Creative ways to design and facilitate virtual team projects
eLearning Services held a meeting last month focusing on virtual team projects. During the meeting, eLearning staff and faculty members discussed how to facilitate virtual meetings and the best technologies and strategies to use.
Virtual team projects allow students to enhance their interpersonal and team skills as well as their presentation and communication skills. These projects also allow students to gain an awareness of different cultural and discipline-specific perspectives.
The challenge many faculty run into is how to design and facilitate the virtual projects and teams. When designing your team project, it is helpful to draw a schematic of how the project will evolve over time. This could include specific milestones, peer evaluations, and grading criteria. In the example, you can see that there are four milestones prior to the final project presentation – two of these being peer evaluations.
When designing team project guidelines, you’ll want to indicate the objectives and communicate the final learning outcomes for the students. Think about team roles, how the students will be assessed (as a group or individually), and the kind of peer evaluations you want to use.
Facilitating team projects is important for the success of virtual projects. It is important to model effective teamwork, be a guide for the team, and provide positive encouragement. Be proactive early on and try to stay proactive throughout the project. Anticipate student questions, and monitor student discussion posts at least weekly. This will help you solve student issues as they arise. Below are some examples of common questions and concerns that may come up.
Lawrence Tech offers a couple of different tools that can help support and assess virtual team projects. Blackboard includes groups with private discussion boards, journals, blogs, wikis, file exchange capabilities, email, and the virtual collaboration tool Wimba (soon to be replaced by Collaborate). Google offers Google Drive for file sharing, and Google Hangouts so students can meet virtually.
Each tool offers different advantages and disadvantages that you’ll need to consider when selecting the best tool for the virtual team project. You’ll need to consider time zones for live meetings, the need for transparency between group members, and ease of communication so that students stay engaged. Scheduling a test session beforehand is always advised. If you need help, you can contact eLearning Services for more information.
All of this information was presented at the Fall 2014 Online Faculty Meeting, but you do not need to be an online faculty member to participate. Many of the tips and best practices shared during these meetings can be used in any online, on-ground, or hybrid learning situation.
If you’d like to learn more about team projects or other topics, please join us on Tuesday, January 13, 2015 at 6:00pm. The topic for the next meeting will be chosen closer to the date of the event.