Ask most students and they’ll probably tell how group work may be one of the least satisfying experiences they’ve ever had in school. Yet research suggests that group work, such as case-based teaching, can provide significant benefits. Students who participate in group-based active learning methods improve critical thinking, decision-making, and analytical skills, as well as the interpersonal skills necessary for discussion, collaboration, and consensus; all skills which are transferable outside the classroom (Bruner, 1991). Despite this fact, there remains an area of need within group work: a reliable method of evaluating student performance objectively and efficiently. 

The Problem with Measuring Student Involvement in Group Work

Instructors always have the option of soliciting self and peer-assessments after group work, but those may not be the most reliable indicators of who’s engaged and who’s struggling. And direct faculty observation is time-consuming and can be disruptive; the very nature of faculty observation can prompt students to behave in ways they wouldn’t ordinarily. There have been efforts to develop evaluation tools and rubrics, but these can be time and labor intensive.

The EdTech Solution

Education technology can provide not only tools for use in group work, but also the kind of data that allows faculty to assess student performance during these activities. 

Easier Collaboration

A specialized EdTech platform can provide group work activities directly to students. Students can interact with each other by asking questions or taking notes that are shared among group members. As a collaborative tool, the platform can reduce barriers to participation by providing another avenues of communication (e.g., written over verbal) for students who may not all have the same learning and communication styles.

Stronger Engagement

When students use an EdTech platform as a collaboration tool for group work, they may be more engaged. Many of today’s learners are already exceedingly adept at navigating digital spaces, and these tools give students the opportunity to interact with the course material and their peers in a way that feels natural to them and yet still focused on academics. Shared notes, comments, and questions can illuminate connections and facilitate understanding of complex ideas for students. On the faculty side, having access to data regarding student use of the materials on an individual and class basis allows for earlier intervention where needed so that students are less likely to fall through the cracks. 

Objective and Usable Measurements

The data generated by EdTech analytics allows instructors to measure a student’s engagement and performance in group work settings like case-based learning at an individual level. Data includes analysis of collaboration and comprehension metrics, too. With real-time insight into group dynamics, instructors can better develop interventions tailored to student success. EdTech analytics can be trusted to provide faculty with reliable and objective analysis of group work that’s easily accessible and readily usable. And students can have confidence that their work and participation are being evaluated objectively.

Collaborative EdTech Platforms: The Solution For Group Work

As much as some students may lament it, group work is here to stay because studies show it gets results. Shifting group work, like case studies, to an online collaborative platform may encourage greater participation among students with diverse communication styles in an environment that’s already comfortable for them. And the EdTech analytics available to instructors through faculty access to the same platform can provide teachers with an effective way to measure and evaluate individual and group participation, a win for teachers and their students.

by Andrew Lang