I asked Cheryl Vitali and Janice Friesen some more questions about Online Projects.
How do you encourage collaboration over individual work?
With my students, I look for some part of one of the projects I do to truly excite them to take their learning as far as they can. I do not expect it for every collaboration, but I expect it for at least a couple during the course of a year. I have found this is very successful with younger students. Older students might have a rubric of requirements presented where they know exactly what the expectations are for participation in a project. If the project is exciting enough, it generates involvement of the majority of students.
This is also part of the design of the project. A project could be designed so that each class sends in five final projects. Students could be assigned to groups across the different locations (one group could have three students from each class that participates)
How much time do you need to make the collaboration effective?
A lot. Sometimes it can take over your life! I often found I would plan a time of the year when I would plan on making more teaching time for the collaborations and then not spend as much time at other times. It is important to make sure that you are still covering what is needed in the curriculum and plan how you are going to fit this in and make it apply to the standards you need to be covering.
I think that this totally varies depending upon the project goals.
What are the key points or criteria you need to make everything work?
Communication between teachers is critical. Giving some clear guidelines and to students is helpful, but do not be too restrictive. I like to make these more open ended learning. I find more unexpected and wonderful outcomes happen that way.
The most important thing, I think is advance planning. Over-communication is also important. The organizer needs to keep communicating even though he or she thinks that everything has been said.
Here is a link to my conference presentation, Using Online Projects to Enhance Learning, based on a course I taught for University of Missouri.
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