Oregon State University|blogs.oregonstate.edu

Effectively Working in Groups in Online Classes

  March 17th, 2018

Working in groups in an education setting can be challenging.  In online classes it can make it even harder. You don’t know who you are working with, they are just a name on a screen.  With in-person classes you can easily get to know someone, and start to build a relationship with them and figure out who you might work best with.  Everyone has a different way of learning and way of doing things, so you want to choose people that you can easily work with.

Finding people to do a group project with online can be difficult.  You don’t know anything about these people. The easiest way to find people that you might be able to work well with is to find what everyone is interested in.  If you are working with people in an open group project where you get to choose the topic you are working on and you have nothing in common with your group members it can be difficult to come to an agreement on what to work on.

Another way to make sure your group succeeds is to find out what everyone’s learning styles are.  You want to make sure you can mesh with your group members. If you don’t know the way a group member operates and does things it can lead to confusion and frustration.  Confusion and frustration is going to lead to problems in the group as far as getting things done in a quality and timely fashion.

You also want to make sure you and your group members are on the same time frame.  Most college students are taking more than one class, most are taking around four, so there is more to do than the one class. Group members should discuss what days’ work best for working on the project.  If everyone in the group but one likes to finish everything by Wednesday it can lead to confusion and a very unorganized group.

So how do we go about making sure that the people we choose for our group match us in most if not all of these ways?  Most the time a teacher will start a discussion board so students can put all their information out there. Make sure as a student you pay attention to who you are choosing as your groupmate and make sure they are someone that seems to be engaged and will work well with you.  Group projects are really difficult for some people so making sure you choose the right people to work with is very important for a successful project.

Writer: Brooke Zerby

Help from Peers in Online Classes

  March 17th, 2018

Anyone who has taken an online class knows how hard it can be to adjust, because you don’t have the support like you would in an in person setting.  You don’t have someone sitting next to you that you can ask a quick question if you didn’t understand something. This can lead to people struggling, because they don’t know where to turn.

For some students it is easier for them to ask a peer for help instead of the teacher.  Some students are worried that the teacher might think they weren’t paying attention or might be quick to judge.  I know for me it was always easier to ask a peer for help instead of the teacher and most the time a peer can help you.  So, once you get online it shouldn’t be any different, right? But sadly, it is. It is not as easy to just turn to a peer and ask a question.

Online it is probably easiest to email your professor when you have questions, but once you’ve emailed them once or twice you typically start to feel like burden.  But how do you go about emailing or asking a peer who you’ve never met before? It makes it hard. You probably don’t have anyone’s email, because that isn’t given out.  You can respond within comments on a discussion board, but besides that you don’t really have much one on one contact with your peers.

For myself I believe that it would help me a lot to be able to text or email my peers with questions instead of emailing my professor.  I have worked in small groups for projects for online classes and my groups always seem to end up helping each other with assignments and questions that don’t pertain to our project.  And the other person in your group might be thinking the same thing, or confused on the same thing. Shooting a group email and text makes it easy to get a response, or all your group members might be confused on the same thing.  If that is the case when you email your professor, you can mention that your whole group is confused on the issue, so maybe the professor when clarify what they are asking, or post the answer to the question in another place.

I think three or four people is perfect in a group.  Once you get up into five or above it tends to be a little more hectic and you phone could be getting flooded with group texts, which none of us want.  Getting in a group early in the term is important so you have a lot of time to get to know your group members. A good way to form groups would be opening a discussion for people at the start of the term to tell the class a little bit about themselves and their learning style, then you can join groups that way.  The reverse of this is some students don’t want to be in a group, so I believe that this would work best if teachers made it optional. Some people work better alone and have no problem emailing their professor with questions. But for some of us having a few peers that we can turn to would be the key to success!

Writer: Brooke Zerby

Going from F’s to A’s in online classes

  March 15th, 2018

Taking an online class can be scary especially when instructions are confusing and the content is new. The whole experience of an online class used to haunt me after my first online class was a disaster. I didn’t understand topics, did assignments wrong, and eventually failed the class. Finally getting back on the horse I found some tips and tricks to going from F’s to A’s and want to share them with y’all

  • Know when to ask for help
  • Don’t be afraid to email the professor
  • Write down due dates
  • Email your peers when you don’t understand because they probably are confused too
  • Stay on top of assignments
  • Attend office hours
  • Create a to do list
  • Make goals


These are honestly things that my parents and any older adult has told me when they offered advice to me and I always blew off their advice thinking they don’t know they haven’t been in school in ages they have no clue how to help me. Well it wasn’t until I got out of my “know it all teenager phase” when I read the book The 7 Habits of highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. This book honestly made me get my head out of the sand and listen to the free advice I was being given. These pieces of advice don’t go out of style and it wasn’t until I really started to apply it to my life. By snapping your fingers your grades won’t change, making life style choices is what changes grades.



I am a firm believer in TED talks. If you have no idea what they are start watching them. They cover all kinds of topics but when I feel like a failure and don’t feel like I will succeed I watch a TED talk to pick myself up and know to keep going.


” Success is not final, failure isn’t fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” ~Winston Churchill

Mission Statement

  March 14th, 2018

Communal Learning Online has the deepest purpose to improve students lives through online education. Through advancement in educational tools and methods to enrich students learning and overall enjoyment.

More Brains More Success

  March 14th, 2018

When a student is struggling on a topic is takes a lot of courage to raise their hand in a classroom that can be up to 200 people in a lecture hall. This usually leads to the student not raising their hand and leaving the lecture hall with questions.  But if the student had a small group of people they are able to go to their group with questions and work through misunderstandings that can happen.

