Tweaking Instructions for Groups to Reduce my Workload

About a very simple solution to a problem I had in class and should have thought of first place.

I teach a course called English for Educational Purposes at one Czech university – two groups of 30-50 students in their first year of study, studying to become teachers at vocational schools or career counsellors. I’ve been teaching this course for years, but it’s only been this academic year that the course has been fully online, so I’ve had to revamp the content.

Normally, in a face-to-face environment, the students work in groups and hand in their assignments at the end of the teaching day. Now online, we are working with MS Teams and I split the students into smaller groups right at the start of the academic year in October. I also created private MS Teams channels for each group. The method of working consists of me presenting the new language after which they work on the group assignments, which “the group manager” hands in for the group later on before a deadline.

The problem I faced though in the last semester was that some students handed in the work and I clearly thought the work was for the whole group. However, several days later I would receive a similar assignment from another person in the same group. Somehow, some groups weren’t able to manage the work properly and simply disintegrated without telling me. This, quite obviously resulted in more work for myself as I had to email different people and read their replies and explain again how I want things to be done – you can imagine. I only see them 2-3 times per semester so there isn’t much time to build rapport.

The simple tweak I introduced in this semester has really worked. Instead of telling the students that they should send me their work as a group because if they don’t, I get a crazy amount of workload and blah blah blah, I inserted a little form to be filled at the top of the worksheet they need to fill in. One of the boxes says: Name of your group. Another one says: List all people who worked on the assignments. That’s it. It’s so very simple and so effective, because each group to this date has done so. This way, if one person in the group has worked individually and has handed in the assignment for themselves, which is something I allow, because not everyone likes working in groups, they just put the name of the group plus their own name and things are completely clear.

Honestly, I don’t know why this has been such a revelation for me, but it truly is a great discovery. The moral of the story is that before you get mad with your class, you should first see what you can do yourselves to prevent further mistakes – or something liek that.

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