Scholarship, or just social media? Creating an online community to support student engagement and development through group work

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Abstract

Group work, especially where it is assessed, can be of great benefit for student engagement, in terms of the valuable interpersonal and organisational skills it develops, and the quality of collaborative work which it enables them to produce; but it can also be a cause of dissatisfaction and disengagement for students, especially if the specific skills required to negotiate groupwork successfully are not taught, enabled and supported within the module or programme. In 2014 the presenter created an online community at www.groupwork.ning.com as an interactive hub to enable colleagues to share guidelines for good practice, and their personal experiences of group work, as well as to enter into discussion about those experiences through a forum and blog. The site also includes a repository of academic literature on the subject. The paper introduces this community, describes its creation, and examines the potential role of such an online community as a modern means of contributing to the scholarship of teaching and learning. The paper argues that such an online community challenges existing conventions of dissemination and peer review, but can indeed contribute to such a scholarship, enhance staff practice, and thereby improve student engagement through group work.

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