Seeing is believing…what does online learning ‘look’ like?

Seeing is believing – after reading the essay, No Back Row which describes how a long-time professor of higher-ed  had an ‘aha’ moment when he observed first-hand how an online MBA program actually worked, I also had my own ‘aha’ moment… perhaps one of the key barriers to educators’ resistance to online education is the lack of visualization, in other words, not being able to ‘see’ what an online program actually ‘looks’ like?  Perhaps. Below are some thoughts based upon the essay in which the author acknowledged [after visualizing an online program]  that online learning is a legitimate and viable alternative to face-to-face instruction.

“And I’m now convinced that what Apple’s Mac did for the personal computer, the “MBA@UNC” is about to do for higher education.” (Cohen, 2012)

The Visual Barrier
When I speak with educators about online learning [online courses for credit, MOOCs such as Coursera etc] who are not familiar with online learning either as a participant or instructor, I am likely to hear comments such as,  ‘I just don’t see how it’s better than face-to-face’ or ‘how can a computer teach’. Given that the majority of us, when considering a concept or idea draw upon previous experience or images to make sense of an idea  – it’s likely that those not familiar with online learning will visualize something similar to the images below…

And wonder how this [images above] can replace education done like this…

Making ‘Sense’ of Something New

This seems reasonable to me  – we make sense of new concepts or ideas by comparing to, or drawing upon, what we already know –  so it’s no surprise that those who have not ‘seen’ or experienced online learning find it challenging to see how learning can happen on a computer. It is an abstract concept until one ‘sees’ it.

Seeing is Believing but Quality counts
I encourage anyone who is unsure about the viability of online learning to read Mr. Cohen’s article [and/or to actually participate in an online course]. I appreciate his honesty, and his willingness to write about online education which he was pessimistic about until viewing the program MBA@UNC. Though, a key factor to this program’s appeal no doubt is its quality. It must be well designed, incorporating appropriate pedagogical methods to make such a positive impression on Mr Cohen. As I’ve written about in prior posts, online education is most successful when it is designed for the online format, when pedagogy is customized to a learner-centered approach, and when instructors establish a sense of presence in the course and interact with students.

Comment on Mr. Cohen’s essay…
I wrote the following comment in response to Cohen’s essay posted on Inside Higher Ed. I have shortened the full comment, [spared you reading the rather long winded comment] giving you the highlights.

An encouraging read – an essay any educator that is pessimistic about the future of education should read……When institutions try and mimic the face-to-face class experience online — use the same tools, the same assignments and the same lecture [recording of a live lecture], the results are usually poor. Online education is not about the computer, or the technology but is a tool [method] that delivers the education, and as Mr. Cohen observed, can be used effectively to create an intimate and thoughtful experience [in his example the small group discussion]….

From my experience as an educator and student, the key to successful online education is, 1) the course platform that uses the technology to effectively, 2) course design that creates rigorous and challenging  learning and leverages the online environment (discussion forums, Skype, Google Docs etc. as collaboration tools), and 3) the course instructor that adapts his or her teaching to the online environment, and creates a sense of presence and community in the virtual classroom.Thanks Mr. Cohen for the thoughtful essay.
Resources:
No Back Row, Steven Cohen, Inside Higher Ed

The tangled Web of Online Learning….explained

Oh… the tangled web we weave…literally. With all the courses and options available for online learning – i.e. fully online courses taken for credit, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), open source videos through Kahn Academy and the likes, and though enriching [and beautiful in visual terms as per images in this post], the potential to get caught and entangled is great. In this post I’ll discuss the various ‘strands’ of online learning, in an attempt to clarify where each fit into the evolving and dynamic web we call ‘online education’.

The purpose for writing this post is to clarify ‘online learning’ [for my own benefit as much as for others], as I’ve found myself clarifying in discussions at my workplace the various types of online learning that are readily available on the Web in the context of our own online program. As I’ve written about previously, education is no longer a static model, but fluid and almost organic in nature, and being able to define goals, purposes and assessment is ongoing.

