Category: Team Projects

Project Teams – Using Canvas to Improve Outcomes

There are already some great posts on this blog about Team Projects and I encourage you to read through them by clicking on the category: Team Projects.  What I want to do in this post is to summarize some of the key points made in the webinar: Using Canvas to Facilitate Team Projects which can be found under Faculty Resources.

Canvas has a rich environment for project teams, which they label “groups.”  Becanvas1fore getting started, however, I highly recommend going to your personal settings within Canvas and take care of two tasks:  First, make sure you have uploaded a picture and bio.  Students should expect their canvas2Instructors to have completed this task and they can read through this information, enhancing your credibility.  Second, go to settings and “Register” your Google Drive (gmail) account.  This does not give Canvas access to your Google Drive documents, but it does facilitate your ability to set up collaborations with your students.  Students should also be encouraged to register their Google Drive so that they can access the collaboration features available in Canvas.

Now that you have taken care of these housekeeping items.  Here is a general checklist which will get you started in using Canvas to facilitate team projects. Let me strongly suggest you also watch the webinar as well for greater details.

  1. Under the People navigation link, click on +Group Set and give it a name.  Group Sets are basically types of groups, e.g. Project Teams.  Think about the options listed there before you click on save. There are good reasons to choose one option or another and the video will help with that.  If you don’t start the groups, then they will not be available to students.  YOU ARE KEY TO MAKING THIS WORK.
  2. If you chose to set up the groups manually, give each group its own namecanvas3.  You can set up as many groups as you like.  Once the group is set up you can manually drag members into the groups or use the + by their name to select the group where you would like them.  Setting up a group leader is as easy as clicking on the gear icon by a name and selecting “set as group leader.”  This is usually a good idea as it gives the group better autonomy to move around within the site.
  3. Once the groups are set up you can access the group’s page by clicking on the gear icon by the group name and selecting View Group Home Page.  From here group members can post announcements, start discussions, store files, start collaborations, and conferences
  4. Conferences can be created and left open ended, but remember to click on Start so the groups have access.  This allows them to set up regular meeting times which you can join to see how they are progressing.  Please consult the webinar video for more details.
  5. Collaborations make use of Google docs, which is why you need to register your Google Drive.  The Instructor should start one shared document within each group.  This allows you, as owner of the document, to be able to easily see who is contributing and how the group is using this resource.

There is a lot more I could say, but if you watch the webinar you will get the hang of it pretty quickly.  Experiment, practice, encourage your students to participate.  I think you will find this breathing some new energy into the team projects.

Using Google Docs/Sheets/Presentations/Forms in the Classroom

The webinar: Using Google Docs in the Classroom was led today by Julien Marion.  As with the last webinar, Julien did an outstanding job in sharing the tools freely available from Google and how they can be used in the classroom.  His enthusiastic style and obvious passion for helping students came through strongly.  Marion’s presentation style is engaging and approachable.  He is obviously thoroughly familiar with the various Google products and gave examples of how he uses those products in the classes he teaches. I know those participating enjoyed the collaboration opportunities as there were many comments of of “cool.”  Which, I suppose dates us a little.

I encourage you to watch the recording as well as the previous recording, located under Faculty Resources on the Faculty Blog.  I’m confident you will learn something that you will be able to use in the classroom or for your personal life.

Team Project Charter – The Most Important Ignored Document

Many of the courses in the Adult Studies Programs for Belhaven University include a Team Project.  The inclusion of the Team Project is valuable on many fronts:  It provides the opportunity to learn to work together, maximizes group resources, allows for synergistic achievement, just to mention a few.  It is also one of the most frustrating experiences for many students who complain about “freeloaders” who don’t do the work and either drag everyone’s grade down, or force others to carry the extra load, often without the Instructor noticing or seeming to care.

The best solution to this and one which falls in line with our goals and mission is the Team Project Charter.  Unfortunately, it is often ignored because it takes time to work out and many Instructors and even team members fail to see the value, wanting to jump straight into the project.  This is almost always a mistake leading inevitably to the complaints mentioned above.

