Tagged: online education

Group Work: Butterflies and Vampires

My experience with group projects in SLIS has mostly been positive. I especially enjoyed my LIBR 202 group. I had heard that 202 was hard, but my group was so wonderful that 202 went very smoothly for me. I was so grateful to my group! Everyone in the group was dedicated, diligent, and wanted to do well. I remember that the professor gave each group a name, and we were the Butterflies.

I have had one negative group experience in SLIS. We were writing a group paper, and we also had to write anonymous comments about our group members’ contributions. A couple of the group members were night owls who thrive on last minute pressure. Our group name should have been the Vampires. They wrote their emails, edited the Google document, and added to the discussion board in the middle of the night. In the feedback I received, one of my group members said that I didn’t respond quickly enough to emails. I was furious! I thought it was totally unreasonable to expect responses in the middle of the night. Call me crazy, but I sleep at night (I have the pale skin of a vampire, but not the sleep schedule). We earned an A on the assignment, so the story does have a happy ending. But I was so angry that I wrote an email to the professor about it. She responded, and then she reorganized the groups. And my new group was awesome!

So from this experience, I would give the following advice. If you are allowed to choose your groups members, look carefully at the discussion boards. See who always posts early, see who always posts late, and consider the timing of your own postings. If you are always one of the first three or four people in the class to post, ask the other early posters if they would like to work with you in a group. And the opposite: if you are always one of the last students to post, ask the other late posters if they would like to work with you. I am not trying to criticize either group, but I am saying that it will be stressful for people with wildly varying approaches to time management to work together. You might also consider time of day people are posting and what time zone they live in.

Working with people who have the same tendencies you have timewise does not guarantee a successful group, but it is something to base a decision on when you are trying to create groups with people you don’t know well.

Technology Review: WebCT Vista

WebCT Vista, by Blackboard, is used to teach online, hybrid, and web-enhanced courses. It has many features for the student, some of which are always available and some of which are specific to a course. MyWebCT allows a student to customize preferences, adding daily and weekly calendars and a to do list. From My WebCT, the student also has access to grades, campus announcements, course list, and campus and personal bookmarks. It’s also possible to see which classmates are online. An extensive Help menu is very useful with the following options: Getting to Know the Blackboard Learning System, and Using the Blackboard Learning System features and tools. Once logged in to a course, there are course tools and my tools. Course tools include icons for such things as assignments, learning modules, roster, and syllabus. My tools consists of my grades and my files.

WebCT Vista can be used by instructional librarians at academic libraries to create information literacy modules and make them available to professors who teach incoming freshmen. A professor could assign a WebCT module for homework. The Who’s Online feature is very useful because it encourages interaction among classmates who may not see each other face to face. It also allows for students to ask real time questions of each other such as, “What is the password for e-reserves?” The discussion board, however, is not as user-friendly as it could be. Although a green asterisk indicates that new items are available, it’s not clear when there are new postings to be read. The green asterisk seems to be there constantly, whether there are new items or not. This feature could be improved not only for use by instructional librarians teaching information literacy, but for anyone who uses Web CT Vista.