Though several bloggers I follow have already created excellent posts about this very topic, [with detailed, descriptive charts – please refer to the resources section for links], I’ve outlined a [less complex] version below where I’ve categorized online learning into four areas. By doing so, I hope to help educators select and use a learning ‘strand’ more effectively, as it is the characteristics of the online learning [program/tool] that dictate how the learning will be applied by the student, and be of most benefit. The criteria I used for categorizing the types of learning are as follows…

1) The overall goal/purpose of the learning

2) How the learning is assessed or measured

3) learner motivation

Criteria  – explained
I chose the three criteria [above] after much deliberation – each provides a viewpoint for differentiating and comparing online learning. For instance, #1 the goal of learning determines how the learning will be used and applied, i.e. towards a degree, for personal growth or for learning a concept to support a skill set. Next, #2 the assessment or measurement component differs greatly within online learning, which helps in the classification and it often dictates how the learning is designed and structured – for example does the learner assess the value of the learning or is it the instructor‘s role to measure student learning? Does it count towards an accreditation, or provide a knowledge for the learner to master a skill or concept? Finally, #3 learner motivation, which is indicative of how a student approaches and participates in the online learning – the student’s level of motivation to engage and take charge of his or her learning. An example is a student participating in a MOOC [Massive Open Online Course] who is highly motivated to learn for the sake of personal development or growth, versus a student taking a required course for credit which he or she has to take (motivation is potentially low). The four categories below:

‘Social’ (title text center of image) and ‘Learning’ are soon to be interchangeable terms

I. Online Courses for credit – Courses which are a means to an end, the goal being earn credit towards a degree, students are extrinsically motivated. Assessment is usually formalized, traditional (professor or course instructor evaluating student learning). Examples: Penn State World Campus, Liberty University, Straighter Line, Minerva Project [in development].

II. Online Courses – not for Credit / MOOCs –
Students participate and choose to learn about a topic, usually defining their own goals and objectives for the course. Learning is for personal development and/or improvement, in other words the student is highly motivated, driven by intrinsic factors. Assessment is non-traditional, either self or peer-reviewed. Examples: Cousera, MIT Opencourseware, Udacity.

III. Online courses/resources for Professional Development – Courses which are for a specific skill set, vocational in nature and for professional development in the workplace (purpose). In this case students are intrinsically motivated, seeking learning as a lifelong learner. Examples: P2P University, Stanford Center for Professional Development, Code Academy, Harvard Business [online courses in specific skills for managerial roles], iTunesU [university].

IV. Open source: online video resources where ‘learning’ is really tools to supplement face-to-face or online courses at all levels  K-12 through to college, in the form of videos or vodcasts. The purpose for this type of online learning is not to provide a complete learning experience, but to be part of the instructional strategy, an instructional tool. Examples: Kahn Academy, TedED, Academic Earth, Lecture Fox.

Online learning takes many forms, serves many purposes and goals. ‘Change’ is now synonymous with education, and for educators keeping abreast of developments and new programs is a challenge. Though I view this challenge as a positive, it’s exciting. I am sure the content of this post will be outdated within 6 to 12 months, however no doubt I’ll then be discussing, debating and writing about it, along with my fellow educators and bloggers.

Resources:
Online education catalogue [beta], Wisdemy [includes several  descriptive, detailed charts comparing non-profit, for-profit and other providers of online learning].

Online Education – a snapshot, CatherineCronin [downloadable table of online learning providers, though some information requires updating it is a useful tool].

The Language of MOOCs, Hack Education

Related Post: MOOC Mythbuster, Onlinelearninginsights

Photo Credits: Social Web, Matthew Burpee’s Photo Stream, Flickr

The Next Big Disruptor – Competency-based Learning

The ‘model’ for higher education not only has to change, but will change, it’s inevitable. And, online learning won’t be the catalyst, but competency based learning will be –  how learning is assessed and degrees are granted will be the impetus for change. When speaking of ‘model’ in this context, it’s similar to a business model, where the education model is the framework for how higher-ed operates – which is, 1) how institution leaders organize people [faculty, administrators] 2) curriculum is developed and packaged  3) a place is provided [facilities, classrooms, libraries, lecture halls] to deliver education 4) and degrees are granted [based upon credit hours, (or seat-time) and assessment], all of which keeps the institution viable.

“To date, online learning has disrupted the model described above at the ‘place‘ stage [facilities i.e. classrooms, #3], causing serious waves.”

However, I predict that further disruption to the model is on the horizon –  its #4, granting degrees to students by credit hours or seat time, that’s going to shake-up the model as we know it, transform higher education to the core. In this post I’ll share what competency based learning is and what educators, both of K-12 and higher-ed will need to know about competency based education (as we’re going to be hearing much more about credentialing and assessment in the next few months).

