Group Projects: Insights with Mentor Commons

Group projects – online especially – have been an interest of mine for a long time. In a way, group projects are spaces for students to learn from each other, collaborate, and form relationships. If you have never heard about Sugata Mitra and his Hole-in-the-Wall project – old news, I know! – he takes it even further saying that kids can teach themselves, given the right opportunity. It is curious then to explore what structures and setup allow students to make the most out of a group project. Is it really true that a team can achieve more than individuals working on their own projects? Are there reasons why group projects won’t succeed and will be a source of constant complaints and general dissatisfaction with the course? How can individuals be accountable in spite of the apparently collective nature of the effort?

In a more formal environment, such as academic courses, one may consider the following points, as addressed by B. Jean Mandernach, Ph.D in her 20 minute Mentor Commons videoHow Can I Make Online Group Projects More Effective?

Dr. Mandernach currently is a Professor of Psychology and Senior Research Associate in the Center for Cognitive Instruction at Grand Canyon University. She outlines 4 things that must be considered in order to make online group projects effective: (1) Designing a task that is worth doing; (2) Motivating students to want to do it by emphasizing the importance of the process by grading it, keeping group size small, and starting early with them in groups,; (3) Teaching students how to collaborate online; and (4) Having a management plan in terms of checkpoints.

Our very own Susan Hillman from the Center for the Enrichment of Teaching and Learning here at UNE sends out weekly featured videos, and that’s how I came upon this one.

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