Narrowing the Digital Divide: Best Practices in Group Work
Fierro, Ryann D.
Monsivais, Diane B.
MetadataShow full item record
Session presented on Saturday, July 25, 2015: Problem/Background: Online learning provides students with an unprecedented flexibility for higher education opportunities, but also may often be accompanied by stressful challenges specifically related to the online environment. Without proper management of stressful online challenges, rising stress levels have the potential to deteriorate into uncivil behaviors that can easily have a negative impact on student success. Currently available best- practice guidelines for online education provide general guidance regarding the development and management of the online classroom. However, it is often necessary to consider institution-specific data along with best practice guidelines in order to develop focused, instead of general, strategies for managing the stressful challenges inherent in online education. A recent survey (Incivility in Online learning Environment (IOLE) survey (Clark, 2012)) at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) School of Nursing was used to measure perceptions and frequencies of uncivil behaviors by faculty and students in the online learning environment (OLE), perceptions surrounding challenges and advantages in the OLE, and ideas for promoting civility in the OLE. The survey was completed by 100 participants (Faculty, n=23 and students n=67). For students, group work was identified as one of the most common stressful challenges. Group work is defined as being assigned to work with a subset of the online class (typically 3-5 students) to complete an assignment. Reasons given by the students for the dissatisfaction included the perception that there was usually a group member who did not do his or her share of the work, or did not produce the work at an acceptable level. The other group members then had to work harder to earn a good grade which the underachieving group member then benefited from. Additionally, communication problems related to work schedules or appropriate document sharing tools created further difficulties. These stresses produced instances of uncivil behavior toward each other which interfered with the learning environment, creating a 'digital divide' among online group members. Because group work has been shown to be an effective way of building collaborative online communities, we sought to find best practice strategies for implementing group work that would promote civil, successful learning environments and narrow the digital divide among students. This presentation will present best practices/recommendations in the literature for managing the challenges related to group work, and how those practices can be used to create civil and successful learning environments. Objective: Integrative literature review of best practice and/or recommendations for successful group work activities in the online education. Methods: The following PICO question guided the literature search. Population: Graduate students in online programs Issue of interest: Strategies for group work that facilitate civil and successful learning environments C: Current practice Outcomes: Recommendations from students and faculty about creating effective group activities. A librarian was consulted to assist with setting up the search Databases searched were: CINAHL, ERIC, Academic Search Complete, Business Source Complete, Education Full Text-H.W. Wilson, Cochrane Library Other sources: Campbell Collaboration, Best Evidence Medical Education (website), Faculty Focus Newsletter Search terms: Online education, distance education, virtual education, group work, collaborative learning, best practices, guidelines or evidence based strategies. Inclusion: Quantitative and qualitative articles from 2000 and later dealing with online education and group work experiences. Some of the most commonly recommended findings include: Emphasize value of group work - Provide guidance on skills needed to be successful - Limit group size - Allow students to self-select their groups - Provide means of reporting individual contributions as well as peer evaluations - Create clear timeline for phases of project - Establish goals and outcomes. The addition of specific school or university data (population-specific data), to best practice guidelines will allow the development of targeted, instead of general, strategies for managing the challenges inherent in online education and decrease the potential for uncivil classroom behaviors that interfere with student success.