- Name & email: Lindsay Jordan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Keywords (pedadogical): online (distance learning) group work
- Keywords (technical): Discussion forum, chat, wiki, moodle
- Discipline: n/a
- Year / ability: n/a
- Course title: MSc International Construction Management
Aims and objectives (what were you trying to do?)
We wanted to develop and pilot an assessment activity that enabled the students to develop and demonstrate negotiation skills relevant to the learning outcomes of the Construction Law module, such as conflict management and dispute resolution. We also wanted to give students the opportunity to apply their understanding of contract law to practice.
What actually took place (describe what you did)?
We took an existing dispute resolution role-play scenario that Jim had used previously with students at UWE, and adapted it to become an online activity for distance learners. Within the Moodle course for the module, we provided background information in a series of web pages, a group sign-up wiki, a negotiation forum for students to communicate privately within their groups, a group wiki for each group to produce an agenda for their negotiation meeting and record the outcomes of their meeting, and a Chat activity to give students the option of synchronous negotiation.
The task was clearly divided into three phases and four distinct deadlines were set, the first being the date by which students needed to have signed up to a working group in the sign-up wiki.
What was the role of the technology (what did the technology add?)?
The Forum, Wiki and Chat tools allowed students to easily select their own working groups, to share and comment on position statements within their own groups, to negotiate synchronously or asynchronously and to collaborate on producing an agenda and recording the outcomes of their negotiation, regardless of their geographical location.
The technology also made it easy for us to monitor student participation and group progress, and to contact groups or individuals where necessary throughout the task.
Were the objectives met?
The evidence gained so far supports the objectives having been met. 100% participation was achieved and all students received grades of 55% or more for this task, with many students achieving over 70%. Two students (out of 33) chose to defer their studies part-way through the task, but the design of the activity had allowed for this possibility and their fellow group members were not disadvantaged. All students went on to achieved C grades and above in the module assignment - this was a significant improvement on previous cohorts and on the grades achieved in previous modules by this cohort. Students will sit the module examination at the end of October 2008.
How did the students find it?
Although several students found some aspects of the task frustrating (for example, arranging to meet in the synchronous chat and one group member being absent) they accepted that similar problems occur when attempting to negotiate through offline means, and they thought the task was fun, engaging and a good opportunity to experience the dispute resolution process. Students will complete formal evaluations of the module and the negotiation task after their examination at the end of October.
Were there any unexpected outcomes?
A few students who hadn't previously performed particularly well in written assignments and formal examinations appeared to excel in this activity. It will be interesting to compare their assignment and exam grades for this module with those of other modules, and to ask those students in particular how they felt the online role play task enhanced their learning on this module.
A secondary outcome that we could have reasonably expected was an improvement in the cohesion of the group, with new links and friendships being made between group members.
An outline of this case study has been submitted to CEBE, the Higher Education Acadmey's Centre for Education in the Built Environment. The content of this submission can be viewed here.