Benefits of working in a group:

  • Build on students collaboration skills
  • Share diverse perspectives
  • Develop stronger communication skills

When working in the job market most projects and major tasks are done in groups. By teaching students to work in groups it will benefit them in the long run because they might not be using that assembly language in the workforce but they will be using the group skills they learned in that class. When working in a group students are able to break down tasks, assess everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and take on tasks accordingly. As well as giving and taking peer feedback. This is a major skill that is lacking in corporate America is that group members aren’t taking their peers feedback into consideration and overall hurts the teams performance.

What makes a group successful:

When I was doing research for this blog post I was looking at articles of what makes a group successful and the one thing that was on every website, article and journal was Communication. Communication is the key to working in groups. This is also a skill that is sadly dying in the younger generations. Having students work in groups help not only with the subject they are working on but also helps students with their communication skills. In a recent survey done by a Business Solutions firm said that 7 in 10 Millennials would rather text someone than talk in person. This leads back to my point that making students talk to each other is helping them better their communication skills.

Why communication is important:

  • Effective Communication helps teams succeed
  • Verbal and Nonverbal communication are both important
  • Builds and Maintains relationships

Overall students who are able to ask questions and work through misunderstandings do better in school and having a group that students are able to foster relationships and build skills that can’t be lectured on. I myself have struggled in classes and when I need help I turn to my peers for help before my professor. This then leads to study groups and bouncing ideas off one another and if one person in my group understood something they helped the rest of the group understand.



https://www.cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/design/instructionalstrategies/groupprojects/benefits.html (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/top-10-qualities-build-successful-work-team-25444.html (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/neilhowe/2015/07/15/why-millennials-are-texting-more-and-talking-less/#1e2dbbc59752 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2017/10/18/millennials-text-talk-in-person/ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

http://aib.edu.au/blog/communication/6-reasons-effective-communication-focus-business/ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.?


Online Collaboration Techniques

  March 13th, 2018

As discussed in the previous post, “ Collaboration; why is it important in the classroom?” the lack of collaborative learning and social interaction through online classes is a problem for online courses. There are a variety of ways collaboration can be improved in distance education courses. These ways include, but are not limited to, the following: having a group chat for casual interactions, having a “students near me” function for online courses, having assigned small groups per each course to discuss topics with, and a variety of other possible solutions.

Having a group chat for interactions between students will allow for casual discussions. This will provide students with a platform to speak to one another, that is not on a discussion board. Having a group chat mechanism for students will be providing them with an opportunity to speak casually with one another, in order to encourage collaboration between students.

The next possible mechanism that will enhance collaboration between students is a function on online courses to “find students near me.” This will allow students to search for other people in their area, encouraging them to build study groups or connections with students near them.

Lastly, having small assigned groups that you can turn to if you have questions or concerns (rather than always turning to the teacher with questions), will encourage collaboration within the small groups. This can be beneficial because students will automatically have a group to go to with questions, furthermore encouraging collaboration between the group members.

All of these ideas allow for collaboration, and as you can see, there is no right way to encourage collaboration. Though these ideas were featured in this article, there are a variety of other ways to encourage collaboration between students in order to enrich their online education. Ultimately, online education lacks collaboration between students, which therefore stunts their education. Incorporating more collaboration opportunities between students is crucial for the growth of online courses.  

Writer: Aiyana Bankston

Collaboration; why is it important in the classroom?

  March 13th, 2018

Collaboration has been apart of our educational experience for decades, and continues to be a crucial part of learning in the classroom, even in college. Collaboration between peers has been a great way to gain connections in the classroom to widen the support system in the particular class. This support system can help you through assignments, projects, questions, and even as a study group for an exam. Classrooms depend on collaboration so heavily throughout education. Now, imagine a classroom without collaboration; would it still be a classroom? This is what online classes are facing. There is an online platform for a classroom, with a little collaboration here and there (in a formal setting), yet no real collaboration between peers. There is no platform for peers to connect casually to ask these crucial questions about projects or assignment, and no place to build a group for studying for an exam.  

Oregon State University’s online courses currently has a discussion board for peers to connect and communicate through. Most online courses have mandatory postings each week to encourage collaboration between students. This is a step in the right direction, however, it is not providing enough collaboration between students that is necessary for educational purposes. The collaboration that take place is in a formal setting, and is through structured assignments. Though this is collaboration, this is not the type of collaboration that causes breakthroughs in learning, and creates a deeper understanding of the subject at hand.

The system in place for collaboration in our classrooms is not adequate for our students. It lacks the peer-to-peer connection that is necessary for learning and thriving in the classroom. The key to efficacy of collaborative learning is social interaction, and lack there of causes negative effectiveness of collaborative learning. There is limited social interaction in online classes, therefore collaboration is stunted by the lack of social interaction. Furthermore, sociocognitive theorists describe learning as an interactive group activity in which learners actively construct knowledge and then build upon that said knowledge through the exchange of ideas with others. Without collaboration and social interaction, students are not able to build upon said knowledge through the exchange of ideas with others.

The lack of collaborative learning and social interaction through online classes is a problem for online courses. Collaboration is a crucial part of learning and developing in the classroom, and without this key element, is the classroom really the same? Overall, no, the classroom is not the same. Without social interaction and collaboration, we fail to provide the best education possible for our distance education students. There are a variety of methods and ways that we can improve these distance education courses, including, but not limited to, the following: having a group chat for casual interactions, having a “students near me” function for online courses, having assigned small groups per each course to discuss topics with, and a variety of other possible solutions. In further articles, there will be a deeper discussion of the possible solutions to this issue.

Writer: Aiyana Bankston