What is Competency Based Education?
Competency-based education is fundamentally different from traditional higher education as we know it, rather than credentialing a student based upon ‘seat time’ or credit hour [duration of course] and assessment, the student is credentialed based upon demonstration of the knowledge and/or skills required to meet an established skill set (competency).

Defining competency is complex, and an educational competency even more so. Fortunately, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) through PISA, (Programme for International Student Assessment) has done much work on defining competencies, and created a framework for comparing student competencies for purpose of assessment. A report completed by PISA states this,

“A competency is more than just knowledge and skills. It involves the ability to meet complex demands, by drawing upon and mobilising [mobilizing] psychosocial resources (including skills and attitudes) in a particular context.  For example, the ability to communicate effectively is a competency…” [PISA]

Furthermore, according to Center for American Progress, an independent nonpartisan educational institute which engages in research and dialogue about various issues, recently hosted a forum on competency-based education with stakeholders and experts in higher-education. In a brief published on June 7th, the concept of higher-ed accreditation is challenged,

“Unlike the credit hour, which is standardized around time, competency-based systems give “credit for learning no matter where it happens [or how long it takes]….. students would be able to build on their own skills, abilities, and knowledge, the time required to obtain a degree would be reduced, resulting in a less expensive and higher-quality education.”  (Soares, 2012)

Who’s Doing it?
It’s game-on with no barriers, as a federal law Congress passed in 2005 cleared a path for Western Governors University (WGU) to pursue “direct assessment” of student learning, allowing this college and other institutions to participate in federal aid programs without tracking credit hours.

Western Governors University
Western Governors University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1) Western Governors University, a fully online program that offers Bachelor and Master’s Degrees, is the leader in  competency education. The school’s curriculum is based upon the competency-based approach, and uses the online format to create self-directed learning for students with assessments that measure students mastery through demonstration. The critical element to this model is well-defined and specific description of the competency along with observable behaviours and actions.

2 ) Mozilla’s Open Badges Project, The newest program created in conjunction with the McArthur Foundation and Mozilla. The goal is to offer credit in the form of ‘badges’ to learners who demonstrate mastery of a given competency as identified by an organization that offers the education and training in a given skill or learned ability/knowledge.

3) MOOCs. The newest, and most potentially disruptive initiative in Higher Education, are Massive Open Online Courses, through projects such as Coursera and Edx (Edx is a joint open education program between Harvard and MIT).  MIT introduced the premise for ‘credentialing’ at the launch of MITx “[MITx] allows for the individual assessment of any student’s work and allows students who demonstrate their mastery of subjects to earn certificates awarded by MITx“. How Edx will proceed with credentialing is yet to be determined. But, no doubt there will be more news to come.

What Educators Need-to-Know
What does this mean for educators? What are the implications? There are several. First, the obvious, that there is much pressure on higher ed institutions from many stakeholders to justify the price of tuition and show value to students and parents. Though this is out of most educators control, below are the need-to-know or need-to-dos for educators:

  • Define competencies or learning outcomes for instruction provided, whether online or face-to-face classes (in anticipation of this ‘potential’ requirement in the future).
  • Define what students should be able to do, after a given course is complete – beyond the final assessment – the practical applications.
  • Learn how MOOCs work – take a course through Coursera or MIT Opencourseware other provider to find out how MOOCs operate. They are free – and give educators another perspective on education, as the ‘student’.
  • Be prepared for the competency-based learning discussion – being aware of how it works, and who is doing it, allows for constructive dialogue and discussion.

Resources:

What Students really think about Online Learning

What do students really think about online learning—do they love it? Hate it? Numerous reports and articles about online learning provide data on enrollment rates, perceived learning and more. But it’s the unedited, raw comments of actual students, as I wrote about in my last post that is invaluable to course instructors, designers and online educators. I’ll share in this post student comments and suggestions for supporting students in light of their feedback.

Below is a collection of [select] student feedback from anonymous feedback submissions from online surveys given at the end of fully online courses for credit. Responses are unedited. It’s telling of how students really feel. Feedback is grouped into four categories: 1) interaction/learning community  2) technical  3) course design/structure  and 4) learning environment.

