Traditional, Hybrid and Online Teamwork: Lessons from the Field

Elizabeth Avery Gomez, Dezhi Wu, Katia Passerini
2009 Communications of the Association for Information Systems  
Preparing students to work in teams benefits learning experiences and provides a stronger foundation for the challenges of the workplace. Team-based learning (TBL) is an instructional strategy where small groups become closely coupled teams through repeated face-to-face collaboration on various projects and assignments. This paper illustrates how traditional team-based learning can be extended to the online environment. Different techniques are discussed based on the use of computer-mediated
more » ... omputer-mediated tools in hybrid (a mix of face-to-face and distance learning) and in completely virtual settings (without face-to-face interactions). Based on experiences gained through implementations of TBL in various courses, this article presents implementation options as well as the challenges of team learning in various environments. 396 Volume 25 Article 33 I. INTRODUCTION: HELPING RICHARD THE ATHLETE Small group student interaction facilitates active participation and engagement in any learning environment. Many instructional strategies use team activities, and many approaches to teamwork have long been proven beneficial to student learning [Bruffee 1993; Kagan 1994] . We experimented with a specific approach to team learning and supplemented it with the introduction of computer-mediated communication (CMC) tools. Team-based learning (TBL) is an instructional strategy initiated by Michaelesen, Fink, and Knight [2002] as a means to extend and enrich learning through repeated small group interaction. In this paper, we describe our journey from a face-to-face TBL implementation with minimal CMC, through a hybrid implementation (a mix of face-to-face and distance learning), and then to a completely virtual environment (without face-to-face interactions). This journey was undertaken in order to accommodate diverse learners" needs and to provide an opportunity for all students to engage in teamlearning experiences that mimic the needs of their future workplaces. As an instructional strategy, team-based learning (TBL) has been deployed predominantly in the face-to-face classroom. Content is grouped into modules delivered throughout the semester using an iterative process: module preparation, readiness assessment, and activity application. Each module begins with a "module preparation" phase requiring students to study before the first face-to-face meeting of the module. The "readiness assessment" phase follows, with the objective to measure preparation. It includes an individual readiness assessment test (iRAT) as well as a team test (tRAT) completed in class. The "activity application" phase follows, with the goal to engage teams in discussions and structured knowledge sharing activities [Michaelsen et al. 2002] . The success behind face-to-face TBL is the high synchronicity of each phase and task (activity) within each module. The module phases, which are iterative in nature and are designed to reinforce learning, require a strong alignment with the preceding modules. This synchronicity is somewhat challenging to replicate in an asynchronous (online) environment, as discussed later in this article. To illustrate how TBL works in practice and where CMC tools benefit learning beyond the face-to-face classroom, we introduce the "real" story of Richard. Richard is a student athlete completing his dual degree in business and MIS, while managing athletics, campus activities, and other commitments. Using Richard"s example (and many other similar experiences), we identify ways that computer-mediated tools coupled with TBL strategies can enrich the learning of our "always-dynamic" student population. Richard is an undergraduate student taking Systems Analysis and Design (SAD) in a face -to-face classroom. His time is fully booked with several commitments. In particular, his volleyball game schedule requires him to travel during the academic semester, limiting his ability to meet face-to-face outside of class time. Before he attends his SAD class, Richard carefully reads all instructional materials and related book chapters and prepares notes for the readiness assessment test. Upon arrival to class, he shares his notes with his team members and begins to take his individual readiness assessment test (iRAT), using the notes he has prepared. Following the iRAT, he works with his team on the same test to reach consensus on the correct answers. Richard disagrees with his team about a few test questions. After each team member shares his/her own thoughts on the valid answers, eventually the team reaches consensus for all test questions and submits their team test (tRAT) for grading. For the remainder of the class, Richard and his team work on applying what they learned through in-class activities. Upon arrival to the next class, both individual and team test papers are returned to the students. Richard's team notices that one test question did not receive proper credits, leading the team to a formal tRAT appeal, which needs to be prepared outside of class time. In the next session, the appeal is reviewed by the instructor, who finds some design ambiguity issues with the test question and considers the team's appeal valid. Without the opportunity for the team to connect outside of class time, credits would not have been given back to the team for the question corresponding to the appeal. Volume 25
doi:10.17705/1cais.02533 fatcat:3ncezealkzhpplazujhbxf2w6a