Good practice for Group Work online: 7 practical tips

Group work provides students with a valuable opportunity to foster important transferable skills in communication, leadership, group dynamics and reinforces learning and understanding. With limited face-to-face interaction, online group work can provide students with an opportunity to both learn and form relationships with their peers.

Although students can gain a lot from group work, some may feel anxious about potential issues, such as imbalances of contributions by different group members, difficult group dynamics and scheduling issues (Smith et al., 2011). However, there are steps that you could take to alleviate these issues and here are 7 practical tips on how you could make online group work a more enjoyable and meaningful experience for your students:

1. Starting on the same page.
Ensure that before the group work begins, all students are provided with clear instructions relating to how you expect the project/assignment to be completed. For example, how do you expect tasks to be divided?
It is imperative that you establish clear learning outcomes. What knowledge and skills are the students expected to acquire through undertaking the group work? This can be useful to demonstrate to students the benefits of engaging in group work.
If the group work is graded, provide students with detailed marking criteria.

2. Keep group numbers small.
Arranging a time to meet as a group can be challenging, especially if meetings must be conducted online. Large groups can make scheduling meetings extremely difficult so try to keep group numbers small.
You can also encourage students to use free online tools, such as Doodle, to assist them with scheduling their meetings.

3. Provide guidance on how to conduct online meetings.
With online sessions being delivered through MS Teams, students should be familiar with how to attend meetings in Teams, but they won’t necessarily know how to set up a meeting themselves. Provide students with clear instructions on how to do this (FAQ – How do I set up a Teams Meeting?)
You could also provide students with instructions on how to use the useful collaborative features within Teams, such as the Whiteboard and how to share collaborative documents.

4. Create a virtual workspace.
Provide students with a virtual space to work within their groups, to connect with each other and to share ideas.
If you want your students to be able to work collaboratively on a Word document, you may wish to consider setting up a private team for each group within MS Teams. All assessments however should remain in Blackboard. So that each group have their own space to work, you could set up a group for the students within Blackboard. It is important to provide students with tips on how to make the best use of their virtual workspace.
You could also set up a discussion board for each group or you could create a general discussion board for the whole module in Blackboard so that students can ask you questions (FAQ: How do I add a discussion board to my Blackboard module?)

5. Share leadership responsibilities.
Instead of getting one student to lead the group, how about asking the students to take their turns in facilitating and leading the discussion at each meeting. This can help ensure that every group member takes an equal responsibility in leading the group and allows everyone the opportunity to develop important leadership skills.

6. Grading.
Ensure that your students understand how the group work will be assessed. Group work can either be marked as a whole, individually or a combination of the two (e.g. marking the work as a whole but taking into account individual contributions through self- and peer-evaluations).

7. Be available for support.
Some students may find group work challenging. It is therefore important that students know what to do if they need to discuss any issues with you confidentially or if they have any questions relating to the group work in general.
Provide students with details on how and when they can contact you. You may also wish to set up optional MS Teams drop-in sessions for the students which they can join if they have any questions.

Smith, et al. (2011) ‘Overcoming student resistance to group work: Online versus face-to-face’, The Internet and Higher Education, 14, pp. 121-128.

Drop in sessions: E-learning tools

We would like to offer staff members at the University the opportunity to join us for our drop-in sessions on using e-learning tools (Blackboard, Panopto, Turnitin and MS Teams) for learning and teaching activities. These will offer an informal opportunity to speak with our Online Learning Specialists and to address any problems or queries you may have.

All drop-in sessions will be held via MS Teams and there is no need to book, just click on the links below. *Please note that sessions with an asterisk (*) will be bilingual sessions, and all sessions without an asterisk will run as English-medium sessions.  

These drop-in sessions will take place on:
19.01.2021 (10:00-11:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting*
21.01.2021 (14:00-15:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting
26.01.2021 (10:00-11:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting*
28.01.2021 (14:00-15:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting
02.02.2021 (10:00-11:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting*
04.02.2021 (14:00-15:00): Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

We hope that these sessions will provide you with an opportunity to clarify any questions about your teaching needs.

If you have any questions, please email

Continued Professional Development: E-learning Essentials sessions in January 2021 – What’s on?

Here is an overview of the E-learning Essentials sessions that the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit will be offering to University staff throughout January. We offer sessions in both English and Welsh and Welsh-medium sessions will appear with Welsh titles on the staff training website and on the table below.

