Moodle 2: engaging students in collaborative activities

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Are you interested in doing more group work with your students? Or do you already conduct group work with your students in their taught hours but struggle to understand how to encourage them to continue whilst off campus?

Context

A number of reasons exist that provide reasons for educators to focus on the development of group work/peer assisted learning in university courses not least because of the obvious pressure on finance and funding limitations leading to a higher student to staff ratio. Candy et al (1994: xii) in discussing characteristics of teaching methods in undergraduate courses that encourage graduates to become lifelong learners cited ‘peer-assisted and self-directed learning’ as the first of five characteristics which also included those which developed ‘reflective practice and critical self-awareness’.

How does it work?

The groups feature in Moodle 2 allows you to divide the students into groups and this could be using the same groups you may have already created in your classes. Groups can be either automatically created (good for large groups) or, if you or your students have already decided the groups, they can be manually created (good for creating small groups) by adding students one-by-one. For large groups you can either randomly assign students to groups by following the manual process below, or you can bulk upload specific students to specific groups using a spreadsheet.

A quick demo of the group assignments can be seen below by Mary Pooch.

The benefits of using the group feature is that suppose you needed to facilitate an online discussion of some kind between your students. You would only need to create a single instance of the activity rather then recreate each and every group. A lot of our web 2.0 tools are now making resources much more collaborative since it is recognised that we are working in an increasingly flexible fashion. Students or staff could be working on the very same document but would have not have to be in one place. Examples of this can be seen on various educational tools such as Prezi, Google docs and Moodle. You may have also in the past used wikis and discussion forums in Moodle.

Food for thought

The Centre for Learning Technology at LSE(CLT) has provided a number of scenarios that can be of help. I have included these examples below, which may help kick off some of your own ideas:

  • Seminar groups share presentations or hold pre- post-seminar discussions.
  • Small groups of students use the Forum tool to cover the same discussion points,
  • increasing chances of individual participation and allowing you to compare the
  • different conclusions drawn by each group.
  • Small groups of students use the Wiki and Forum tools to work together on a group
  • project.
  • Restrict access to a course resource (e.g. a file) to a subset of students.
  • Lecturers view data (e.g. quiz scores) by group.

Alternatively if you have more ideas please do share. Interested contact your local ed. tech teams to find out more.

References

Candy, P., Crebert, G. & O’Leary, J. (1994). Developing Lifelong Learners Through
Undergraduate Education. NBEET, Commissioned Report No 28. (Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service).

The Centre for Learning Technologies LSE Using Groups in Moodle. [available online] accessed on 25.06.13 http://clt.lse.ac.uk/moodle/moodle-groups.pdf

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