Overview of Program
Below you’ll find the most representative responses from 115  student feedback forms from a possible 236 students (49% response rate). Also note, feedback is from a small program—15 courses, general education, for credit, with video lectures as the main content delivery method. LMS platform is Moodle. Responses below to open-ended questions, either ‘what did you like ‘least’ about the course, and ‘what did you like best about the course’.

Learning Environment

  • “..the online environment, definitely will be taking courses in person for [next] semesters” [response to ‘what you like least…]
  • The online environment, I tried it but I will most definitely be taking courses in person from now on. I have found that I struggle with time management and would benefit from scheduled class meetings.”
  • “it was a little rough at the beginning to understand the instructions. A little more clarity at the beginning would be helpful.”
  • “I would benefit a lot more from scheduled class meetings, personally struggled with time management.”
  • “I liked the course because it was easier to complete all of the work. I was able to do everything on my own time with a deadline at the end of the week. I also liked the weekly discussion boards.”
  • “that i could take it at my own pace”
  • “I really appreciated this course being offered in the online format. It allowed me to fit it into my schedule easily…”

Interaction/learning community

  • “I hate the class discussions, but I understand its to make it more interactive but I wish they weren’t there. They could just be assignments.”
  • “I loved the personal classroom feel of the videos and the message board posting assignments.”
  • “The lack of ability to interact.”
  • ..Well it is online. So I wish I had more live interaction with students even if was view a Skype class time.”
  • “It was an efficient alternative to taking the class physically.”
  • The group project. I chose this course because I don’t have time, working, school, and running a household to work with other people. I work best alone and was not able to participate much.”

Course Design/Structure

  • “I would want the flow of the course to be more smooth and logically structured rather than separated by blocks and topics that must be covered. Also, I wish some questions on quizzes were more clear and not misleading.”
  • “Some of the lectures were long, but that’s just me and my attention span.”

Technical Issues

  • “I wish I could have been able to download the videos so I could watch more of them in the time I had. It would have been nice if I could put them on the mobile device.”
  • “I enjoyed watching the videos at my convenience but I wish I could have downloaded them since the local weather often interfered with my ability to stream the videos.”
  • “…please make more of the videos downloadable for mobile devices like Kindle fire, androids, iPad, etc.”
  • “….online program is good, but honestly and with all respect, not great. I was not able to get any mobile application (iPad) to work ….that is a major setback in that many online students take courses because of the flexibility it offers”

Conclusions

  • Students are demanding mobile learning options.
  • Time management appears to be a factor for those struggling with online learning.
  • Numerous students mention the flexibility of online learning as a positive factor.
  • Majority of students want interaction and personal connection.
  • Effective course design is needed for clarity of instructions, and ease of navigation within the course environment (being able to find resources, instructions easily).

Related Post:
Click here for previous post, How unfavorable student feedback improves online courses, which provides tips and resources for creating student feedback surveys.

Why Harvard just raised the Bar [way high] for e-learning

E-learning has just been given premier status. Sooner rather than later, online learning will no longer be viewed as sub-standard, second-rate or ‘lite’ education. The heavy hitters of higher ed, the IVY Leagues are now behind online learning, open source, MOOCs, [Massive Open Online Courses] which will have cataclysmic effects for higher ed. I’m speaking of Harvard and MIT’s announcement this past week which introduced edX, a collaborative partnership between MIT and Harvard which will offer Harvard and MIT classes online for on-campus students and anyone with access to the Internet.

The edX initiative is going to accelerate a shift to a new model for education, actually it’s going to be more like a tsunami that’s going to hit campuses which is how John L. Hennessy, president of Stanford described it, according to Ken Auletta in Get Rich U. (2012). 

Why is Harvard getting ‘in’ now?
Why has Harvard (finally) thrown its hat into the ring? It’s not just because Stanford’s doing it, as is Princeton, University of Michigan and U Penn, (all of which are doing so collaboratively through a similar initiative coursera), but because they HAVE to. It’s not optional (similar to the question many campuses faced five or so years ago, should we be on Facebook – which changed to when do we get on FB) – the time has come, either acknowledge that the education model needs to change or just close your doors and crawl under a rock. With the influence of social media, 24/7 Internet access, there’s a need to respond, adapt. Furthermore, this higher education bubble we’re in is going to burst, soon. This bubble exists due in part to the cost of higher education, which according to the National Center for Public Policy and Education has increased 440% in the past five years, nearly four times the rate of inflation (Lataif, 2011).