06-01-2021E-learning Essentials: Introduction to Blackboard (L & T: Online)15:00 - 16:00Details
07-01-2021E-learning Essentials: Introduction to Turnitin (L & T: Online)11:00 - 12:00Details
08-01-2021E-learning Essentials: Introduction to Panopto (L & T: Online)14:00 - 15:00Details
11-01-2021E-learning Essentials: Introduction to Component Marks Transfer (L & T: Online)11:00 - 12:00Details
12-01-2021Hanfodion E-ddysgu: Cyflwyniad i Blackboard, Panopto a Turnitin (D & A: Ar-lein)10:00 - 11:30Details
14-01-2021E-learning Essentials: Moving to Online Teaching (L & T: Online)10:00 - 11:30Details
15-01-2021E-learning Essentials: Using MS Teams for Learning and Teaching Activities (L & T: Online)11:00 - 12:00Details
18-01-2021Hanfodion E-ddysgu: Defnyddio MS Teams a symud i Addysgu Ar-lein (D & A: Ar-lein)14:00 - 15:30Details

For a full list of all sessions throughout the next semester and to book a place on any course, please visit the staff training website. We will also be running a series of E-learning Enhanced session next semester and we will publish further information on this in the new year.

If you have any questions about any of the sessions, please email

From everyone at the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit, thank you for supporting our work throughout the year and we would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

UKGCE Good Supervisory Practice Framework – launched bilingually in the University

Aberystwyth University is launching the bilingual internal process for the UK Council for Graduate Education’s Good Supervisory Practice Framework. The English and Welsh version of the framework can be found here.

“The Good Supervisory Practice Framework acknowledges, at a national level, the wide-ranging, highly complex and demanding set of roles involved in modern research supervision” UK Council for Graduate Education webpage.

Statement from Professor Colin McInnes, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research, Knowledge Exchange and Innovation)

    “Supervising research students can be amongst the most rewarding things we do as an academic community, but also amongst the most challenging. These challenges affect all of us from time to time, and continue to evolve as research practice, methods and epistemologies develop. This Framework will provide us as a research community at Aberystwyth with the tools and confidence to continue our excellent supervisory practices and support our research students.”

Annette Edwards, Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit and Reyer Zwiggelaar, Head of the Graduate School, are collaborating, on behalf of the University, to market and develop an understanding of this framework. There will be an internal process available for all those who are interested in applying for this accreditation. Please visit this webpage for further information and to express an interest in applying via the online form.

NEW feature – Breakout Rooms in MS Teams

One of the most anticipated features in MS Teams has finally arrived…. Breakout Rooms! Breakout rooms allow meeting organisers to create and name up to 50 separate rooms within scheduled and ‘meet now’ meetings. Organisers can then assign attendees to those rooms either automatically or manually.

We will be releasing guidance on how to create and manage breakout rooms (for staff) and how to participate in breakout rooms (for students) next week. For the time being, here is a guide from Microsoft on how to create and manage breakout rooms in Teams.

What does the icon for breakout rooms look like?
The icon for breakout rooms is displayed as two boxes (as is highlighted below by the blue box). This should appear on your control bar.
Breakout Room Icon

Why can’t I see this icon?
If you are not able to see this icon, there are two likely reasons:

    • 1. Only meeting organisers can create and manage breakout rooms. If you are not the meeting organiser, then you will not be able to create and manage breakout rooms in Teams and you won’t see the icon during that meeting.


    2. MS Teams might not have automatically updated. To do this yourself, click on your image from the top-right hand corner of the screen (see yellow box on image below) and then select ‘Check for updates’ (see orange box).

Settings bar in Teams
If you have any questions about using Teams, please contact Information Services ( [:cy]Mae un o’r nodweddion mwyaf disgwyliedig MS Teams wedi cyrraedd o’r diwedd…. Ystafelloedd Trafod (Breakout Rooms)! Mae ystafelloedd trafod yn caniatáu i drefnwyr cyfarfodydd greu ac enwi hyd at 50 o ystafelloedd ar wahân, mewn cyfarfodydd sydd wedi’u hamserlennu ac o fewn cyfarfodydd ‘meet now’. Gall trefnwyr yna benodi mynychwyr i’r ystafelloedd hynny naill ai’n awtomatig neu â llaw.

Byddwn yn rhyddhau canllawiau ar sut i greu a rheoli ystafelloedd trafod (i staff) a sut i gymryd rhan o fewn ystafelloedd trafod (i fyfyrwyr) yr wythnos nesaf. Am y tro, dyma ganllaw gan Microsoft ar sut i greu a rheoli ystafelloedd trafod o fewn Teams.

