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Dropping the Veil  

2010-07-22 06:38:27|  分类: 英语 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Mask

When I was studying at Syracuse University, one of my professors Dr. Nick Smith always have group projects for his evaluation classes throughout decades of his teaching. He often prefaced an inroduction about project requirements with horror stories about students breaking into fights or taking each other to courts while doing group projects.

Nonetheless, he would then give us another group project.

The reason is simple. Student group projects cannot be any worse than working groups when they are out there doing "real" projects. Isn't education about preparing people for the future?

I have rarely heard of any good things about group projects from either students or professors.   Nor do I enjoy group projects. But in retrospect, I found I learned most from group projects.

In the 2010 Blackboard session called "Managing Experiential Learning Programs: A Case Study of Integrating Blackboard Technology into Experiential Curriculum" Dr. Michael Londrigan of the Fashion Merchandising Departments of LIM College said something that I thought was really insightful about group projects.

He actually found that it is easier if you take group projects online. When asked why that's the case, he said that the online format helped to "drop the veil". When students are face-to-face with each other, courtesy, fear, other psychological factors or group dynamics prevent people from dealing with issues in an open and honest fashion. When online, things can be made to sound more straightforward. Student A can tell the group: "Guys, you need to throw in your weight to get this done," whereas he or she might not want to say so in a face-to-face setting for fear of a protest, an argument, a rebuttal, a jeer or a punch in the face.

This goes in line with my general observation that people can behave very differently online, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. When we talked about Facebook several weeks ago, I heard Ann White mention that perfectly normal people can behave nastily online saying things they wouldn't be saying in a face-to-face setting. Once again, the veil is dropped.

Professors can certainly take advantage of these behavioral differences. I have often heard how shy students (especially international students) become involved in online discussions. A journalism professor once told me about the interesting effect this has on face-to-face meetings later on. The professor said international students used to be shy in class, contributing little, if not nothing, to the discussions in class.  She took the discussion online, and these students started to be actively involved. Back to the classroom after the discussions, she observed that these international students were much more talkative as a result of the online discussions, which must have emboldened them in some way.  There must be a fancy name for this kind of effect, but I will leave this to psychologists to figure out.

In addition, it is not as easy for someone to "hide" in an online setting as statistic tracking adds some healthy stress for students to get involved. They know that if they don't throw in their weight, there are statistic tracking tools that can show who is working and who is slacking.

So, next time you have a headache with a group project, try taking it online. It may seem counter-intuitive as it sounds like it is going to complicate group management, but that is well worth it if students will have a more intensive and productive learning experience.

And also, once they graduate into the workforce, they will participate in virtual teams any way. I do not know about you, but I log in my work information online, through ProjectPath and our ticketing system. There are virtual teams and virtual projects everywhere nowadays. So it would help to get students ready.  

Note: The photo above is a photo that I recently took of two masks. I cannot find a good one about veils, so I guess dropping the masks will do.
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