Group Work: Students Don’t Have to Hate it

Concurrent Session 4
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

We know that students and even some instructors, especially online, view group work unfavorably. Does this have to be the case? There are different levels of group work that can ease both students and instructors into the benefits of collaboration that can only be practiced through a group work experience.


Dacia M. McCoy, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor- Educator at the University of Cincinnati in the Behavior Analysis Programs. In 2015, she earned her Ph.D. in School Psychology from the University of Cincinnati. She previously worked in the education field in a number of different positions since 2006 that included being an elementary school teacher, middle school special education teacher, and Board Certified Behavior Analyst at the doctoral level. She enjoys finding ways of incorporating strategies of effective instruction within the large enrollment online courses at the University of Cincinnati and participates in collaboration and leadership roles within her School and College to support Best Practices in Teaching and more specifically in supporting online students.

Extended Abstract

Large class sizes, especially in the online environment, come with a unique set of challenges such as the risk of students not being actively engaged in the content presented (Exeter et al., 2010; Hornsby & Osman, 2014). Group work is one strategy that research has proven may be utilized to enhance online student learning. Advantages of group work and student collaboration include practice providing feedback, increasing student motivation and accountability, learning to navigate group dynamics, creating a sense of community, and developing problem solving skills (Faulkner, Doamekpor, & Yeboah, 2013; Williams, Cameron, & Morgan, 2012).

However, the reality of designing effective group and peer projects that are manageable and consider the barriers of an asynchronous learning environment may be daunting. There are several factors to consider when designing opportunities for students to collaborate in an online environment, including the needs of the students, content targeted, and the comfort level and experience of the professor. Designing a successful collaborative project begins with small steps, requires planning, and revision, but it is possible and worth the investment.

This session will discuss the classification of differing levels of group work and strategies within each level that can be utilized within various contexts. Focusing primarily on how group work instructional strategies can be applied to online learning environments, this session will discuss ways to program group work so that it can be viewed more positively by students and instructors alike. This session will provide attendees with group work research from a variety of fields in addition to examples and lessons learned from experience as an instructor of large enrollment online graduate level courses. Qualitative and quantitative data will be shared demonstrating the acceptability and perceived benefit of students regarding different projects.

Participants will engage in different types of group work to experience advantages and disadvantages of different structures first-hand. Time will also be provided for attendees to apply the information shared to their own endeavors, and provide and receive feedback with other session attendees regarding the unique adaptations of the session information. Attendees will walk away with resources, including example assignments and a handout of tips and tricks for group work facilitation and ideas for improving group work within their specific field or occupation. 



Exeter, D. J., Ameratunga, S., Ratima, M., Morton, S., Dickson, M., Hsu, D., & Jackson, R. (2010). Student engagement in very large classes: The teachers' perspective. Studies in Higher Education, 35, 761-775.    

Faulkner, P. E., Doamekpor, P., & Yeboah, O. A. (2013). Peer groups and pairs: Many benefits for the online setting! NACTA Journal, 57(4), 80-81. Retrieved from

Hornsby, D. J., & Osman, R. (2014). Massification in higher education: Large classes and student learning. Higher Education, 67, 711-719.    

Kinsella, G. K., Mahon, C., & Lillis, S. (2017, July-August). Facilitating active engagement of the university student in a large-group setting using group work activities. Journal of College Science Teaching46(6), 34+. Retrieved from

Williams, K. C., Cameron, B. A., & Morgan, K. (2012). Supporting online group Projects1. NACTA Journal, 56(2), 15-20. Retrieved from