Faculty Experiences with Managing Team Assignments in Online Courses

Concurrent Session 2

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Team-Based Learning is an effective pedagogical approach that promotes: active learning, student engagement, collaboration, stimulation of critical thinking and problem solving, development of project management and conflict resolution skills, and accountability to the team in the online classrooms. It creates a mechanism for experiential learning by mimicking work based teams as used in many employment settings. As a result of effectively managed online team assignments, students are offered opportunities to apply course concepts thereby enriching their learning, while developing the essential skills to work effectively as a team. During the session research and evidenced based best practices be presented on faculty experiences with managing team assignments in online courses. In addition, the audience will be engaged using a number of techniques including small group discussions, and interactive question and answer dialogue.

Presenters

Debbie M. Beck, PhD, MSA/MSN, RN, CNE is an accomplished educator, consultant, and administrator with over 35 years of experience in the nursing and health care field. She has been recognized by the International Nurses Association for outstanding leadership and for contributions to health care worldwide. Her background includes experience as an Associate Professor, Consultant, University Chair, Head Nurse, Nursing Supervisor, and Faculty Mentor. In the academic environment Dr. Beck has taught in undergraduate and graduate programs in traditional classroom settings, online, and in blended modalities for over 20 years. She is a Subject Matter Expert, an active member of Curriculum Development and Design, Assessment and Policy development for a university based nursing program. As a Campus College Chair, she supervised, coordinated, and evaluated educational programs and operational activities for undergraduate and graduate Nursing and Health Care offerings at 7 Campuses. She has planned and participated in the development of several community service and CEU educational seminars and conferences. Administrative experiences in practice settings include development and implementation of multiple quality assurance improvements, recruitment, retention, and evaluation of department staff. Dr. Beck is a member of multiple social service and professional nursing and organizations, is published and continues to be actively engaged in research

Extended Abstract

Faculty Experiences with Managing Team Assignments in Online Courses

Team-Based Learning is a powerful instructional strategy that can be utilized with college students at any level and within any discipline. Team-Based Learning is an effective pedagogical approach that promotes: active learning, student engagement, collaboration, stimulation of critical thinking and problem solving, development of project management and conflict resolution skills, and accountability to the team in the online classrooms. It creates a mechanism for experiential learning by mimicking work based teams as used in many employment settings. As a result of effectively managed online team assignments, students are offered opportunities to apply course concepts thereby enriching their learning, while developing the essential skills to work effectively as a team. During the session research and evidenced based best practices be presented on faculty experiences with managing team assignments in online courses. In addition, the audience will be engaged using a number of techniques including small group discussions, and interactive question and answer dialogue.

Introduction & Background:

Most organizations require employees to work collaboratively with other members of a team in some capacity. The inability to work collaboratively can limit effective communication, productivity, cause quality or customer service concerns, and threaten safety (Gates, 2010; Ibrahim & Qalawa, 2016; Oiry, 2009; Oluremi, Ayoko, Konrad &  Boyle, 2012; Shanta & Eliason, 2014).  Employees who are not able to collaborate and work harmoniously as a productive unit can pose a risk to the organization (Castner & Dean-Baar, 2014; Griffin & Clark, 2014; Ibrahim & Qalawa, 2016; Judd, 2013). Effective  management of work teams fosters collaboration, creative problem solving, fosters the development of cohesive work teams, and  moves the organization to higher levels of productivity (Gates, 2010; Oiry, 2009; Samantara & Sharma, 2016). In order to best prepare students to transition effectively into workplace settings, exposure to working in teams is an essential skill that must be mastered in the academic environment (Olson, Ringhand, Kalinski, & Ziegler, 2015).

Purpose:

The purpose of this research was to explore faculty experiences in managing team assignments in online courses including: issues or conflicts that occurred, strategies used to resolve problems within the team, sharing of best practices, and implications for online educators.

Research Question:

What are faculty experiences in managing online team assignments in their courses?  

Method:

A basic qualitative research design was used for this study (Merriman, 2009). The research proposal was peer reviewed and validated by experienced qualitative investigators. Both adjunct and full time faculty that teach in undergraduate and graduate online programs were invited by university administration to participate in an asynchronous online interactive faculty forum used as a focus group (Stancanelli, 2010; Wettergreen, Erikson, Nilsson, Jervaras, & Lampic, 2016) at a large U.S. based university. The forum was open for posting for 3 weeks, and later archived for public viewing at any time. University approval was granted for the study.  Faculty were informed that participating in the forum was voluntary, and only those faculty who wished to participate clicked on the link provided to engage in the forum provided.  Open ended questions were asked based on a cursory integrative review of the literature, and posted to the forum to elicit faculty responses. Follow up probing questions were also generated based on faculty posts.

Data Collection:

Faculty from undergraduate and graduate programs across all disciplines served as the key informants in this study.  Participants revealed experiences, perceptions, and their understanding of the phenomenon (Yin, 2011).  An interview protocol was the tool used to guide the online discussions and collect the data (Rubin & Rubin, 2012; Yin, 2011).  Data collection continued until saturation of emerging themes became apparent.  In order to avoid possible threats to the research and test the credibility of the conclusions, a variety of methods were used to counterbalance flaws that may occur with any single method; a reflective journal, field notes, verbatim transcripts from the online focus group, and the use of a peer reviewer were utilized for triangulation (Creswell, 2013).  

Analysis:

Transcripts of the forum were printed and pseudonyms were assigned to all faculty participants.  The data was coded, written in rich thick descriptions, and themes were generated (Maxwell, 2013; Saldana, 2012).  In addition, a process of formal peer review of data analysis and interpretation of findings was done by experts in the field, as well as experienced qualitative investigators with different backgrounds.

Findings:

Themes identified included: a) multiple issues surround a team assignment; b) managing team assignments are time consuming; c) students lack knowledge of group process and how to be a team player; d) communication patterns between generations complicate collaboration e) conflict management strategies are essential for survival; f) fair and impartial grading is difficult; g) best practices save the day.

Discussion:

While many faculty understand the value of online team assignments, faculty from all disciplines were concerned that students had little knowledge about the group process and how to manage and organize their time as a participant in a team assignment. Collaboration was further complicated by differences in communication patterns between students of different cultures and generations.  A variety of examples were shared illustrating the types of conflicts that surfaced in managing team assignments online.  Current university policies, use of team guidelines, associated criteria from the rubrics, and peer review used by faculty to guide the grading of team assignments were revealed.  In addition, faculty reported best practices, and implications for educators that manage online team assignments.

Conclusion:

While faculty believe it is important for students to be exposed to team assignments to mimic real world work environments, many struggle with managing this process in their online courses. The findings from this research add value to the limited literature available on the subject across academic disciplines. Best practices can be utilized by faculty in all programs to more effectively manage team assignments in an online learning environment to facilitate successful student outcomes.

Session Goal:

Provide an overview of research on Faculty Experiences with Managing Team Assignments in Online Courses

Objectives:

           The learner will be able to:

  • Describe the findings of a qualitative research study outlining faculty experiences with managing online team assignments across multiple disciplines.
  • Identify best practices based on evidence in managing team assignments in an online environment
  • Explain the associated implications of the research findings related to managing team assignments in online courses.