Team Projects in Online Learning: Best Practices in Design, Implementation, and Evaluation
Kirstein, Kurt D
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This chapter provides an overview of the emerging best practices in the design, implementation, and evaluation of team-based assignments in online learning, followed by suggestions for further research. As online learning has proliferated in higher education over the last decade, more students and instructors encounter the need to incorporate teamwork in the virtual learning environment. Team-based assignments are of high value in developing critical analysis skills, increasing engagement, and decreasing isolation, among other benefits; they also raise multiple challenges to implement effectively. A review of the literature notes several emerging best practices in curriculum design, instruction, and evaluation of teamwork in the online learning environment. Curriculum designers need to provide a supportive structure, clear expectations, and sufficient time for teams to engage in both the processes associated with socialization and trust building, and to complete the “product” assigned to the team. Instructors should engage early and often as teams go through their formative stages, and remain actively available as teams complete their work, should intervention be required. Finally, evaluation strategies that take into account individual contributions as well as the quality or completeness of the final team product are critical to encouraging the perception of fairness on the part of students. Overall, the benefits of including team projects in the online learning environment outweigh the challenges, making it worth the time and effort to include them in the curricula.