Most UoL online groups are interestingly unique! Students belong to varying age group, each possessing a different set of professional and educational skills, each residing in five different continents – communicating in almost four different English accents! These factors make organizing an online study group an exigent task.
While initiating an online study group, most External students also encounter a common predicament – lack of response from other students.
This may seem rather odd – “Why an external student would not be interested in studying online – with a group – when she or he is on a ‘self-study’course?”
Fortunately, this post is not about “why” it happens but rather “how “we can overcome such dilemmas and make the most out of online study sessions.
Start small: It doesn’t matter if we have 2-3 students to collaborate. However, attempt to extend the number gradually.
Deciding on the ‘right’ mode of communication is paramount as it determines the number of students who can effectively participate; Email list groups tend to include 20-30 students while it’s easier to conduct online audio sessions with students with a maximum of 7-8.
I like to start with two students – share resources and ideas on a topic, engage in extensive brainstorm sessions, be incredibly organized and keep a record of our sessions.
A reason why students exhibit reluctance to join an online study group is ‘uncertainty’. They don’t understand what to expect and how would they benefit from participating – therefore, when we invited more students, we sent out an ‘excerpt’ of our discussion and clearly set out how we conduct our sessions. Astonishingly, the response rate was considerably higher than usual.
A “Good Group”? – John Mitchell, who has researched group work, recommends inclusion of “someone who understands the material better than you and someone who understands less.” This idea underlines the need for someone to whom you can explain the concept and someone who can describe the concept to you.
Initial online group meetings usually involves discussing the overall unit, setting goals for each session and agreeing to ‘disagree in an agreeable’ format. Each student creatively contributes according to their strengths – some take up roles if they are reasonably more ‘info-savvy’ ‘tech savvy’ or ‘Essay writing experts’!
As regular sessions continue, it’s important groups concurrently progress towards new topics while regularly reviewing previous chapters to avoid ‘brain fade’.
Not just ‘studying’ : Successful groups endeavor to incorporate an aim that helps to maintain motivation among group members — It’s the aim of transforming ourselves not just into ‘better students’– but ‘better, reflective learners’. This entail sharing new and improving existing learning techniques .Each of us introducing new or unconventional learning concepts like “Freenoting”,” “training our Working Memory “ “Periscope learning methods” or even suggesting food items that aids short-term memory , grape juice for instance !
As a result, our interaction certainly gives us a wider meaning since our focus is not limited to one goal e.g. ‘scoring well in one unit’ but genuinely striving to equip ourselves with superior learning skills to apply in our lives as well.