2.8 Fostering group identity
As we touched on previously in section 2.3, the primary role of a tutor is to teach – or tutor – online groups. At The Open University, learning in groups is supported by tutors in mainly online tutorials and through group work planned as part of a tutorial. Tutorials can also sometimes be face-to-face.
Fostering group identity among students is a key aspect to achieving success with a group of learners. When we discussed facilitating online learning, we also mentioned the importance of maintaining positivity among the group. This is one strategy, among many, that can be used to foster group identity.
Many activities that a tutor carries out are online, are likely to form a considerable part of the course, and how the tutor interacts with their group. Participation remains a central theme when working with others online. Therefore, fostering identity within the group is vital in making sure that the right levels of engagement are maintained by the group members. Non-participation by even one member of a group can have an impact on others.
If students are required to work together as a group to complete a common task, there is a range of skills that can be employed in order to help the students achieve their goals, which in turn can be used to foster the identity of the group. For example, team working, group decision-making, task management, and negotiation.
Other factors that have to be taken into consideration are the cohesion of the group and the confidence of the students, which may be affected by factors shown in the diagram below.
When collaborative online groupwork is assessed, the boundaries between tuition and assessment become blurred. This is useful for students working in groups, in that they may be empowered to take more control of their own learning and assessment, and subsequently learn skills in peer assessment and self-assessment.
When tutoring on a module, tutors encounter formal aspects of group tuition through the delivery of timetabled, online tutorials. These tutorials happen at periodic points throughout the duration of a module, where tutors use the Adobe Connect system that provides a host of tools that enable them to work effectively with groups online. Part 3 of the course looks in more detail at teaching online.
We have touched upon the more formal aspects of group working with online tutorials. However, take a moment to think about the ways that you can work informally with groups. What kind of tasks could you undertake and what technologies could you use? What impact do you think this would have on your group?
One answer could include more asynchronous aspects such as posting activities and seeding discussions in the group forum. Engaging through social media may be another method, for example, a Facebook group (ideally, private and moderated by the tutor) or a WhatsApp group. Interacting with the group informally leads to a more relaxed environment where students are able to bond more easily among each other and with the tutor.
Learn more about the Open University Group Tuition Policy.