Small group work can be just as effective online as it is in the traditional classroom. In many cases it can be more effective because students are not subject to external factors such as shyness, gender, disabilities, geography, etc.

Students can share their ideas while analyzing other input from fellow group members. On Bloom’s Taxonomy, small group activities are placed in the categories of (analysis, synthesis, and evaluation) higher intellectual activities). The collaboration among group members can continue at any time through instant messengers, chat rooms, and discussion boards.

You can implement small group work and encourage communication tools such as chat rooms and instant messengers for students to communicate with each other.

LMS’s have their own chat features that allows application sharing which can be useful.  Just remember that many people take online courses for different reasons so scheduling required tasks in a live chat can throw a lot of people off schedule and many times defeats the purpose of online courses.  You could encourage small groups to utilize the eCollege chat and let them decide how to schedule the meeting.

Application and Examples

  1. Role play and Simulations can help to give students real-world application. For example, you may put students in groups of 3 and give each student a role; Web Designer, Graphic Designer, Content Designer. Then give them a problem. ” You have been assigned to create a web page for Dean Foods. They need three pages complete with graphics, content about their new soy milk product, and a navigational scheme. Coordinate a plan with your group members and follow through with the plan. Post your completed website in the discussion area. That group must now figure out how they are to carry out the plan. There are many uses for role play simulations. Be creative! Switch the roles for another assignment so that each student has the opportunity to be the project manager. On Dale’s Cone of Experience, simulations are the next best thing to “doing” the actual experience in real life.
  2. Guided Design activities encourage students to solve open-ended problems that require them to gather information, think logically, communicate ideas, and apply steps in a decision-making process. The instructor is there to act as a consultant and facilitator during this small group activity. Example: Solve a problem… Research a problem and report your findings… etc.
  3. Games and Competition exercises can be implemented. For example, in a business class, you could assign groups and have them communicate through a discussion or role play to finish a project. At the same time you could have 4 other groups competing to complete the same project. You can offer a reward to the group that does the best job based on your criteria. There are many ways to incorporate games and competition into your strategy.
  4. Cooperative learningis a group activity that is divided into 3 concepts:
    1. Group Rewards
    2. Individual Accountability
    3. Equal Opportunity for Success