Patterns of instruction in online group work

Cooper-Smith, L 2019, Patterns of instruction in online group work, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Business IT and Logistics, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Patterns of instruction in online group work
Author(s) Cooper-Smith, L
Year 2019
Abstract In higher education, group work is recognised as a collaborative learning activity. Group work in online courses has been cited as challenging and too difficult to manage. Much research has examined group work to determine both the impeding and facilitative factors, mostly from the perspective of the students' experiences of group work. Few studies have examined the instructors' experiences of group work, and more specifically, instructor conceptions of their role in online group work. By understanding what instructors think about group work in online courses, it is possible to support instructors to increase the use of online group work.

Prospective employers consistently call for business graduates to be able to demonstrate collaborative teamwork skills as part of their employability skill set. Group work in undergraduate courses is seen as the appropriate mechanism for teamwork education. Collaborative teamwork skills are considered the second most sought after demonstrable skill in a prospective employee; communication skills being the most sought after. How then can universities engender a growth in online group work as a means of ensuring their online undergraduates are being educated to develop their collaborative teamwork skills?

This research examined the conceptions of instructors about their group work experiences. A phenomenographic research approach was considered the most appropriate, as phenomenography allows for all variations of conceptions to be considered. Phenomenography facilitates the closer examination of a phenomenon, for example, how students learn. By examining the conceptions individual instructors have about their role in group work, patterns of practice were illuminated.

In total 51 university professionals contributed to this research. The conceptions of two different cohorts were sought: academics and educational developers. Phenomenographic data was gathered using a sequential multi-method approach, which included an online Delphi study, an online instructor questionnaire, and semi-structured interviews. The data illuminated six categories of conception, together with four dimensions of variation.

The six categories of conception of the role of the instructor in group work found in this research are: Non-Starter; Starter; Co-ordinator; Trusted Advisor; Reflector; and Actuator. The four dimensions of variation that show the levels of complexity within each of the categories are: The Instructor Cognition; Group Work Processes; Use of Collaborative ICT; and Reflective Practice.
An outcome of this research is a teaching and learning pattern for online group work. It is anticipated that the teaching and learning pattern will be the basis of a community-centred professional development program for instructors, or educational developers, as like-minded colleagues willing to engage, learn and share how to systematically and effectively offer group work in online courses.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Business IT and Logistics
Subjects Teacher Education and Professional Development of Educators
Computer-Human Interaction
Keyword(s) Higher education online courses
Collaborative online group work
The instructor
Phenomenography
Phenomenographic categories of conception
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Created: Tue, 03 Mar 2020, 10:46:03 EST by Adam Rivett
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