Explore potential strategies.
Students’ schedules prohibit meeting as frequently as needed.
One of the biggest complaints students voice about group work is the lack of time they have to meet outside of class. With undergraduates overloading on courses, working, and participating in extracurricular activities, it is increasingly difficult for them to schedule time to meet. In many masters or executive programs, students work full time, have family responsibilities, and attend classes in the evening, again making it very difficult to find time to meet. While some faculty members believe this is a problem students must resolve themselves, we do ourselves a disservice if we don’t at least meet them halfway on this issue, particularly if we believe that the team approach to a project meets goals that the individual approach does not.
If group work is an important goal of yours, allow some in-class time for groups to meet. Offering students the opportunity to meet during class time also gives you the chance to observe their interactions, field questions, and provide feedback.
There are many kinds of technology (e.g., discussion boards, e-mail, Oracle calendars) that can facilitate communication within groups and enhance collaboration. Encourage students to use the technology available (typically they are much more adept at these kinds of technologies than their professors!) Make it clear, however, that these methods of communication, while useful, are not a substitute for face-to-face interaction.
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