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Managing group work with Blackboard

At New College Huddersfield we are about 3 years down the line in using Blackboard as our VLE. We converted many materials from the old intranet, and many areas have now adopted and are using Blackboard. However, much of this use revolves around some of the more basic functions of Blackboard, like presenting information, and this could often be done in other ways back to the intranet! So we are looking for ways of promoting the use of the remaining functionality that our VLE offers us. One such under utilized area is Groups. So we set about looking for a valid and useful trial to help promote the functionality.

Level 2 students on a GNVQ Intermediate course in Information and Communication Technology must complete a unit on Multimedia Design. As part of this unit they must, as a group, complete paper-based planning and design before they produce (as a group) a presentation in Microsoft PowerPoint. In previous years we have had many problems with such things as lost work and students unable to access work stored electronically because the student in whose area the work was saved has failed to turn up!

We solved the first problem of lost paper-based planning and design work by giving each group a folder, which we held centrally. We then created groups in Blackboard for each of the student groups, and provided them with a group file exchange and discussion board. We encouraged use of the discussion board by asking students to make diary contributions showing what each group member had achieved towards the group aims that week.

This approach worked very well. The paper-based planning and design work was always available to the students and did not get lost. All students in the group and the staff teaching them could access files and work in progress whenever it was convenient to them. This proved to be very successful and for the first time no group members failed to complete the tasks and no time was lost because work was at home with the student off ill. Teaching staff were then able to move the final presentations into a course folder to be visible to all students, to allow peer evaluation. There was a noticeable improvement in the grades for the group work.

We have no doubts that using the group discussion board and group file exchange has helped our students to achieve this part of their course. We have already held a dissemination event when we showed 34 staff what we had done. This dissemination will be repeated to other groups of staff.

Author: Joe Norton

23 June 2005

VLE: Blackboard



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