Join Kevin Kelly for an in-depth discussion in this video Enabling study groups, part of Teaching with Technology.
- In this course, there are several movies that outline ways to support collaborative learning with technology. Most of those methods involve direct involvement or at least indirect involvement by you, the teacher. Now, we'll look at virtual study groups. You might be asking, why virtual study groups? Let's face it, today's students need flexible solutions. Whether your school or college is urban or rural, there are students who travel a long way to get to face-to-face classes. At San Francisco State University, we have students who drive one to three hours from around the Bay area, and students who take that same amount of time commuting on public transportation.
Don't even get me started about parking. Most students have commitments that reduce their free time, such as athletics, internships, jobs, and taking care of children or family members. These issues of time and place make it difficult for students to return to campus. Virtual study groups can provide opportunities for those students to learn with their peers outside of class. As long as they access to the Internet, via computer or mobile device, students can be anywhere. Asynchronous activities allow them to participate when they can.
Virtual study groups are a good idea but what if you don't have time to facilitate? That's okay. Students organize their own study groups all the time and sometimes, without the instructor even knowing. If you don't have time to facilitate, then I recommend you support your students ability to self-organize by providing or recommending a virtual space for study groups. If your school uses a Learning Management System, like Moodle, Blackboard or Canvas, then you can set up two kinds of group study spaces. For asynchronous work, use a discussion forum or a wiki.
For synchronous work, try a chat room or a virtual classroom. If you want to be formal, Learning Management Systems also allow you to create groups and assign students to them, manually or randomly. Less formally, you can create a virtual study hall, open to the whole class. Even if you don't have access to a Learning Management System, there are plenty of options. You can still set up asynchronous forums with tools like Piazza, and wikis with tools like PBwiki. For synchronous meeting spaces, suggest Google Plus Hangouts or Skype.
If they want to remain untethered, they can even use group text messaging tools like Swaggle or group messaging apps like GroupMe or WhatsApp. Not every student has a mobile device so they can use WhatsRemote, the WhatsApp tool for the desktop. Cheap, prepaid cell phones might also help bridge the no smartphone gap. On the other end of the teacher involvement spectrum, perhaps you want to facilitate a virtual group study session for students who need help preparing for an exam. The same tools apply to this scenario.
As you can see, when it comes to virtual study groups, there are a wide variety of options. Regardless of your level of involvement or the types of virtual workspaces, you should provide guidelines, objectives, and even activities for virtual group collaboration. Guidelines for working in groups include acceptable use policies, recommendations for conducting synchronous meetings to keep them on track, and stating the level of urgency in the subject line. If students don't know what to do in a study group, suggest simple activities like a group Q&A.
Each student must share one or more unique questions that he or she hasn't been able to answer about a reading assignment or an upcoming test. At least one person in the group must answer every question and follow up question. Before reviewing the next movie, take a minute to answer the following questions for yourself. How will you support virtual study groups for your students? What tools will you provide or recommend they use for asynchronous work as a group or for synchronous group meetings? And, what guidelines or recommendations will you provide to support students learning together without you?
Author Kevin Kelly explains how learning outcomes can be adapted to support technology in the classroom, and guides educators through selecting the appropriate technology for their activity, module, or class. Then he shows how to apply technology in three key areas: finding, creating, and sharing content with students; facilitating classroom activities; and assessing learning inside the classroom or online.
- Including technology in your learning outcomes
- Applying Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles
- Finding and creating content and instructional materials
- Enhancing lectures and presentations with technology
- Getting students involved
- Facilitating in-class activities
- Assessing learning
- Teaching effectively online