Why Groupwork is Important, and How to Get it Right

The following is a guest post by Brandi So, an instructional designer and online instructor. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us

After seeing a presentation on the benefits of small cohort discussions in online courses, I started integrating a synchronous small group chat assignment in my face to face and online classes. I immediately saw the benefits of the assignment – students were making personal connections that bolstered their academic support network, as well as reinforcing course content in a way that I, as the teacher, could have never delivered for them. But as much as the success of the assignment sold me on its worth, it is the moments of perceived failure that have cemented my conviction to groupwork, small discussion cohorts, and synchronous student collaboration.

Some experiences can feel like failure, like when students differ on what constitutes acceptable communication styles in informal academic settings. Or when a cohort member fails to deliver on their commitments, and the rest of the group has to decide how to manage the setback. Despite how uncomfortable addressing these challenges can be – for myself included – the students learn lessons they’ll likely never forget, while gaining important job skills along the way.

Group work is about a lot more than just deepening student understanding of disciplinary content, although that is certainly one of its benefits. Groupwork offers opportunities to gain exposure to different perspectives, mindsets, cultural expectations and working styles. In essence, it helps our students gain crucial collaboration skills for a diverse workforce. Being sensitive to and proactive about differences in communication styles is critical for cultural competency, and taking on challenges when unexpected setbacks arise is a workforce skill that every student needs.

So, maybe you can tell that I am a fan of groupwork. And as a teacher whose professional mainstay is actually faculty development, I thought I’d share my suggestions of how to do it well – lessons I’ve learned the hard way, in most cases.

  1. Always start with the meta. Tell students what skills they will gain from the experience, and give them the language they can use to explain their skills to future employers. Telling employers that they have experience using virtual collaboration tools, balancing deadlines and goals within a team setting, and interacting with diverse colleagues is not merely lip service. These are critical job skills, ones that you can include in your evaluative rubric if you’re in the mood to drive the point home. As for the disciplinary skills, I like to head over the Arizona State University’s online learning objectives builder to create learning outcomes that actually measure the skills I am trying to teach.
  2. Get ahead of the “bad citizen” problem. One quick internet search for “group project memes” will quickly confirm that what students hate most about groupwork is the inevitability of a member not doing their fair share. There are several ways to get ahead of this problem, and students will feel much more confident if they know they have some tools at their disposal. Here are a few: Create discreet roles that each student must perform; have group members sign a team contract; incorporate a self- and peer-evaluation into the assignment; or have a mid-point check in for the project.
  3. Make the grading criteria abundantly clear, and give credit for individual contributions. Depending on the assignment format, you can sometimes monitor the individual contributions of each student. Other times, you might need the students to assess their own contributions and those of their peers. Regardless, in a higher education environment I think it’s fair to balance the scores between the overall score of the group, and an individual score for each student. Sometimes, I make the individual score worth 25% of the overall grade. Sometimes it’s half. It really depends on the assignment, and the ways in which students are expected to contribute to the overall goal. Last, use a rubric to score the group assignment, and share it with the students in advance of the due date. You can find lots of great group work at Rubistar.org, or create your own.
  4. Don’t go it alone – you don’t have to invent everything yourself. One of the most redeeming qualities among passionate educators is their commitment to sharing resources. I love the zombie-themed Surviving Group Projects resources from the University of Minnesota’s Center for Educational Innovation. And I always head to Merlot.org to search for curated learning materials in my discipline or learning format. In fact, I rarely begin designing an assignment without first looking at what my colleagues across the globe are doing as well. These time-saving gifts from the world of education are sure to inspire, refine, and elevate your teaching.

Author’s Bio: Brandi So is an instructional designer at Touro Colleges and University Systems, a instructor of American Literature, and a specialist in online education and active learning. She holds a doctorate in literature from Stony Brook University, and is an advocate for universal design for learning, open educational resources, and widening access and success for at-risk populations in higher education. You can reach her at: Brandi.So@touro.edu

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

Gain Skills in Online Courses Requiring Group Work

There are many real-world skills students can gain while partaking in an online course. But what about those collaborative skills you may need in your next job or as part of a team at work? Check out this great article from Marian Stoltz-Loike, Chief Online Education Officer and Vice President of Online Education at Touro College, and learn how online courses can teach students about working with others remotely and giving virtual presentations.

Click here for the full article: Gain Skills in Online Courses Requiring Group Work.

