How many times per day do students hear the phrase “get in groups/pair up”? Chances are that no matter the subject, they are told to collaborate quite frequently. In fact, even in popular kids or teen TV shows, the group project is used as a catalyst for interaction between characters.
Plenty of examples can be found from Boy Meets World and Dawson’s Creek to Gilmore Girls. The popular kid has to work with the new kid. Best friends do not get to work together on an assignment. It is a TV trope that writers love to use, along with the Cram School and School of No Studying. Let’s call it the Dreaded Collaboration Project (you heard it from me first!).
The Dreaded Collaboration Project has all the elements of a good cliche: the student that does all the work, the slacker, the one that talks a lot (but does not do anything), the anxious one, and of course, that one student that only shows up at the end, mostly unprepared. Hilarious antics ensue.
But for every cliche, there is a small grain of truth. No matter how much I dislike these cliches, I find myself reminiscing about my experience with some projects in school. And the truth is, that for some students collaboration does not come that easily. Some are naturally more extroverted or introverted. It takes time to get to know people and trust them. Not having a clear idea of what you are supposed to do and having poor grades as a result of teamwork can snowball into a lifelong frustration with learning in groups.
In other words, things get more complicated should dreaded collaboration project actually become a thing in their lives.
A manifesto for effective classroom collaboration
Having many collaboration issues is not the standard for all classrooms. When done right, learning as a team works. That is why the flipped classroom, blended learning, PBL, and many more teaching styles require a high degree of social learning.
For example, in a survey investigating the impact of collaboration in the learning of secondary school Statistics, one school found out that students had a 11.8% increase in the test scores following group-based learning activities. Another study involving 197 graduate students across three consecutive academic years, found that 73% of participants felt that a collaborative environment produced greater learning results.
Teaching adequate collaboration skills is important for many reasons. However, the most important one is that in academia as in a professional setting, we all have to have the adequate skills to get.things.done. The students of today are the professionals of tomorrow and what they learn in schools in terms of working with their peers and learning from others is crucial to their development later in life.
As the Partnership for 21st Century Skills has adequately recognized, collaboration is one of the most important skills necessary for school and workforce success. Moreover, as future employees (and even freelance workers) their ability to work in teams will prime them for success and higher satisfaction with their jobs.
Given that we all have so many collaboration tools at our disposal, this should be really easy, right? Except that in reality there are still all sorts of challenges for students and teachers. For example, how do you set clear, defined goals for a team project? How do you assign deadlines for each group? How do you organize them so students actually learn more from their project?
6 Ways to create meaningful teamwork experiences through an LMS
Do you know what is usually missing from the Dreaded Collaboration Project? Usually many things, but one main thing is the lack of collaborative technology that is not shown in any TV show. Using tools such as chats, groups, a shared calendar and collaborative assignments are just a few of the methods in which teachers can effectively use technology to encourage efficient learning.
All of these tools — and more — can be found incorporated in your LMS; no need to look any further than that. Read on to find out how to create a collaborative learning space using an LMS.
Use team assignments
Team assignments are a great feature to have in an LMS. This helps teachers not only keep track of team projects, but also organize students into teams, which get their own private groups. Groups are used for discussions, idea-sharing, and more. Plus, it has the added benefit of knowing how much each student has contributed to the final submission.
Set clear goals
Whether you might be teaching 4th graders or High School seniors, a team needs clear goals to accomplish a learning task. You can use the welcome page of a course to set learning goals, or better yet, add instructions in the description part of a collaborative assignment. Students can refer back to their goals should they get stuck at some point during their task.
Use shared calendars for deadlines and reminders
Sticking to a deadline is part of the success of a project since it teaches responsibility and how to manage their time as a team. Students can check deadlines in their shared calendar and you can send them notifications and reminders through announcements.
Building trust in a team isn’t easy, especially since there is not a lot of time to accomplish that. Fortunately, through technology it is easier to trust someone since they are only a message away. Plus, your students do not need to rely on social media or text messaging since a good LMS has tools such as chat and discussions to make things go smoothly.
An important part of a learning team is sharing valuable resources such as files, video or web links. In addition, files won’t get lost in Facebook chats or Whatsapp messages since everything gets stored in the LMS library and can be retrieved in an instant.
Grade team assignments
Their effort as a team can be assessed more fairly using an LMS. First, even the most introverted students can shine by sharing their ideas through discussions in a group. Students can also be graded individually.
Read more: Next Generation Learning: Assessments
After spending some time thinking about it (OK, too much time, I must admit), the Dreaded Collaboration Project was there to make TV characters interact in some way, and in most cases, they became friends or learned something valuable at the end. So maybe in real life, your students can really learn how to thrive through meaningful teamwork. Having a trusted LMS is a stepping stone to achieving just that!
Ioana believes that education in action is the only way to change the world. When she is not writing about learning and ed tech, she can usually be seen reading a book and drinking lots of coffee.