Group assignments or tasks are a valuable part of any learning experience. They do so much more than just allow students to learn about a topic. They have to use a range of other skills too, including diplomacy, planning, monitoring, negotiation, tracking and many others.
The VLE is an ideal place to act as a portal for a group task. With a little effort it would be possible, using a VLE such as Moodle, to create a “course” for each group, duplicating the bare bones of an assignment course. This course would contain the assignment brief, notes, links, copies of handouts. It could contain tools such as discussion forums, wikis, a calendar and planning tools.
Before the advent of social networking and ubiquitous SMS students would often find it difficult to communicate and collaborate on an assignment. Today with the wealth of tools available, why would the learner use the VLE?
Well two reasons. Firstly, using the VLE does not preclude or stop the use of other online tools and services. Learners also need to recognise the time to use external tools and when to use internal tools. We do the same with internal spaces and external spaces. Usually for example seminars are held on campus, whilst informal chats in the pub are held, well in the pub… It would be expected that as well as using the VLE for the group task, learners would meet face to face and use informal communication tools such as SMS and Facebook. The VLE would be used for discussions about the assignment, sharing, collaborating and working together.
Secondly, as well as supporting learners to complete the group task, the use of the VLE could act as evidence towards the assignment itself. This is useful where the process is important part of the assignment as well as the final outcome.
As well as providing a focus for individual tasks, the VLE can also be used as a portal for group tasks or assignments.