Best Practices for Engaging Team Projects

Karen Valaitis & Amanda YazejianAt the start of the session, the presenters asked us to answer a few short questions through Poll Everywhere. Questions included, “have you ever incorporated team projects in an online course,” “have your students ever had a positive team project experience in an online course,” and “what are the primary issues identified by you or your students.” The interesting results was that last question. It was short answer and most of the responses that came up on the screen were along the same lines:

  • Students who live in different time zones / coordinating avaiable time to meet.
  • Grading concerns
  • Students who don’t want to do the work / slackers

After these questions, they presented the outline of the original and revised team project:Original project:

  1. Team project
  2. Reflection

New project:

  1. Individual project
  2. E-Learning discussion (meet & greet)
  3. Team project
  4. Reflection
  5. Peer assessment

Without knowing the details yet, I’d say the revision process between the old and new projects was pretty substantial. Going from 2 project steps to 5 steps (with the old steps being #3 and #4) is a pretty big jump.Based on their research, some important components to team project success included team interdependence (relevance, goal setting), trust among team members, and frequency/quality of communication. I haven’t done any research on team projects on my own, but these certainly sound like some core fundamental values that shape the success of team projects.One of the interesting things that they keep referring to is that they do these team projects using Wikispaces. It’s been years since I’ve heard that name – makes me wonder why they take it outside of the LMS (or simply why that tool)?One of the important aspects of the peer assessment step in the team project can assist with:

  • Reduce social loafing
  • Develop critical thinking skills
  • Enhance student learning

When implementing the team projects, they run into issues with:

  • Introduction of new technology (tools outside of the LMS)
  • Accountability (communication, team roles, peer assessment)
  • Team size (social loafing, course withdrawal)
  • Project assessment (overall project, individual participation, instructor ratings vs. peer ratings)

One of the things mentioned is that the peer review component encourages critical thinking. I agree that it can be a way of getting them to think critically, but what about those who use peer assessments as a popularity contest? I’ve run into that issue in the past. The presenters do acknowledge that social bias is an issue, but it sounds like that’s just a thing that exists and that there isn’t anything that can be done about it.The survey product that they use to do peer reviews is Qualtrics, which I personally find interesting. I’ve had a hard time designing this type of a survey at work, so I definitely want to see how this plays out for them. The survey started off incorporating a self-assessment for the project. The criteria was based on an AACU rubric. Note to self: I need to find that rubric.The students then receive the same questions, but are asked to answer the questions based on their team members. What isn’t clear is how they identify which peers they are evaluating. It almost seems like they are answer these questions for the group, overall (rather than for individual team members). The last part of the survey contains 2 questions on the Wikispaces technology.Overall, I liked the session. I have some follow-up questions that I want to ask:

  1. Do the peer reviews allow students to evaluate individual peers, or just the overall group?
  2. Are there any special settings in Qualtrics to keep in mind?
  3. Do you restrict students from evaluating themselves?
  4. How do you identify which groups have “that 1 student…”?

During the Q&A, one of the presenters did mention that there are no names tied to the evaluations currently, but that it will happen in the future. I’m curious to see what the statistical differences would be. Another one of the things that the presenters mentioned that Wikispaces does have a history review (similar to Google docs) – they go through the history to ensure that the participation is equitable.

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