I’m a social worker as well as an educator, and so I’m always looking for ways to get people together for a cause. I find that cultivating and connecting students to build knowledge and skills towards growth and change in our classroom is a good one! Sometimes it can be challenging to know where to start with the available tools on Blackboard.
Collaborative learning provides knowledge that is shared as students work towards common learning goals. In our online environments, we have the ability to build in this type of activity into our classes, providing the prospect for the connected experience. The types of collaborative learning groups can vary from peer-to-peer short-term interactions to longer, project based work.
Blackboard provides ways in which we can integrate these opportunities into our online classrooms.
1) Online discussion boards: Blackboard allows students to be engaged in comparative problem solving with this tool that is easy to use and fun to develop. Students have the opportunity read a case scenario, question, or particular problem, and instructors can incorporate settings that require students to post independently without seeing peer responses first. Students can then compare and contrast their answers with those of their fellow classmates, and respond on the potential final solution to the presented problem. A challenge for students may be with difficulty keeping an issue open for continued discussion, and the instructor must engage with frequency in order to keep the discussion flowing beyond the immediate quest for a final answer.
2) The “Groups” tool: Sometimes underutilized, the “groups” tool in Blackboard can be a huge boon for the instructor and for the students in online courses. It’s important that if you are going to be connecting students in online groups that there are clear expectations set for engaged partnership within the work team. In my own course, I’ve utilized this tool for semester based projects, building in learning tasks for the group to collaborate on as they proceed through the group. Blackboard allows students to self-select who they will enroll in groups with, or you can assign them yourself. They are able to show their work processes in the “groups” arena, with groups-only discussion boards, journals, file exchange, and more. Students also are able to submit a group-developed assignment, which allows the instructor evaluate and provide feedback one time, with grade assignments given to each member of the group with one click.
3) Peer assessment: In the online arena, students can benefit from having the ability to be a part of a peer assessment process. By allowing students to post assignments that are visible to others, their classmates are able to provide valuable feedback and learn in the process. Blackboard allows you to provide clearly defined rubrics for use with peer review processes, once you’ve identified activities that students will benefit from peer feedback. When you go to the “assessment” tab for your content area, you are given the choice to develop an assignment
for “self and peer assessment”. Blackboard walks you through the instructor determined choices, even allowing for anonymous review. Students may feel empowered through the process of having their feedback valued, and in turn may learn from the dynamic process of both receiving and providing review.
By choosing to engage students in multidirectional communication, we allow a classroom that invites exchanged ideas, recognizes a student’s contribution as an active learner, and reinforces the responsibility of the active learner in helping to create a positive course experience.
Brindley, J., Walti, C., & Blaschke, L. (2009). Creating Effective Collaborative Learning Groups in an Online Environment. International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, 10(3).
University of Oregon, Teaching Effectiveness Program (n.d.) Generating and Facilitating Engaging and Effective Online Discussions. Retrieved from http://tep.uoregon.edu/technology/blackboard/docs/discussionboard.pdf.
Link to my School of Social Work Bio: http://webs.wichita.edu/?u=socialwork&p=/facultyandstaff/millar/