Sut mae’r eicon ar gyfer ystafelloedd trafod yn edrych?
Mae’r eicon ar gyfer ystafelloedd trafod wedi’i arddangos fel dau flwch (fel y nodir isod o fewn y blwch glas). Dylai hyn ymddangos ar eich bar rheoli.
Breakout Room Icon
Pam na allaf weld yr eicon hwn?
Os na allwch weld yr eicon hwn, mae dau reswm tebygol:

    • 1. Dim ond trefnwyr cyfarfodydd all greu a rheoli ystafelloedd trafod. Os nad chi yw trefnydd y cyfarfod, yna ni fyddwch yn gallu creu a rheoli ystafelloedd trafod o fewn Teams ac ni fyddwch chwaith yn gallu gweld yr eicon yn ystod y cyfarfod hwnnw.


    • 2. Efallai fod MS Teams heb ddiweddaru’n awtomatig. I wneud hyn eich hun, cliciwch ar eich delwedd yng nghornel dde uchaf y sgrin (gweler y blwch melyn ar y ddelwedd isod) ac yna dewiswch ‘

Check for Updates

    ‘ (gweler y blwch oren).

Settings bar in Teams
Os oes gennych chi unrhyw gwestiynau am sut i ddefnyddio Teams, cysylltwch â Gwasanaethau Gwybodaeth (


Mini Conference: ‘Advice for Action: Promoting Good Feedback Practice’, Wednesday 16 December, 10:30am

Mini Conference Logo

On Wednesday 16th December, the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit will be hosting the first of this year’s Academy Mini-Conferences online.

The theme will be ‘Advice for Action: Promoting Good Feedback Practice’, where we will explore how to make feedback more useful and engaging for students. The Mini-Conference will run from 10:30-16:30.

We’re excited to confirm our programme:

Dr Naomi Winstone (Reader in Higher Education and Director of the Surrey Institute of Education at the University of Surrey, UK):

‘From Transmission to Transformation: Maximising Student Engagement with Feedback’ External Speaker – additional information

 Angharad James (Law and Criminology):

‘Using Rubrics in Law and Criminology Modules’

Anna Udalowska (Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit):

‘Grading Efficiency and Reliability – Using Blackboard and Turnitin Rubrics’

Mary Jacob (Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit):

‘Writing Better Assignments in the Post-Covid19 Era’

Sarah Higgins (Department of Information Studies):

‘Marking Multi-faceted Group Projects’

We hope that you will be able to join us. You can register to attend the Mini-Conference by clicking on this link. If you have any queries, please email

NEW Recurring MS Teams Meeting Feature in Blackboard

Today, a new feature has been made available in Blackboard which allows you to create recurring MS Teams meetings.

This new feature works very similarly to the recurring options available in Outlook. As can be seen in the image below, you can now arrange MS Teams meetings through Blackboard based on how often you want them to recur; on what days you want them to recur; and when you would like this recurrence to end.

Students should be encouraged to add this link to their calendars as this will automatically add the whole series to their calendars.

Screenshot showing the options available in the new recurring meetings feature.

When setting up your recurring meeting, please ensure that you include clear information which demonstrates which sessions should be accessed through the link that you have just created.

Table demonstrating which sessions can be accessed through the Teams link

For further details on how to use this new feature, please visit our FAQ.

Alternative activities to in-person teaching

There may be occasions where it is not practically possible for you to simultaneously deliver non-lecture activities (e.g. seminars, workshops, etc.) to students in-person and students joining via MS Teams.

In this blog post, we will explore some different options for delivering alternative activities for those students that cannot join in-person sessions. Before you begin to design an alternative activity, consider the following points:

  1. Which alternative activity will best emulate the experience that students in the original in-person session are getting?
  2. What are my intended learning outcomes and which activities will best achieve these?
  3. How long will it take me to plan an activity and do I have the capacity to do this?
  4. Think carefully about your assessment criteria – will the alternative activity that you provide allow the students to undertake the module assessments successfully?
  5. Clarity and focus are at the heart of any well-designed online activity. Ensure that students using your alternative activity know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it. If you ask students to use any technology, you must provide students with clear and concise guidance on how to use these.

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Welsh-Medium Continued Professional Development – What’s on?

The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit offers several sessions for Continued Professional Development (CPD) covering a range of topics. We offer sessions in both English and Welsh and Welsh-medium sessions will appear in Welsh on the staff training website. Here is an overview of the Welsh-medium sessions that we are offering throughout the rest of the semester:

November 2020

16.11.20 (11:00-12:30): CDU: Datblygu eich arferion addysgu (D & A: Ar-lein)

17.11.20 (14:00-15:30): CDU: Defnyddio MS Teams, Offer yr Ystafell Ddysgu ac Addysgu syncronaidd (D & A: Ar-lein)

20.11.20 (14:00-15:00): Hanfodion E-ddysgu: Cyflwyniad i Turnitin (D & A: Ar-lein)

25.11.20 (11:00-12:00): Hanfodion E-ddysgu: Cyflwyniad i Panopto (D & A: Ar-lein)

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