The Team Project Charter is important because it outlines the basic expectations and is signed by each member of the team.  The basic parts include:

  • Group goals and/or purpose.
  • Planned meeting time, place, and agenda.
  • Clearly understood attendance requirements and penalties for absences.
  • Discussion of responsibilities of members within teams.
  • Discussion plan for meetings.
  • Conflict management and resolution, penalties for constitutional covenant breaches, and plan for constitutional covenant changes.

When these items are spelled out it is much easier to pull the document back out at the beginning of a Team meeting and address any problems and the potential penalties for covenant breaches.  It empowers teams to function smoothly and to stay focused, while avoiding freeloading.

There is an example of the Team Project Charter in the Adult Studies Student Handbook.

If you haven’t wanted to take time for this in the past, I strongly encourage you to make time going forward.  It will provide a better experience for the students, less frustration and grousing for you to deal with, and, more importantly, allows students to see how to deal with situations if a positive format that they can use in the future.

Here is another article which also describes the importance of the Team Project Charter:  Creating an Effective Team Charter

Infographics as Team Projects?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am seeing more and more use of infographics in the education arena.  They actually remind me of poster presentations I’ve seen at various conferences.  What I like about them is the way they pull information together and organize it for clarity.  At this link (The Best Simple Tools to Create Infographics for Your Class)  you can find an article about several programs which can be used to create an infographic.  I’ve included a sample infographic below which I found at Google Images.  The point of this, I think, is that it would be a creative project for a Project Team assignment with some interesting discussion being generated in data collection, design, and presentation as well as the classroom presentation/explanation/defense.

Problem Based Learning Activities vs. Project Based Learning Activities

The article “Insightful Tips on How to Integrate Problem Based Learning in Your Classroom” describes the difference between problem based activities and project based activities and shares the promised “insightful tips.”  I found the difference, as well as the tips, interesting.  The “Infographic” which is part of the article was also interesting.

I’m seeing more and more of these infographics.  I wonder if the creation of such an “infographic” might even be a worthwhile team project for some classes?    Of course that would require some research on the part of the team . . . .

Using Google Docs for Team Project Collaboration

Most of us have at least heard about Google Docs but may have been too busy to explore this application or consider what it might offer to us or our students.  A colleague, Julien Marion, and I discussed this last week while we were having lunch.  I had used Google Docs only in a superficial way up to this point, but after our discussion I began to explore this application more fully.  I discovered an amazing tool which not only allows real-time collaboration on papers and spreadsheets, but also tracks revisions so that Instructors can see who has made contributions.  I’ve included a short video below which I found on YouTube.  There are hundreds more on the same topic (i.e. “Using Google Docs for Collaboration”).  I really encourage you to watch this short video and perhaps even show it in your class and encourage your project teams to give it a try.   You could even reserve the computer lab and set up a real-time experiment with your class. If you decide to give this a try, I would be interested to hear how your experiment turned out, as well as how to make using Google Docs even more effective.  There are likely many more ways you can think of to use this application; again, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts and ideas, email me at: rupchurch@belhaven.edu



Group Work / Team Projects

Most of the undergraduate and some of the graduate courses in Belhaven University’s Adult Studies programs required Group Work/Team Projects.  The benefits of developing the ability to work in teams is obvious and most students recognize the importance of developing these skills.  Paradoxically, most students express extreme dislike of having to participate in Team Projects.  In most cases the dislike arises out of perceived inequity of workload, perceived relevance, and the possibility of receiving a lower grade due to a lower performing team mate.   Many faculty have asked about resources which they can use to provide a better experience for students as well as lessening their own frustration in providing guidance and appropriate assessment.

In researching this, I ran across a series of articles which I think you will find useful:

How Can I Monitor Groups

Group Work Strategies to Ensure Students Pull Their Weight

What are the Benefits of Group Work

What are the Challenges of Group Work and How Can I Address Them?

How Can I Assess Group Work?

Group Project Tools

You will also find multiple other links within these articles which you can follow to find even more information on this topic.  The Team Project can be a powerful learning opportunity for our students.  Taking the time to learn more about how to make the best use of the Team Project is definitely worth the effort.