Good, Bad and Ugly: Student comments on group work in e-learning

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…”

What student liked least….

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.

Keep Learning :)


13 thoughts on “Good, Bad and Ugly: Student comments on group work in e-learning

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  3. I find this post very helpful with questions I had about attempting team group projects in on online class. Even in a f2f class, getting teams to find time to work together is a challenge and an online class would seem to present even further difficulties. But I like the idea of proposing two different projects. This gives more flexibility.

    • Hi Diane. Thanks for your comment! I agree group work is challenging to facilitate. If it helps at all, I find the most work is in the initial set-up, and once I write the instructions for the first go round, I can tweak as needed for subsequent sessions. Thanks again reading and sharing. Debbie

  4. Pingback: Good, Bad and Ugly: Student comments on group work in e-learning | E-Learning and Online Teaching Today

  5. Everybody has a varied perspective as your comments reflect. I have dealt with the same. Every semester I always look forward to some collaborative work from my instructors.
    During one of the semesters, I was fortunate to get a fellow student from a different state who was also enthusiastic about the team work, so all went well. However, during other course work, I had a bad experience with another student who simply was not pleased to do a team work.
    To avoid this kind of situation, I would recommend, instructors giving the students option of two different projects that can be worked either individually or in a team. As an online student, you probably should get the freedom to pick your choice. Then all would end well, and all are happy.

    • HI Priya, Thanks for your comment! You bring an excellent perspective and idea forward for online educators. I agree that working with a team or group that is challenging and working with those not eager to do group work is a real challenge. I had a similar experience with a challenging group, and it was a disaster! Do you think there is any merit in being able to choose your own group members? I know this works in my program, as often when taking subsequent courses I recognize other group members and know students I would like to work with.

      Alternatively, do you think the instructor should deal with team members that don’t participate, and address his or her non-participation? I have had a professor that has done this, and it has been quite effective. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. You bring an option that I had not thought of before. Thanks again! Debbie

  6. Pingback: Good, Bad and Ugly: Student comments on group work in e-learning | online learning insights | The eLearning Site

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