A 2013 opinion piece in The Australian newspaper titled “students hate group assignments” makes the blanket claim of discontent amongst students when it comes to engaging in group work exercises in university settings.
As a university student I have mixed experiences with group work. I have encountered positive group work situations where having multiple perspectives and skill sets engaging in a subject enable me to gain a deep understanding of topics and produce high quality projects. Issues have arisen in other group work situations due to the varied objectives and conflicting schedules of group members becoming challenging obstacles. Frustrations arising due to lack group cohesion is another common issue. The most productive group projects I have been involved in are those in which the group manages to overcome such obstacles and communicate fluently. Upon reflection I have noticed that Employing digital media technologies such as Google Docs and Facebook to share ideas and collaborate has been a major contributor to my positive group work experiences. Digital media technologies have previously enabled my groups to communicate cohesively which has enabled issues such as time restraints to be resolved and led to more efficient collaboration and productive group learning environments.
I am curious about the claims made in The Australian article mentioned above and I will conduct research to determine the experiences of students in group learning practices. The purpose of this research is to develop an understanding of how Communications and Media students view the group work experience at UOW. In addition, I aim to uncover student’s experiences and positions towards the use of digital media technologies in group work projects. The data collected will aim to refine our current understanding of students experiences with group learning and the use of digital media technologies in collaborative learning projects.
My initial research into the topic of group work found there is a wealth empirical and theoretical research that overwhelmingly supports the worth of group work for “increased learning and development of higher-order cognitive skills”. This implies that group work is an important part of the university education experience as it strengthens students critical thinking and problem solving abilities (Hillyard, Gillespie, and Littig, 2010).
Further investigation also uncovered a study conducted on the use of digital communication technologies (namely Facebook) and how online social networking can affect university students’ learning outcomes. Qualitative data collected from focus group discussion among university students in the United States found that online communication applications can potentially be utilised for education, especially when the higher education institutions emphasise student-centered learning (Tian, Yu, Vogel and Kwok, 2011).
The impact of digital communications technologies in group learning is a concept that is being studied by Laura Gogia from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in The United States. A dissertation written by Dr. Gogia found that connected learning with the use of digital communication technologies can make academic relevance explicit, and increase opportunities for interest-driven learning and expose students to different perspectives. Dr Gogia also suggests that, connected learning also offers opportunities for collective knowledge building.
This research indicates that group work is an important part of the university learning experience and that communications technologies can play a role in student outcomes. The work of Dr Gogia and VCU suggests that connected learning has benefits and can help students to “embrace the existence of multiple perspectives and generate creative solutions.” These narratives suggest that it is important to gain an understanding of students experiences with group work and digital media technology at The University of Wollongong so we can identify the ways in which these technologies are being/ can be implemented in learning practices.
Research methods for this project will consist of collecting quantative data in the form of surveys devised to collect information from the students in my cohort and their experience with group work and the use of digital media technologies in group work setting. I will summate the results of the data I collect to assess trends in the experiences and knowledge of students to form a hypothesis and epistemological proposition about the nature of applying digital media technologies to collaborative work projects.
Tian, S.W., Yu, A.Y., Vogel, D. and Kwok, R.C.W., 2011. The impact of online social networking on learning: a social integration perspective. International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organisations, Vol. 8 No. 4, pp.264-280.
Hillyard, C., Gillespie, D. and Littig, P., 2010. University students’ attitudes about learning in small groups after frequent participation. Active Learning in Higher Education, Vol. 11, no., pp.9-20.