I thought it would be interesting to add an addendum to my three-part series on group work in online environments by including a selection of comments from students from the very same courses I discussed in the previous posts on group work. The series focused on the why, what and how of implementing and executing group strategies, yet I think it may be helpful for readers to consider student feedback, and appreciate the group process from student perspective.
What students say anonymously about group work…
The comments below are a selection of student responses to a feedback survey given at the end of the online courses at the college where I work. I’ve included the ‘good, bad and they ugly’, in order to give an honest ‘snapshot’
Question: “What did you like best about the course?”
“I enjoyed the discussion boards the best. I enjoyed the topics that were chosen for the students to discuss.“
“The interaction with other students.”
“I really enjoyed every aspect of the course. I thought it was challenging, meaningful and I was very impressed with [the professor]..”
“It really made me think. Although I worked about 15 hours a week I thought about the material much longer.”
“Working in groups is useful…”
Below are responses to the question, What did you like least about the course? [I've add my own comments after each student comment.]
“The group project. I did not understand how an online class would even attempt to require a group project. It was shocking to me actually. It proved difficult to contact people. The group ended up having to use Google documents to be able to edit and IM simultaneously. If I could change something about the course, it would be removing this assignment.” [This supports the reason and purpose for having group assignments. I've since added descriptions of the purpose for each group assignment and activity].
“Teams are too small…” / “Teams are too large.” [you can't please everybody]
“Working in teams is frustrating...” [agreed, in person too...]
“The group assignment was difficult. One of the benefits of taking a class on line is doing things in your own convince, it was difficult coordinating with my group members.” [I have since added instructions that are further clarified with suggestions for coordinating the group work. Though again, we see the value of group work -- students not working in a vacuum, being 'forced' to collaborate with others].]
“Participating in the forums! I had a really hard time figuring out what to do and when.” [I added further instructions with a weekly schedule of due dates].
“I thought the group project should have been worth more points since there was only one other person in my group.”
There often appears to be more negative feedback than positive, however I find negative feedback crucial to helping students learn and be successful by making changes and adaptations based on their observations and frustrations.