Source: USNews.com

24 Google Doc Hacks to Make Your Life Easier- INFOGRAPHIC

College is hard enough without having to figure out how to navigate new tools and technology. If you didn’t grow up in a school that stressed edtech, college may be the first time you encounter Google Docs. Google Docs is great for collaborating on group projects, especially if your group struggles to find time to sit in a room and work on the projects together. Though it is a fairly intuitive program, learning how to use it to its full potential will increase your productivity and make writing those papers a little bit easier!

 

Learn more about Google Docs’ capabilities and add-ons with this infographic from GetVoIP.

 

24 Google Doc Hacks and Add-ons

 

Source: GetVOIP

 

5 Smart Ways to Use the Internet in the Classroom

The following is a guest post written by Lori Wade, freelance blogger and content writer. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us.

Let’s be frank here — the academe has always been a little behind when it comes to practically everything remotely related to innovation. Well, if we are completely honest, ‘a little’ is an understatement here. No doubt it is often the problem with the municipal budget that some schools have terribly outdated computers, but the really troubling issue is that a lot of teachers still refuse to embrace technology and make it a part of the education process.

To put it simply, every teacher these days has to understand that the millennial generation is gradually becoming the major workforce in the job market, and the millennials that are drawing closer to their college graduation are not overly anxious about the old ways. The same is even more true for the new generation of school students, who are now being tagged as digital natives.

In other words, whichever age group you are working with, it is your primary goal as a teacher to make the environment student-friendly. The good news is that you can easily achieve this effect even on a small school budget. The Internet, in particular, can be a handy and affordable learning tool in every classroom. Here are some ideas on how to make the most of the internet in your lessons:

#1 Take advantage of video lessons

Videos offer a great way to make education fun, no matter which subjects you are dealing with. Plus, the days when you had to book a separate room for any video class are long gone — you can now use software to project films from your phone/tablet directly to the classroom screen.

Another huge perk is that you can easily find plenty of free, educational channels on YouTube. Simply subscribing to a couple of video blogs in your subject area might save you a lot of trouble when preparing for the next lesson — after all, most of these videos are short, funny and visual. This is simply a win-win situation both for the students and the teachers! (If you are a student and accidentally came across this article, this is the part when you start thinking of sharing it with your teacher. No, seriously — just make sure to pick the most liberal professor).

#2 Invite remote speakers

Another great idea that will give any lesson a refreshing vibe is to invite remote speakers. Once again, this solution is suitable for all age groups and subjects, but, of course, you will have to choose your guests accordingly. For the youngest ones, for example, it can be a remote type of ‘who I want to be when I grow up’ lesson, where representatives of different professions attend virtually instead of coming in person to the classroom personally. For older students, you can invite subject matter experts — here, the engagement will mostly depend on your own connections.

Plus, the number of apps to choose from is enormous. From Skype and FaceTime to Viber and WhatsApp, these apps come with no fees or complications — a stable Internet connection and a screen are all you need.

#3 Create collaboration groups

Some projects are all about collaboration. All of the messaging apps mentioned above allow users to create groups where members can discuss project-related topics. Another example of a similar app is Slack, which is widely used in a variety of companies that work in teams.

Creating dedicated chat/discussion groups can be very useful for many subjects, allowing the whole team to works towards a common goal. Whether it is a lab report or a training marketing project, the use of Internet and technology in this example teaches students to collaborate, brainstorm, and contribute their share of effort towards the end result. Another great perk is that these forums prepare students for the real-time work environment, stressing the value of teamwork, and potentially reducing the learning curve in the workplace.

#4 Share public files and documents

Speaking of working together, Google suite has made it simpler than ever. Google allows creating shared access to text documents, spreadsheets, and even entire folders. Apple docs also features the same functionality, but the Apple product has its limits since it is very unlikely that all of your students will be Apple/Mac users. Google, on the other hand, hosts its programs on a cloud, using a web browser to access all of the files; so, user operational system makes no difference here.

There are dozens of ways to use Google Docs to increase productivity. The simplest one is to share all of the new assignments in class. Shared files will also become a perfect addition to shared study boards — instead of simply discussing one project or another online, students can actually work together on documents, presentations, graphs, reports, etc. They can even improve their college essay writing by having access to other papers from their class.

Plus, Google docs features the ability to add comments to a document, so it is possible to choose a couple of sample works and share your insight using this feature. Giving specific paper examples and commenting on what is right and what is wrong with each of the papers is the surest way to teach students writing or any other subject in that matter.

