Week 4: Overview

Facilitating Online Teams

Cooperative, collaborative or team-based learning is accepted as an effective learning strategy in both online and face-to-face learning environments. In the following short video, RRU faculty member, Doug Hamilton reflects on what has surprised him about students learning together in teams:

Doug Hamilton (1:01)

Glover’s article (2000) looks closely at the value of group work in online environments and applies Tuckman’s Five Stages of Community Development to online group processes.

In teaching in an online MBA program, Lam et al (2005) share their observations of virtual team dynamics, articulating in particular the patterns of collaborative behaviour that help distinguish between poor and high team performance.

Team learning or online group projects present their own set of challenges. In the online course, group dynamics, communication, and conflict can be difficult to discern. Generally, people are quite polite in online teamwork; however, there can be sub-currents that can impair the group's effectiveness to work cohesively. The two-page pamphlet from Royal Roads University, Team Based Learning (located on the Read and View page) provides some tips on how to recognize when a team is in trouble.

All the same dynamics that are at play in Tuckman's Five Stages of Group Development are still at play, but they are just more challenging to track in the online environment. Tuckman's five stages might not happen in sequence, or in every group situation, but understanding the dynamics involved in these different stages helps online instructors anticipate and plan for issues that might arise when students are engaged in team learning.

What happens when conflict occurs between online participants? How does an instructor diagnose, manage, and help to resolve the situation? The Dool, R. (2007, February) article and the short video clips from RRU faculty - all found in this Overview book - provide some solid advice on how to deal with team conflicts that may arise in online environment.