Task 1 - Collaborative writing online
Small group activity
There is a paradox concerning the use of online communication in Higher Education. Garrison (2003, p 48) argues that asynchronous online learning can enhance the quality of learning outcomes and environments, because:
At the core of the properties of asynchronous online learning is the ability to provide collaborative learning experiences at the convenience of the individual. That is, we can have both interaction and independence.
Yet, despite ubiquitous communication by our students using a variety of social media, online communication and collaboration in academic contexts is problematic. For example:
In the surveys of courses making use of multiple features of the VLE, discussions frequently appear as the part which is least used and valued by students … and as being something that is difficult to engage undergraduate students with… Even in courses where discussion is well integrated into the course design, there are still reports of students having difficulties in making good use of both asynchronous and synchronous discussions (Sharpe, Benfield et al. 2006, p 63).
For the first part of this task, each group is asked to prepare a short presentation -- no more than 1 page of A4 text, 3 presentation slides, 2 minutes of audio/video -- which responds, in an informed, scholarly way, to this paradox. Specifically, prepare a presentation on the topic:
How to support online collaboration
To make this task more interesting we ask you to create your presentation using Google apps, which offer excellent collaborative authoring. Please feel free to use any or all of text, images, audio, video. You will need to consider appropriate ways to communicate as a group. You will have a private Moodle forum to use, your own social media obviously, you can meet up f2f if you like, and you may also use the Adobe Connect web conferencing room we have for the course.
One of the complexities of this task is that you will have to move backwards and forwards between course discussions (to communicate with each other) and the Google app where you do your group writing.
Group organisation and process
The small groups will be arranged using the sign up sheets in week 2. It's up to you to decide how best to work. We've given you a set of tips and guides in the readings to help you plan.
Online groups take a while to get organised. So, we urge each group to meet in our synchronous classroom environment (Adobe Connect) if they can to start the activity. We arranged group webinars on the Monday and Tuesday of week 2 to start this off, and we encourage you to arrange another meeting at the beginning of week 3. The purpose of this meeting would be to understand and scope out the task and allocate roles and responsibilities. Groups that cannot meet at the webinar but can at another time should let us know when they plan to do this in good time (several days in advance), so we can set it up for you. After this first meeting, it will be up to the groups to organise further synchronous meetings if they wish.
Your group's Google presentation should be open for the other groups to view. Indeed, they should be open to the world, so please bear that in mind as you work.
When you are ready, please add a post in the week 3 discussion topic to invite the other groups to view your finished product (if you take a peek at other groups' work before this, remember that it is work in progress).
Expectations for the outcome of the small group task
Your group presentation should:
- present clear and well justified proposals addressing the statement
- show evidence of critical reflection on the issue of learners actively participating
- be informed by wider reading which is appropriately referenced
- reflect on your own learning from taking part in the activity.
Expectations for collaborative group work
In each group, individual group members should demonstrate:
- an ability to work collaboratively and inclusively online
- knowledge and understanding of the different roles and responsibilities required by individual team members
- commitment to meeting the task deadline
- A link to the group presentations will be made available to all participants at the start of Week 4 for all to see.
- Your group presentation will form the basis of the Week 5 group task and will be used by participants for this purpose.
- Your group has a dedicated discussion forum named with your group's colour. Tutors will monitor the discussion and provide support if required.
- The readings Considerations in designing online collaborative tasks and Online and f2f discussions - what's the difference? will help you here. The week 2 readings on groupworking and team roles also should help to get you thinking about the sorts of things that you might need to address to complete your group task.