What is it?

Collaborative learning is an educational approach to teaching and learning which allows students to work together to solve a problem or complete a task. For many years, student presentations have been a standard activity used by academics as a useful learning device. They also have the advantage of providing students with skills needed in their working lives. From an educational perspective, presentations provide an excellent means to reflect and synthesise: students are required to learn, organise and really understand the material in order to present the materials to others.

How might I use it?

Collaborative learning can occur in small or larger groups. The teacher may ask students to:

  • Research a topic
  • Structure the material
  • Plan the content and delivery
  • Prepare a Powerpoint slideshow or other visual material (e.g. video)
  • Deliver the presentation to an audience

These types of student collaborations offer substantive pedagogic and assignment opportunities, especially when the group activity or task is fairly complex and requires a division of labour. In addition, collaborative learning is starting to be increasingly employed for undergraduate education. This is because it can be highly effective and provides an interactive and engaging way of learning that students often enjoy. A related area, Team-Based Learning is also gaining credence and UK universities are increasingly embracing this method as an alternative to traditional lectures.

Read this CLT blog post on Team Based Learning at the University of Bath.

How do staff and students use it effectively?

Staff

It is important to set clear criteria upon which the student presentation is judged. Typically, this includes:

  • Coherent structure;
  • Content is appropriate and pitched at the right level;
  • Delivery is clear and well paced, and includes eye contact with the audience;
  • Good visuals – clear and relevant.

It is also important that constructive feedback is given. Presentations can also be used as a method for summative assessment and represent a viable alternative to exams.

Students

  • Make use of online tools that encourage effective teamwork- for instance, Microsoft Teams and Office 365 or Moodle forums.
  • Organise work appropriately and devise a plan of action.
  • Ensure there is regular communication within the team.
  • Break tasks down into more manageable chunks.
  • Establish different team members strengths and weaknesses so members can learn from each other.
  • Get to know your teammates before starting the project.

What are the pros and cons?

Pros Cons
  • Can strengthen confidence and communication skills.
  • Being able to see things through a different perspective through peer learning.
  • Experience with cooperative learning.
  • Gain of collaboration skills.
  • Can increase employability through gained teamwork skills.
  • Less marking load for teachers could improve quality of feedback.
  • Presentations can make students feel nervous, and for shy students it can be extremely stressful.
  • There can be issues with an uneven distribution of the workload.
  • Some students may find it difficult to work as a team.
  • The final mark may not reflect each individual contribution.
  • Difficulties organising as a team could arise, resulting in conflicts.
  • Working with potentially unfamiliar people could cause some difficulties.

Case study

 

Project title: Problem Based Learning

Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology

Assignment definition

In January 2017, groups of pharmacy students were given a task to create an online presentation in the form of an instructional video for patients, as part of Problem Based Learning (PBL) component of the unit ‘PA20320 Management of Respiratory disease and dermatology’. The student cohort was divided into small teams of 5 or 6 people, and the task required collaboration between the group members to create an effective video according to specific criteria.

Each student team was allocated a specific inhaler device, and given the task to produce an instructional video for that device designed at an adult patient audience.

Motivation

The aim of the video was to provide the target audience with a guide that included everything that the patient would need to know when provided with the new inhaler:

  • The name of the inhaler (brand and generic) and its pharmaceutical ingredients;
  • What type of inhaler it is;
  • What type of drug it contains;
  • How the drug works and the licensed therapeutic indications;
  • What benefit the patient can expect from the drug;
  • How the inhaler gets drug into the lungs;
  • When and how often the inhaler should be used;
  • How the inhaler should be used (inhaler technique);
  • How to store the inhaler;
  • How to address your target audience in the video;
  • How to explain the inhaler technique to the target audience;
  • How to make the information in the video ‘patient-friendly’;
  • How to signpost the patients to useful sources of information;
  • How to create an attractive, informative and clear instructional video.
Assessment criteria

Knowledge-based criteria: marks for the quality and accuracy of information produced, patient-friendly nature of advice.

Skills-based criteria: marks for quality of the video, clarity of audio and visual aids etc.

There was also a peer assessment component. In order to create the video, students were provided with a simple methodology using familiar tools, as described in the following blog post:
http://blogs.bath.ac.uk/keithbrown/2017/03/22/using-powerpoint-as-a-video-editor/.

Results

The results were outstanding, and further programmes have decided to build in such assessment.

Themes

  • Online learning
  • Employability

Guidance

Microsoft Teams

Moodle Group Peer Review

Wikis

Xerte

Copyright information

Bath Blend Baseline

UK Professional Skills Framework

Contacts

For advice on student collaboration and presentations to enhance learning, teaching and assessment contact the TEL team: tel@bath.ac.uk