#5 Make your lessons more visual

Finally, the Internet gives teachers a chance to make each and every one of their lessons more visual. Pictures and photos are the surest way to achieve this effect. However, the sky’s the limit when choosing visual materials. For example, when teaching geography, you can make use of online maps, taking your audience to the remote locations. Maps can also prove useful when teaching culture and history (for example, an old photo of the location vs. a present-day street view). This approach creates a sense of connection, which is the surest way for the information to make its way into the student’s’ long-term memory.

Another idea, obvious as it may seem, is to use slides in your lessons. This is not a new concept — slides have been used in lectures for years. But, using the internet can give your old visuals a new vibe. By ‘visuals’ we do not necessarily mean pictures and graphs. Those could also be text fragments with the essential information, quotations, and practically any other written information you want to stress.

 

As you can see, using the Internet in a classroom does not necessarily mean that students will go through their Facebook feed (well, some of them will). Still, making Internet a part of your education process has more pluses than minuses. Put some effort into your lectures, try to walk in your students’ shoes, and speak their language — this is the best way to engage your maturing audience.

 

Author’s Bio: Lori Wade is a freelance content writer for Thriving Writer who is interested in a wide range of spheres from education and online marketing to entrepreneurship. She is also an aspiring tutor striving to bring education to another level like we all do. Lori is used to handling many writing orders at the same time and as she likes sharing her ideas and experience, she decided to write a great article for you to show how multiple tasks should be dealt with. If you are interested in writing, you can find her on Twitter or Google+ or find her in other social media. Read and take over Lori’s useful insights!

 

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

Goodbye School, Hello Creative Expression!… Or not?

Now that the Fall school semester has OFFICIALLY come to an end, it’s time to blow the dust off of those creative thoughts and ideas you kept pushing aside while doing all of your other classwork and put them to good use. But, all of that sitting and studying and focusing on subjects like microbiology and Russian literature may have had more of an impact that you thought, because now you just can’t seem to actually formulate or get out those millions of ideas  that you didn’t have time to contemplate when you had other work to do. It drives you nuts, like an itch you can’t reach to scratch, almost like a writer’s block. Wait, that’s it- you’ve got a creativity block! But it’s winter break! And school starts up again in less than a month! So, what can you do to break down that wall and tap into the genius you know is waiting there to be put to good use?

Take a look at this great infographic from CreativeMarket.com titled “40 Little Things You Can Do To Break Your Creative Block”. Try out some of these tips and see if you can succeed in releasing your inner brilliance.

40 Little Things You Can Do to Break Your Creative Block

 

For more information, see the full article here.

 

Source:

40 Little Things You Can Do to Break Your Creative Block, by Kate England.

 

Is your Classroom “Pinterest” Piqued?

Pinterest, the web-based social networking service that allows users to collect, store, and share images and information using “Pins” and “Boards”, is known for its use in the fashion, arts, and cooking industries. However, the app is not limited to personal and at-home use. Like any other social media, Pinterest could have a great impact on Higher Ed learning, both in and out of the classroom.

Whether using the app online or on an iPad or mobile device, Pinterest can allows students and teachers to collaborate on group projects, share both interesting and relevant course information, create new resources, save important links, and more!  This free application also allows users to make purchases directly from the site, or create and publish new content without using physical storage space. With quick, easy, and FREE access wherever there is internet access, Pinterest could be a great tool both in and out of the classroom.

Take a look at this great Infographic from WorldWideLearn.com for more information on the role that Pinterest plays in the classroom and how Professors and Students can use this great app to enhance their learning experiences.

 

Professors, Peers, and Pinterest
Courtesy of: WorldWideLearn.com

27 Tips for Meaningful Technology Integration

One of the great advantages of living and teaching in a world of technology is that there are countless apps, software, devices, and more available at our fingertips to help make learning come alive. However, what is the best way to use this technology in a classroom? How can teachers best engaged students using the technology with which they’re growing up?

Kelly Walsh’s 27 Meaningful (and Fun) Ways to Use Technology for Teaching and Learning discusses the best methods for breaking free of the traditional teaching method. She explains that #EdTech (Educational Technology) can and should be used to to enhance a learning environment. Gone is the age of lecturing and teacher-centered learning. Now, the best way to reach your students is to think like the students!

Interested in taking advantage of the benefits of 21st Century technology? Check out these 27 suggestions for making your classroom “Even More Awesome”:

 

Source: 27 Meaningful (and Fun) Ways to Use Technology for Teaching and Learning, by Kelly Walsh