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The Good, the Bad, and the Pandemic: An Intra-Group Approach to Exploring Students’ Experiences with Collaborative Learning During COVID-19

By Ella Anghel

When the restrictions posed by the pandemic were slowly lifted in 2021, I was teaching an almost entirely online class at a private university in the U.S. This was my second semester teaching, and feedback from students in the previous semester raised some issues related to interacting with other students when working on group projects. I was determined to delve deeper into students’ experiences with the hope of understanding and improving my teaching. During that year’s AERA conference, I attended some sessions about a network perspective to educational research, and it inspired me to explore students’ experiences not only individually but also as a part of their group, a novel approach in this field. I started a project about students’ experiences with collaborative learning online, resulting in the current study.

The study showed that, unlike my impressions of the previous semester, students’ experiences were generally positive. Most issues were individual and not attributed to dysfunctional group dynamics. I believe that these positive results are due to some changes I made that reflect the best educational practices in group work (using various methods to encourage collaboration and communication with myself and other students), though this was not the focus of the study. Regardless, I hope to continue applying these methods in the future. I also learned that the issues some students experienced could have been addressed during the semester. As a result, I hope that in future courses I will be able to use weekly surveys where the students will report such issues, making it easier for me to help them solve issues as they arise. I concluded that collaborative learning can lead to better course experiences, even under the limitations of remote learning, and hope that the practices suggested here are relevant to other college instructors.

Read the TLI article here.

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