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Lesson 4: Managing online team projects

Strategies for online team projects

Online courses can provide students meaningful opportunities to work together and co-construction of knowledge, whether towards major team projects or as ongoing collaborative activities such as in online discussions. Online learning provides a space to share ideas and perspectives, and to promote reflection and feedback.

    Leverage technology

    Provide opportunities for students to articulate their ideas, provide and receive feedback, collaboratively solve problems and reflect on different perspectives and opinions (Hammond, 2017).

    Plan ahead

    Determine how students will collaborate in both synchronous and asynchronous environments when designing collaborative activities. Both D2L and Zoom offer group functionality where students can be put into groups of pre-determined size, either randomly or by instructor appointment (Brown & Vaughan, 2018).

    Structure group participation

    Group participation needs to be structured, supported and have a purpose. To assess the group process, often grades are associated with participation through online group discussions. Students can agree on where and how they communicate (Brown & Vaughan, 2018), but keep in mind that if groups collaborate outside of D2L there might not be a record of their activity. 

    Clearly communicate

    Clearly communicate to students the assignment learning outcomes and instructions in both D2L and the course outline. Instructions should include grading criteria/rubric and how to get started with their groups (such as where in D2L to find their group, due dates, participation expectations, and grading criteria). 

    Use contracts

    Have students complete and submit a group contract as a portion of the overall assignment grade. Students can submit their contract through the D2L Dropbox. 

    Incorporate peer feedback

    Leverage peer feedback between groups and from guest lecturers/experts. 

    Make feedback visible

    Make feedback visible to students either through the discussion board or in asynchronous sessions. Specific feedback can be posted to individual groups and common feedback to the entire class throughout the semester. Feedback can encompass the groups’ progress but also on group dynamics, interpersonal and teamwork skills. 

    Use multiple assessment strategies

    Utilize assessment strategies for self, peer and team through self-assessments/reflections, peer assessments and team (Brown & Vaughan, 2018). 

    Instructional designs for synchronous and asynchronous interactions

    Both online synchronous and asynchronous interactions can be used to support team projects. Plan ahead, connect activities to course learning outcomes, communicate early to students on the purpose of interactions, and be flexible are all important factors to success online team work.

    1. Synchronous interactions

      • Set-up breakout rooms
    2. Asynchronous interactions

      • Set-up discussion forums for each group
      • Prepare a shared document/space
    1. Synchronous interactions

      • Group norms and group contract 
      • Share other tech/spaces that can be used
    2. Asynchronous interactions

      • Share criteria for success (e.g. rubric)
      • Review and approve group contracts
      • Share other tech/spaces that can be used
    1. Synchronous interactions

      • Join breakout rooms and/or arrange meetings with each group for check-ins
    2. Asynchronous interactions

      • Review weekly posts/updates
      • Provide feedback to the groups
      • Synthesize feedback
    1. Synchronous interactions

      • Peer feedback in breakout groups
      • Individual group meetings
    2. Asynchronous interactions

      • Student self-assessment
      • Peer assessment feedback loops

    Plan online teamwork

    Planning Online Teamwork Worksheet

    Download the worksheet

    Collaborative Activities for Online Learning

    Learn more

    Strategies for Facilitating Collaborative Activities

    Learn more

    Lesson checklist

    • Identify opportunities for online team projects in your course

    • Plan an online team project 

    • Plan how to integrate sync and async group activities 

    • Explore technology to support group work ( 



    Brown, B. & Vaughan, N. (2018). Designing group work in blended learning environments. In R. J. Harnish, K. R. Bridges, D. N. Sattler, M. L. Signorella, & M. Munson (Eds.). The Use of Technology in Teaching and Learning (pp. 82-97). Retrieved from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology web site:

    Hammond, M. (2017). Online collaboration and cooperation: the recurring importance of evidence, rationate and viability. Education and Information Technologies, 22, 1005 - 1024

    Garrison, D., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2010). The first decade of the community of inquiry framework: a retrospective. The Internet and Higher Education, 13(1), 5–9.


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