Enough of that, let’s look at the practical reasons why Harvard [and MIT] need to change…

1) Transform: “To enhance campus-based teaching and learning“, according the edX website, which I view as a productivity issue. As much as I dislike to apply business terminology to education, it’s a necessity, universities need to innovate and embrace technology, find new ways to conduct the ‘business’ of educating.

2) Relevancy for on-campus students: Make no mistake, MIT and Harvard recognize that learning needs to transform in order to remain relevant and provide meaningful, enriched learning for students, and we’re talking about on-campus students. EdX appears to be just as much about transforming learning for and reaching students worldwide, as it is for students in traditional face-to-face classes. Watch the two-minute YouTube video at the end of this post where leaders of both institutions share their vision for edX.

3) Education Research: It appears the plan is also to conduct research into educational practices and theory, “EdX will support Harvard and MIT faculty in conducting research on teaching and learning on campus through tools that enrich classroom and laboratory experiences“, a good thing.

What it means for Online Education
We [educators] need to step-up – the bar is high – educators now more than ever need to create and deliver courses of quality and rigor. It also means capitalizing on the value of the educational experience, and showing the student how he or she will benefit from completing for-credit courses. Audit students will become a thing of the past.

The Ivy Leagues have an International reputation that speaks for itself, there will be instant name recognition, which will be associated with ‘quality education’ (whether accurate or not).  A recent example, Stanford’s  Professor Thrun offered a free online course in Artificial Intelligence last year, that drew 160,000 students from 190 countries. Thrun found this to be a life changing experience, and started Coursera, which offers a full range of courses from Ivy League professors. Granted college credit is not earned. However, there may be something in the offing for edX, as Mitx (which has now merged Harvard edX) had  planned to offer recognition of completion (certificate after testing for content mastery) at some point. We’ll have to see what happens with edX.

L. Rafael Reif, Provost of MIT, made it clear that quality and rigor will not be compromised,

This [edX] should not to be construed as MIT Lite or Harvard Lite, the content is the same”. (YouTube video).

What are the Nay Sayers Saying?
Of course there are plenty of skeptics – and I don’t discount their concerns. I feel it’s worthwhile to consider other viewpoints. Collectively some concerns include, 1) how to motivate students that aren’t intrinsically motivated [to engage with online content], 2) how to promote cross discipline learning, 3) how to get feedback from students that have dropped out [and why], 4) how to monitor progress of students (if the case of thousands of students), to name a few. One blog post I read, was quite pessimistic, suggesting that the impetuous of these schools offering online education is motivated by profit. I respect this educator’s position, though I do not agree, as it’s all about what I’ve mentioned above.

Transforming education is about moving forward, progressing and the time has come. I’ll close with one quote made by chairman of IBM when the prototype for the personal computer was introduced. It’s rather humorous now.

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
– Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

Further Reading
Universities on the Brink, Louis Lataif, Forbes.com
Edx: A platform for MOOCS, and an opportunity for more Research about Teaching and Learning Online, Audrey Watters, Inside Higher Ed
About edX, edxonline.org
What’s the difference between a MOOC and the University of Phoenix, More or less Bunk

Photo Credit: Terrible Tsumami, FrankBonilla.tv , Flickr, Creative Commons

Strategies for effective group work in the Online Class

This is the second post in a three part series on group work in online learning communities. Post one, featured why we need group work in online learning,  and post three will be on how to evaluate group work in online assignments.

Quick recap –  why oh why do we need to create opportunities for collaboration and structured learning  in an online class? Because…

  1. Collaboration is the future—collaborative skills are essential skills for the 21st century.
  2. Working with others builds upon existing knowledge. Great ideas were not created in vacuum —post one includes an excellent video about. We need innovators in the 21s century.
  3. Learning now more than ever needs to be social and active. Our culture is about connecting with people using digital and social media, why can’t learning happen this way?

Groups—my Dual Viewpoint
I’ve experienced group work from the inside and out. From the inside, through my fully online graduate program of which I’m a student, where I’ve had (and have) group work in every class. Group assignments contribute anywhere between 20%, and as much as 100% to the final grade.

Concurrently, I’ve worked with groups on the outside, working with professors extensively to create assignments and collaborative activities for students in several online classes at my work place. Each perspective has assisted the other, which helped me to create a pretty comprehensive list of strategies for making groups work…

What Makes Group Work
The group experience can either be painful or refreshing, constructive and enjoyable,  fortunately my experiences have been positive (except for one group disaster, though this in itself provided an authentic learning experience), in fact, I would say that group work has challenged me to learn and grow in ways I would not be able to do solo.

