Assessing Group Projects & Collaboration Activities

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Assessing Group Projects & Collaboration Activities

Assessing group projects is “not usually straightforward” (Oosterhof, Conrad, & Ely, 2008, p. 215). There are two ways to assess group projects or collaboration activities: assessing the group as a whole with no regard for participation by participants and using the individual contributions as part of the grade. As always, there are formative and summative assessments that are part of the student’s grade. In the case of group projects and collaboration activities in an online environment, there are factors that the instructor may not be able to see and easily evaluate, such as what the group does off-line or through email (Oosterhof, Conrad, & Ely, 2008). This makes it difficult for the instructor to gauge the actual participation of group members. Just because a group member does not post frequently on a discussion board for the project does not mean that student is not greatly contributing to the group. Some instructors request that all group interaction is done through the discussion board, but this is not always practical.

For this discussion post:

  • Define the three perspectives for assessing collaborative activities (instructor, self, and peer).
  • Why are these perspectives important?
  • What are the differences in these perspectives with regard to formative and summative assessments?

Post by Wednesday:

Your definitions and answers to the questions above.

By Saturday:

Read your colleagues’ postings.

Respond to two of your colleagues’ postings in any of the following ways:

  • Ask a thought-provoking question
  • Offer an opinion
  • Share insight(s)
  • Offer a different opinion (respectfully)

The rubric for this discussion post is here: DiscussionQuestionRubric

Reference and resource for post:

  • Course Text: Assessing Learners Online
    • Chapter 14, “Managing Assessment of Interaction and Collaboration”

Plagiarism Detection and Prevention

Plagiarism is where someone uses another person’s ideas or writings as their own without acknowledging the original origin of the idea or writing. There are many plagiarism detection software programs available. Assessments can be designed in such a way that they help to prevent academic dishonesty. There are strategies and other considerations that online instructors can use to help with plagiarism detection and prevention.

A quick Google search shows many software programs and there is the software used by Walden University, which is TurnItIn. Google shows the following: grammarly.com, plagtracker.com, Viper (by scanmyessay.com), and seesources.com (Google, Inc., 2015). These detection services can be utilized by instructors to detect plagiarism and possibly confront the student and possibly address the issue with the school’s administration, if the problem is profound enough.

Students hear “test” or “exam” and immediately groan, thinking “How can I get through this in the easiest way possible?” This leads many to cheat or plagiarize. However, the design of the assessments can help to prevent this. As Dr. Pratt indicates, assessments can and should be designed so that the instructor does not care if the students talk, use their books or other resources (Laureate Education (Producer), 2010). They should be a real-life simulation. In the real world, as an employee, you are not given an assignment and told that you are not allowed to use any other outside help to get it done (Laureate Education (Producer), 2010). You are encouraged to use whatever resources that are at your disposal to complete the assignment. How many times a day do students use Google or another search engine? Enough that “Googling” is now a verb.

Another strategy that can be utilized for online teaching are group projects where students are encouraged to give the “why” of a situation, not just the “what.” However, this does not totally prevent plagiarism. I had a group project with several other students. One of the students brought to my attention that another’s work was almost all copied from our textbook without citations or quotations. We alerted the instructor and changed the work so our project would not be affected by the person’s blatant plagiarism. Instructors need to be very familiar with the resources that they are using for the class to help them know if a student is using direct quotes from those resources without citing them. If a group is involved, the group members also need to be on the lookout for something that just sounds too familiar, like something they have read in the recent past (the resources for the course, for example).

As a future online instructor, to the extent I am able, I will try to use realistic case studies and proceed to ask questions that require deep thought, not just rote memorization. I will utilize group projects and collaborative assignments so the students actually apply what they are learning. Application is the actual key to understanding. A student can think, “I know that,” but until they have used in a real life scenario, it is not truly learned.

I learned that there are many ways to detect and prevent plagiarism – more than I thought. Another thought that I had is that these tools are available to the student, as well. The student can proactively ensure that their work will not be considered plagiarism by using the tools themselves, before turning it in to the instructor. Most students do not set out to plagiarize someone else’s work. It is usually accidental.

Resources:

Google, Inc. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.google.com/#q=plagiarism%20detection%20software

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Plagiarism and cheating [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Impact of Technology and Multimedia

Technology and multimedia are changing so fast it makes the head spin. Keeping up with the latest and greatest technology is difficult. In teaching and instructional design, care must be taken to ensure students do not become overwhelmed. We were asked to answer 4 questions for this week’s blog entry.

Computer

  • What impact does technology and multimedia have on online learning environments?

Technology and multimedia have a huge impact on online learning environments. There are a plethora of types of technology that can be utilized. Multimedia is one of the most helpful types of technology used today. Everything can be introduced, from e-mail to creating professional looking audio/visual movies, and the degree of complexity will depend on the technical proficiency of the class and the instructor.  The instructor’s personal preference for the pace at which the tools are introduced is a key to the online environment.

