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  5. Strategies to support students and tutors with online collaborative projects: an action research project

Strategies to support students and tutors with online collaborative projects: an action research project

Project leader(s): 
Shirley Evans, Winston Graham and Manish Malik

This pilot project will be based on the online collaborative project in TM255 Communication and information technologies; however, it will have implications for similar group work in other STEM modules and the wider OU community. Research (Hilliard, 2017), (Donelan and Kear, 2017) indicates that collaborative group work can cause increased cognitive load, positive and negative emotional reactions and increased anxiety for students. Reflections by current students on the group work in the relevant TMA question indicate that many students have concerns about the group work that they may not voice elsewhere. Many do say that they did enjoy it in the end but for some who have a diagnosis of anxiety, and others, it can be quite a painful experience.

According to Seale (2013) writing in the context of e-learning and disability in higher education, an accessibility lens focuses on barriers and what a person cannot do rather than the digital inclusion lens which focuses on opportunity and what a person can do. This lens can usefully be applied to all students and will underpin the approach to this project.

Targeted strategies and resources would help manage tutor time and focus to better support students and reduce worry and anxiety before and during the activity. A range of recommendations have been put forward (ibid) but some as yet have not been tested out.

The research question is: How can tutors best support students to successfully engage in online collaborative projects?

The aims of the research are to:-

  • Better understand which strategies best support students to engage with online collaborative projects.
  • Better understand which strategies best support tutors to support students.
  • Produce tips, guidelines, training materials and resources to support tutors to help concerns before and during the activity with a view to optimising learning.