I’ve compiled a list of essential strategies for setting up groups for successful interaction and meaningful learning that the online instructor or instructional designer might find helpful.

  1. Create a student introductory forum in the first week, or even a few days before the course start date. Frame the activity so learners introduce themselves to other learners, by writing one or two paragraphs about themselves, interests, hobbies etc, and then have them respond to at least two other classmates in the forum.  When Learners feel connected, the barrier of the technological infrastructure comes down, (in most cases the learning management platform).  Learners are establishing a social presence, and feel they are becoming part of a community. I cannot underestimate the importance of this activity. The social presence is a dimension necessary in the online ‘space’ which can be intangible and hard to define for the learner.
  2. Make it real – have learners upload profile pictures of themselves through the learning management platform. Most LMS platforms have this capability. It’s amazing what picture can do to help make a personal connection.
  3. Announce groups early in the session, Group work in online environments, often takes more time to establish group tasks and objectives. Building in at least three weeks time for groups to work on a small-scale assignment is reasonable, obviously the more complex the assignment the more time is needed. As far as assigning groups, my preference is to have the instructor create the groups. One method to creating groups is to observe how students relate to others within the introduction forum. Often students make ‘connections’ with common interests. Another strategy is create groups balancing out experienced online students, with first time online learners. Again this can be identified through the introductory forums.
  4. Encourage group members to make contact early on – create a group discussion board within the LMS dedicated to each group, or a chat room – encourage members to connect, even through outside media, i.e. Facebook, Google+ etc.
  5. Create clear instructions for the  group project. This also is essential. Here is my rule of thumb, if you dedicate three pages in a traditional class syllabus to instructions for assignments, you will need double the number of pages in an online class. Students require clear, specific directions, explanation of ‘why’ they are doing the assignment (see next point).
  6. Highlight the Purpose: When we design group activities in our online classes at my workplace, we are cognizant of giving an explanation to the learner that outlines why they are doing this activity, what they will learn by doing so, why the activity is created for group . No one wants to do ‘busy work’ and students will respond far more positively when they see how the assignment fits in with the course and how they will benefit personally.
  7. Limit Group Size: The ideal group size for online is three or four group members. Though I’ve seen groups of five, from experience it appears that when there are more than four participants, it is not uncommon for one or more group members who tend to be on the lazy side, to fade into the virtual world and not contribute. Smaller group sizes make this phenomenon less likely to occur.
  8. Web 2.0 filosofiaren kontzeptuak.
    Web 2.0 filosofiaren kontzeptuak. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Encourage teams to collaborate with online applications outside of the LMS environment. A blog reader, a communications professor shared a strategy that got me thinking – why keep the students within the LMS platform? The tools in most LMS platforms are not conducive to effective group work (as I lamented in this post). This professor ‘forced’ her students to use Web 2.0 tools outside the platform, for example Google Docs, Dropbox, Skype, Google + ( which has a great feature of Google + hangouts). I like her strategy.  In order for this to be effective I would suggest providing the teams with a list of web 2.0 tools and links for accessing various tools, and ideally with basic instructions and/or ‘how-to’ links about each tool included as well. This is an extra step, but don’t assume students are familiar with collaborative applications. Some students may have a steep learning curve, another reason why the lead time for given assignments is helpful.

  9. Be available for concerns and questions. Encourage students to contact the instructor for concerns and/or guidance. I even suggest going the extra step to arrange for Skype or conference calls with a given group if needed. I’ve had a professor who arranged for two Skype meetings with a group I was part of, when we were struggling with an assignment and way off track. I can’t tell you how much this supported our group and created cohesion and motivation within. When an instructor is involved and supportive of teams, higher levels of learning are more likely to be the result.
  10. Be culturally sensitive. As I write this, I realize that some suggestions will not work in all cultures.  Instructors need to be sensitive to different communication styles and access to tools for various students. This article, provides some helpful info for those interested in reading more about this, as does this one, Techniques and strategies for International group work: An online experience.

Group work, when used to support learning goals in the e-learning environment, is most effective  in creating meaningful learning, and developing communication and collaboration  skills so very much in demand in our current digital culture and global economy.  Check back later this week for post three, how to evaluate group work in the online environment.