  • What are the most important considerations an online instructor should make before implementing technology?

There are many considerations an online instructor should make before implementing technology. Some of the most important are: the audience are you teaching, how tech-savvy the learners are, and how comfortable you are, as the instructor, with the technology. These considerations will dictate the success of the course.

  • What implications do usability and accessibility of technology tools have for online teaching?

Usability and accessibility of technology go hand-in-hand, especially in online teaching. The more accessible the technology tool is, the more useful it is. Usually, the more useful a tool is, the more accessible it is. For example, speech-to-text can be a very useful tool. It makes word processing software accessible for those who cannot type or have a lot of trouble typing. As a personal example, I have a friend who has cerebral palsy and is a quadriplegic. He has very limited use of his hands. He uses a computer quite effectively using a text-to-speech program. All of the continuing education programs that are required for his profession he takes online. The saving grace for him is speech-to-text. Without it, he would have to hire someone to type for him.

  • What technology tools are most appealing to you for online teaching as you move forward in your career in instructional design?

As I move forward in my instructional design career, the technology tools that are most appealing to me for online teaching are games and simulations. These concepts are not new in the teaching arena. However, online, they have a different connotation. Games can be very useful in a K-12 situation. Most children love to play games. The fact that they can play games and learn at the same time fascinates me. Simulations are good for the older learners. By using real world simulations it gives the learner a chance to make mistakes without affecting the real world.

Reference:

Boettcher, J. & Conrad, M. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass Publishers.

Setting Up An Online Learning Experience

What is the significance of knowing the technology available to you?

Knowing the technology available to you lets you use the proper technology tool at the right time. For example, if you have the ability to live chat and you did not know it, it becomes useless. If a student happened to find it and ask you about it, the fact that you do not know could make that student doubt your abilities (at least your technical abilities). It also helps to know the available technology well so that you can use the technology in the best way so the most learning is accomplished by your students.

Why is it essential to communicate clear expectations to learners?

It is essential to communicate clear expectations to learners so that everyone knows what they need to do and how the class will run. It also impacts student satisfaction (Boettcher & Conrad, 2009). Going into a classroom where the expectations were not laid out clearly would lead to both student confusion and instructor frustration. The students would be confused, because they would not know when or how assignments were to be completed. Instructors would get frustrated because the students were not turning assignments in with the proper format or not in the proper timing.

What additional considerations should the instructor take into account when setting up an online learning experience?

Additional considerations the instructor should take into account when setting up an online learning experience is the audience and the technical abilities of the audience. If the audience is young children, the classroom is going to be very different than if the audience were young adults. Young adults or millennial learners are very tech-savvy and the instructor needs to keep this in mind when setting up the learning experience. Instructing them on how to retrieve their email could be insulting to them. However, if the audience was an elderly class, where they are most likely not tech-savvy, instructing them on how to retrieve their email may be very helpful.

Significance of Successfully Launching an Online Learning Experience

In the future, to implement an effective online learning experience, I would absolutely be mindful of building a community, including icebreakers, and ensuring social, cognitive, and teaching presences (Boettcher & Conrad, 2009). Before this class, I had never really paid attention to the “community” of learners. I knew I enjoyed reading some people’s work better than others, but never thought about how that went into the sense of community. I was not in the habit of posting introductions. I never saw the purpose in them until this class. From now on, I will be sure to post an introduction in each class. The same goes for icebreakers. I never really enjoyed them and thought they were pointless. Now, I understand their significance. I also have now gone back and thought about teachers who made their presence known at the beginning of class and those who really did not and realized I enjoyed the classes where the instructor was engaged more than the classes where the instructor was not very involved.

Reference:
Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R.-M. (2009). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Josesy-Bass.

Community Building

How do online learning communities significantly impact both student learning and satisfaction within online courses?

One impact to student learning and satisfaction is the involvement of the instructor. Dr. Pratt indicates that the first 2 weeks of the course are the most important for the instructor to interact with the students. This allows the student to become more engaged in the learning process.

What are the essential elements of online community building?

People – There is no community without people and their interaction (Laureate Education (Producer), 2010). There needs to be a method for the community to communicate. There also needs to be a social presence which is the ability to sense who the other community members are.
Purpose – There needs to be a reason or a purpose for the community (i.e. a class) (Laureate Education (Producer), 2010). If there were no purpose for a community, the community would not be necessary.
Process – The process is the way in which the course is delivered (Laureate Education (Producer), 2010).

How can online learning communities be sustained?

One of the keys to sustaining a learning community is for the teacher to be involved with each student. The instructor needs to make it personal. That way students aren’t lost.

What is the relationship between community building and effective online instruction?

Community building and effective online instruction are closely related. The better the community is built, the more effective the online instruction can be. Also, the more effective the online instruction is, the more interactive the community can be.

