Virtual Collaboration and Groupwork in Online Learning and Assessment: ACODE Whitepaper

The Australasian Council on Open, Distance and e-Learning (ACODE) surveyed Australasian universities prior to the ACODE 83 Workshop on Virtual Collaboration and Groupwork in Online Learning and Assessment, to gather insights into the types of collaboration tools currently being used by the sector in learning and teaching, while asking “the million-dollar question”: how can the benefits of collaboration and groupwork be realised in an online or partially online learning environment? An extension activity was also conducted during the workshop, and the findings from the project have been compiled and presented in this ACODE Whitepaper by Dr Sherre Roy (CQU) and Professor Michael Sankey (CDU).

Read the key messages here.

Tools that were used: primarily centrally funded Learning Management Systems, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams.

Big issues in managing online: The three most common were: time and workload pressure particularly during major restructures; “lack of familiarity” and skills with ways of learning and teaching online; and perceptions among academics that they were being moved from face to face to online, “rather than creating new experiences”.

Assisting students: concerns over student equity served as a major influencing factor behind institutional choices of tools and technology with improved accessibility. For comprehensive support for students, “coordinated centralised IT and Library support”, coupled with “practices such as applying Universal Design for Learning principles” and providing learning materials in accessible formats were all important.

The take-out: while institutions provided emergency staff support, it is apparent that for some educators, there is a lack of preparedness for a “more permanent paradigm shift” – one where new learning and teaching experiences are created in the virtual environment. It seems the way forward could be with greater “investment in developmental opportunities for academics that help them to embrace the paradigm shift and expand their knowledge and skills for learning and teaching in the virtual space.”

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