I embarked on an experiment at the start of last term to introduce my Leadership students to collaborative working using Google Sites.
My reasoning was that the students would this way have a forum for synchronous collaboration which didn't involve sending round emails of PowerPoint slides; they would learn a new transferable skill in setting up and designing a website. They would produce a revision tool about the key leadership theories and how they can be applied in practice and along the way they would experience the highs and lows of team working which they could then reflect on.
The task was to produce a site which elaborated/ illustrated key leadership theories as applied to a specific setting. As they are mainly undergraduates with little direct work experience I offered them the opportunity of using the film Avatar or the TV series The Apprentice as their "case studies".
Assessment for this part of the module took the form of a reflective piece focusing on the team dynamics which were operating whilst producing the finished site. In addition they would be given individual credit for evidence which demonstrated their participation in the finished site.
In the first few weeks of the module I doubted that I had designed the task appropriately and was unsure whether they would take to the idea, but in fact they readily formed into groups and began assigning roles and sub-tasks with great enthusiasm.
Over the next 6 weeks or so that enthusiasm waxed and waned and there were the usual grumbles about people not pulling their weight. This culminated in a class discussion where it was decided that each team should nominate a "leader" who would take responsibility for "motivating" everyone else to complete their work by the deadline.
After this Team A seemed to make steady progress and, as I had access to their sites, I could see the work being developed and completed in good time for the final presentation. Team A asked me for some technical input early on but then got on with the task and added some really lovely innovative touches like an introductory video and a quiz to finish off.
Team B seemed to struggle to get together, to round up all the members and to get their contributions in to the right place. I made quite a significant technical input to get the site into some sort of order and a week before the deadline I was still showing them how to edit it. Three days before the deadline the contributions were starting to form but the site was a mess. I feared for the group presenting this in public on the due date. However, as their turn came round, the site displayed was unrecognisable. One group member had taken it upon herself to spend hours - the night before - editing, adding images, unifying colours and fonts, uploading YouTube videos all of which combined to produce a really high quality result.
So.... in the end everyone felt they had indeed learned to feel a little more comfortable with the technology and they were justifiably proud of the end results. Moreover, I think they recognised that although the presentation wasn't assessed, it had taught them/helped them revise a great many relevant leadership theories which would feature in their final exam. And finally they had all learned a great deal about effective (and less effective teams) and about their roles in them.
This Module is part of a pilot which is looking at e-assessment/e-submission of assessment. Next week they will upload their reflections via the drop box and I will give them online feedback via Grademark (part of the Turnitin process).
By incorporating Google Sites into the group task I have added another "e" element to the module which, although it is not being directly evaluated as part of this pilot, merits further reflection and research as the University looks at how we can increase the use of technology enhanced learning to develop students' "digital capabilities and information literacy".
And now for phase two - next week I introduce the same exercise to 60 Social Work students - it'll be interesting to watch how this "scales up" from my guinea pig group of 10!