Reference:
Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Online learning communities [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Analyzing Scope Creep

Scope creep is a fact of a project manager’s life. Planning for scope creep is a step that is often overlooked by a project manager. According to Lynch and Roecker (2007), “Since scope creep is a major cause of cost and time overrun, the project manager must control changes to the project charter and project scope by following the change management plan created during the planning phase of the project” (p. 96). One such project I was involved in was the revamping of a set of programs for a major telephone company. Our team was tasked with standardizing the programs. The project manager decided he wanted to listen to one of the junior programmer’s theories for completing the project rather than relying on the SME for the project. The project proceeded to go off track and the junior programmer then recommended the project be completed the way the SME had suggested in the beginning, which required a complete change to the scope of the project. The project was then overrun for time by 6 months. The project manager would have done better to listen to his SME from the beginning. This would have led to a better project plan and greater control of the project. Why bother to have a SME if you are not going to listen to them?

Reference:
Lynch, M. M., & Roecker, J. (2007). Project managing e-learning: A handbook for successful design, delivery, and management. London: Routledge.

Communicating Effectively

Communication is the key to any successful project. There are several modes of communication available to us, including written text (email), audio (voice mail), and face to face. The interpretation of each of these modalities can be different. Dr. Stolovich indicates that setting up modes of communication at the beginning and setting rules regarding those communications is important to the project (Laureate Education (Producer), n.d.).

For this assignment, we were asked to read, listen to, and view (video of a face to face) a conversation. The information in all three modalities was the same. It was the delivery that was different.

In the email, Jane’s tone was factual.  Jane asked for information, but never set a date or timeline for the response. She indicated that she needed information to complete her report, but never said when she needed the information by or when she expected an answer. She also never said when her report was due. Mark had no way of knowing how urgent a request this was.

In the voice mail, Jane said exactly the same thing as the email, but the tone of the voice mail indicated a little more urgency to the request, but there was still no deadline given. The inflection of her voice was the tell-tale sign in this modality. She also took the time to actually try to call Mark, which indicates urgency as well.

In the face to face conversation, there was the addition of body language to indicate the urgency of the request. There was also the fact that Jane actually took time out of her day to visit Mark. The information being conveyed was exactly the same as both other modalities, but with her connection with Mark, even more urgency was conveyed.

The face to face communication best conveyed the true meaning and intent of the message. However, in all cases, better wording would have made a huge difference. Indicating that she needed the information today or tomorrow (or whenever the “drop dead date” was) would have helped her communicate with Mark in a more efficient and effective way.

From this exercise I have learned that communication with the members of a project team should be considered carefully before embarking on said communications. Face to face is a great way to communicate, but you would always want to document the meeting and send copies to all parties. That way, there is less room for misunderstandings. The problem with meetings is that you cannot rewind and replay the message. For voice mail, you can rewind and play the message again, but once it is deleted, it is gone. You have no written record of the communication. Email gives you the written documentation of the communication, but the text is still open for interpretation and misunderstandings can arise.

 

References:

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Communicating with stakeholders [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.walden.edu

Project Post-Mortems

Project post-mortems are done after the project is completed, whether it is successful or not. It becomes a “lessons learned” so that the team can avoid the same problems on their future projects. In this post, I will describe and analyze a project post-mortem for an unsuccessful project I was a part of.

I worked on a project that was to develop a system to create an intranet website that tracked deliverables of project materials. This project was a victim of many project management faux pas. The original concept of the program was great. The scope of the project, originally, was appropriate. One of the questions in Greer (2014) is, “What was the single most frustrating part of our project” (p. 42). The most frustrating part of the project was that specifications from upper management kept changing. There was nothing the project manager could do, because it was an edict from someone above him. He had no control over the budget or the personnel that were available for the project. As a front-line worker on the project, I had to re-work things several times because of the specification changes. To combat this frustration in the future, I would show work more often to the project manager for him to show to upper management (even if there were no deliverables met, yet). This would show upper management the direction of the project so that if specifications were not being understood, the correction could come earlier in the process.

The project manager had the ability to say “no” to some things, but not to others. However, he rarely said, “no.” He had some concept of how it was changing the scope, but he did not seem to account for it. This was his first project management position, so he was learning as he went. He had no formal project management training. So, in the future, to avoid the type of scope creep that happened on this project, if a “new” project manager is on the job, I would recommend that they have some specialized training (whether on their own or company sponsored). Everyone has a “first” project. Mistakes are inevitable, but striving to learn as much as you can will help to minimize those mistakes. The project manager in this project should have had a Work Breakdown Structure. If there was one, I never saw it. That is something that should be shared with the team. That way the team can adjust what they are doing to accommodate the project.

This particular project had a dedicated team, from the Project Manager down. So, conflicts for available time were not an issue. However, the project continually ran over time. The project manager evidently did not know how to build in time for the inevitable scope-creep and other unknowns. He seemed to always go with the “best case” scenario rather than even a middle of the road scenario.

Reference:

Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.