CCO, Public Domain, Pixabay, geralt
Well, I got to admit it, I hate group work, and I realized I am not the only one. When I was a student, it never worked, and I felt the process and the result as being unfair. When my students have to do group work today I feel sorry for them. Last year, some of the really good students ended up with lower grades than they had achieved earlier in the course, and they were angry. They hated group work too.
With this course, the ONL, I have actually gained a new experience. Until this third part of the course, the learning in communities, I had not really realized that the whole course is based on group work. The reason I haven’t thought about it, I guess, is that everything has been so smooth. I had to ask myself why this group work has been so different then my earlier experiences.
When I read Anderson (2008), I realized that the ONL course is doing everything right, everything according to the book, this book. They follow all Anderson’s good advices on how to, not only make group work function, but also how this form of learning can actually be more rewarding than other forms of learning.
Anderson focuses on the teaching presence; on how to design and organize the learning experience; devising and implementing activities to encourage discourse between all participant and content of the course; and how to add expertise through direct instructions. Some examples on how this can be utilized is to:
“change the design role of many teachers from content creation to customization, application, and contextualization of learning sequences“
“mix right between opportunities for synchronous and asynchronous interaction and group and independent study activities”
“the teacher regularly reads and responds to student contributions and concerns, and constantly searches for ways to support understanding in the individual student, and the development of the learning community as a whole”
I also realized that some of my earlier bad experiences were due to my only experience with one of the two models for group work Anderson presents, the independent study model, while the ONL course is using the community of learning model.
Anderson is also very well aware of the possibility of the enormous time effort it might take if one is to do everything correct, and is very clear that the task of creating an online course with group work “should not be a life-consuming one!” He provide sound suggestions on how it is possible to both create a good course and doing it within the limited hours teachers get for teaching.
I have gained some important insights from this part of the course, which I will take with me next time I have to, not force but encourage, my students to do group work. This module of the ONL course was somewhat different than the others; the main learning media was text, not videos. I think that was most helpful, it is more thorough and it can be used as a source to go back to at the point I need good advice to restructure own teaching.