the students begin to appreciate the subject matter, however, we cannot measure their appreciation any more than we can make them feel appreciative of the subject matter. After thinking about this meeting, it occurred to me that an instructional designer (ID) encounters this same dilemma every day. As much as we may want to make faculty appreciate the role of the ID, we cannot measure their level of appreciation any more than we can make them feel appreciative of our suggestions.

The relationship between the subject matter expert (SME) and the ID is a delicate one. It rests on the balance of respect and trust. Each party must respect each other and their field of knowledge. Likewise, each must trust each other that their common goal is the same – to create the best online course possible. Ultimately, when used properly, the combination of the SME and the ID can produce a masterpiece!

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Over the past months Qualtrics.com, the company that makes UNF’s online survey tool, has been steadily releasing new features to the application.

In the latest release, Qualtrics improved the email triggers feature. Email triggers send out a pre-written email when someone completes the survey. This email can be configured to include answers given in the survey. It can also be configured to send an email only when a specific criterion is met. For example, only send out an email when the person taking the survey answers yes to the question “Would you like to be contacted with more information?” The new feature allows the from address and reply-to addresses to be changed. The main use of this feature will be to change the from and reply-to addresses to a department instead of an individual.

Previous updates included a health report and adding a revision history for each survey. The health report is displayed in the My Surveys tab and shows a condensed view of the information about a survey. The health report includes the number of times the survey has been started, the number of times the survey was completed, and information about any ongoing email campaigns. The revision history feature allows you to see the revisions made to a survey. It also allows you to restore a survey to a previous version. In addition, features that make recoding answer values and working with the survey flow easier.

Example health report

Example health report

You can find out about all of the new features released by Qualtrics on their new features page.

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