Assessing online collaborative work

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Rebecca Ferguson
17 May 2016

Karen Kear and Helen Donelan

This session discusses research exploring student and tutor perceptions of an online group project. The context is a module in communications technology, where groups of OU students collaborate online to create a website for a particular scenario (e.g. a walking club). The group work is supported and marked by students’ tutors. Marks are given for both the product and the process of the collaboration; some marks are individual, and some are for the group as a whole.

The research explored students’ and tutors’ experiences of:

The collaboration – how students interact with each other online to carry out the collaborative work.

The task – what students are asked to do, and how this relates to their professional practice (Herrington et al., 2010).

The assessment – how the activities and outputs are marked, and whether this is perceived as fair (Strauss et al., 2014).

Online focus groups were conducted with 27 students to explore their experience of the group work, and its assessment. Discussion forums were used to gather feedback from 18 tutors. Thematic analysis was applied to the data gathered, and the findings were organised around the three aspects above.

The findings show that students found the collaboration challenging yet rewarding; however, it caused anxiety for some students. There was a tension between asking students to tackle an authentic task, and ensuring that it was achievable for all students. Students were divided about whether the assessment was fair; tutors thought group marks did not reflect the division of work among students.

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