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Designing and Using Group Work in Courses

Below will give you some ideas on how to use group work in any classroom environment.

Group work in any course can be designed using a variety methods. It may seem somewhat challenging but is so rewarding.  Group activities create more opportunities for students to engage in critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving and communication. All of the following can promote student learning, achievements and success.  

Included in this article are stategies and methods you can use to add group work into your courses for students to collaborate inside and outside of the classroom.

Why Use Groups?

  • Work through complex concepts as a team, relying on experience and knowledge from peers
  • Learn communication skills in navigating conflict and change 
  • Question each other to gain better understanding and develop alternative solutions 
  • Discuss and reflect on thoughts and understanding

How Can Groups Work In and Outside of a Classroom?

Blackboard (Bb) groups in the course provide a space for students to get together during and after class.

During class

  • Have students log into Blackboard groups during class 
  • Use the group wiki or journal to work through a class exercise 
  • Mix up the group members to include remote and classroom students
  • Include a group discussion forum for the think-pair-share type of activities 
  • Breakout rooms can be used if you have a mix of in class and virtual students, using web conferencing tools (listed below)

Outside of class 

  • Continue the classroom discussion/activity to bring the results to next class 
  • Assign the group a project, including a recorded presentation. Post the recording in the class discussion forum, VoiceThread, blog, or other tool and ask the class to watch and comment on several of the presentations. 
  • Use group peer assessment for a writing project each student works on independently. This provides students with the experience of providing constructive feedback to others. 
  • Provide guidance on how the student can manage their groups; assign roles, group contract, plan and assessment. 

Web Conferencing Groups

If using web conferencing during or outside of class, many tools are available.

  • Bb Collaborate Ultra Breakout Groups – assign students to breakout rooms during each class session, when needed 
  • Zoom - Breakout Rooms– pre-assign students to groups prior to class, retaining same groups all semester 
  • Bb Groups – created by instructor with a variety of tools available to the students
    • Bb Collaborate 
    • Blog, Discussion, Journal, Wiki 
    • Email 
    • File exchange 
    • Voice Thread 
  • Zoom  – once logging in for the first time (NDSU Zoom Login), each student has a Zoom account to schedule their own group meetings  
    • Whiteboard 
    • Audio & video 
    • Chat 
    • Screen sharing to work on a group paper/assignment together 
    • Study groups 
    • Practice presentations 
    • Sharing class notes
    • Tools available 
    • Informal Groups 

Group Activity Ideas  

Pose a question for the students to “think” about 

  • Break the students out into 2-3-member breakout rooms, giving them time to “pair” and discuss 
  • Close the breakout rooms and bring the students back. Call on random groups to have their reporter “share” their discussion 
  • Prior to class post the question in a discussion forum to continue the conversation with the class as a whole (including asynchronous, as needed) and for the group reporters to post their “sharing” comments 

KWL Exercise

  • Breakout room members (same as Bb group members) take 1-2 minutes to complete a KWL exercise independently.  
  • Take their notes and create a wiki chart to write up the responses from all the members. What are the commonalities? Are the answers very different?  
  • When breakout room time ends have the reporter for the group ready to share their work to the class. KWL Activity – what I Know, what I Want to know and what I have Learned.  

Design a Question

  • Students design a question to try to stump their peers 
  • Group votes on what the best stump question was and shares with class when breakout rooms close 
  • Post on Discussion Forum to include asynchronous students and share with the class. Not all groups will be able to share their voice during class. 

Role Playing & Debates

  • Group selects spokesperson to debate other group (prep outside of class) 
  • Role-playing debate 

Using Polls for Class Questions

  • Ask 4-5 questions based on the current lecture or previous day’s work 
  • Have students, independently, respond to the questions (have them write down their responses) 
  • Break the students into groups to discuss their answers 
  • Close the groups and run the poll again 
  • Compare and discuss the first poll – discussion – last poll. What changed? Why? 

Lots more

What are common challenges?

  • An assertive member may dominate the discussion. Include group peer assessments and scoring for some projects to lessen the impact on one individual.

  • May be pressure from the group to use the majority response rather than being open to discuss questioners. Changing roles in groups can help to manage this. 

  • It takes more time to work together than alone, though the end results are deeper in understanding. 

  • The most common complaint is that one or two students do all of the work. Designing assignments for equal input from all group members is important

Additional resources




Keywords:groupwork, classroom teaching, online teaching, hybrid, group work, groups, web conferencing, LMS, Blackboard, hyflex, projects, pedagogy   Doc ID:104979
Owner:Sharley K.Group:IT Knowledge Base
Created:2020-08-14 17:15 CDTUpdated:2022-05-04 10:31 CDT
Sites:IT Knowledge Base
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