5 Ways Online Group Work WORKS

Concurrent Session 6
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Online instructors may be hesitant to include group work, for many very good reasons. However, group work can prepare graduates for collaboration in their future “real” world experiences!  We will exchange practical tips and ideas with participants for overcoming common challenges while sharing examples of what we have learned!



Dale McDaniel is a Learner Experience Manager with Wiley Education Services, where he leads a talented team of learning designers. He was previously a university faculty member for 14 years where he designed, developed, and taught courses in classroom, blended, and online environments. After leaving academia, Dale has worked with university faculty to design courses in various academic disciplines at several universities. He has made multiple presentations at national and international conferences, including The Online Learning Consortium. Dale earned a Bachelor of Science from Western Kentucky University, a Master of Science from the University of Central Missouri, and completed doctoral coursework in Workforce Education and Development at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

Extended Abstract

Presenters:  Ginny Focht-New, PhD, PMH-CNS and Dale McDaniel, MS

The literature is replete with the learning benefits of including collaborative work in online courses. However, instructors may be hesitant to include group work in their courses due to common real and perceived challenges.  The following are potential challenges:

  • Instructors may not have confidence to try something different, and may feel uncomfortable navigating group work especially online.
  • Instructors may be unsure of how to design and facilitate group activities that are effective in the online environment.
  • Both instructors and students may have limited knowledge about technology options that make group work successful.
  • Students may be hesitant to participate in group work when taking an online class for a range of reasons such as past experiences in groups, an expectation that an online class means they will not have to interact with others, etc.


This session will begin by gathering questions and challenges from the participants and sharing our experiences with the group.  Participants will be encouraged to engage in asking questions and discussion throughout the presentation. In addition, we will exchange practical tips and ideas for overcoming common challenges associated with group work, and share examples of successful group activities.  Based on our experience we see five ways that help online groups work effectively:

  1. Take a strengths based approach in designing courses to involve what instructors are good at teaching.  Recognizing student’s strengths in contributing to group work can lead to a richer interaction online.
  2. Approach the design of group work with “less is more” planning.  This may help students learn, remember, and apply core concepts.
  3. Learn and teach about technology by using multi-modal methods (for instance access/use written instructions, websites, videos, etc.).
  4. Use group process techniques such as making group agreements at the beginning of the semester.
  5. Accept that it is okay to make mistakes, if we learn from them!  At the same time ask students for ideas to improve the group work experience.

By the end of this presentation, participants will have actively explored the value of group work in online courses, analyzed common challenges of group work, examined solutions, and shared successful group activities.