Q&A: Online Team Projects

A: Good question! Team projects are among the most beneficial features a school can add to an online class, and they are also some of the most frustrating aspects of Web-based studies.

The positive and negative are the flip sides of the same challenge: connecting with your team. Some of the issues are the same ones teachers face, but shifted to student's shoulders. "I didn't hear back from Joe: Is he still in the class?" "Jane said she'd check in by 10: It is 11 now. What do I do?" And so on. Some of the problems, though, come directly from being online. Meeting face to face, you can get a feel for someone. Do your fellow students feel trustworthy? Will they submit work on time? This is your grade at stake, after all.

Students who connect with their teams have a much better retention rate. You are less likely to drop out if you feel like someone else cares if you're there, if they are counting on you, and if you're part of a team.

You can also learn more from teams. You can learn a lot from teachers (good thing, too), but you learn a lot by working with people at your own level. You can explain and re-explain things to one another, model how you're making connections, and so on. You can provide peer feedback on written assignments. If the assignment is a paper, you get crucial experience in collaborative authorship.

And finally, virtual teams are a growing part of the corporate workplace, as shown by the website Fifth Generation Work - Virtual Organization. As companies go global, workers have to interact across oceans and time zones -- and online team projects give you that practice.

Greg BeattyGreg Beatty has a PhD in English from the University of Iowa and over twenty years experience in higher education. He’s taught everything from standardized test prep courses and freshman orientation and composition courses on up to serving on doctoral committees. He’s taught in the traditional classroom, correspondence courses, online courses, and hybrid courses. He’s developed curriculum for several colleges (sometimes as sole author, sometimes working collaboratively), and served as a textbook manuscript reviewer for Longman. He’s won grants for course development, and awards for his teaching. Greg has mentored new teachers and co-taught workshops on teaching excellence. He’s also served on a range of committees and college advisory boards, and has served as an area chair for humanities.