You are here:

Creating and Collaborating: Students’ and Tutors’ Perceptions of an Online Group Project ARTICLE

, , The Open University

IRRODL Volume 19, Number 2, ISSN 1492-3831 Publisher: Athabasca University Press


Although collaboration skills are highly valued by employers, convincing students that collaborative learning activities are worthwhile, and ensuring that the experience is both useful and enjoyable, are significant challenges for educators. This paper addresses these challenges by exploring students\u2019 and tutors\u2019 experiences of a group project where part-time distance learners collaborate online to create a website. Focus groups were conducted with students who had recently completed the project, and discussion forums were used to gather feedback from tutors who supported students and marked their group work. The research showed that students\u2019 attitudes towards the group project on completion were generally favourable. Findings highlighted key aspects for successful online group projects and for motivating students to participate fully. These included: the design of authentic tasks, with skills development relevant to the workplace; careful attention to how the group work is assessed; and enabling students to develop websites they could be proud of. Frustrations for students were associated with the lack of engagement of fellow students and with limitations of the tool provided for building the website. Tutors found marking the work a time-consuming and complex process. Tutors were also unconvinced of the value and fairness of assessing students partly on a group, as opposed to an individual, basis.


Donelan, H. & Kear, K. (2018). Creating and Collaborating: Students’ and Tutors’ Perceptions of an Online Group Project. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 19(2),. Athabasca University Press. Retrieved October 20, 2018 from .


View References & Citations Map


  1. Amory, A. (2014). Tool-mediated authentic learning in an educational technology course: A designedbased innovation. Interactive Learning Environments, 22(4), 497–513. Doi:10.1080/10494820.2012.682584
  2. Brindley, J.E., Walti, C., & Blaschke, L.M. (2009). Creating effective collaborative learning groups in
  3. Brown, J.S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32–42.
  4. Bryman, A. (2015). Social research methods (5th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  5. Donlan, L. (2014). Exploring the views of students on the use of Facebook in university teaching and learning. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 38(4), 572–588. Doi:10.1080/0309877X.2012.726973
  6. Herrington, J., Reeves, T.C., & Oliver, R. (2010). A guide to authentic elearning. New York: Routledge.
  7. Hrastinski, S. (2009). A theory of online learning as online participation. Computers& Education, 52, 78–82. Doi:10.1016/J.compedu.2008.06.009
  8. Huang, H-M. (2002). Toward constructivism for adult learners in online learning environments. British Journal of Educational Technology, 33(1), 27–37.
  9. Kear, K., Chetwynd, F., Williams, J., & Donelan, H. (2010). Web conferencing for synchronous online tutorials: Perspectives of tutors using a new medium. Computers& Education, 58, 953-963.
  10. Lombardi, M.M. (2007). Authentic learning for the 21st century: An overview. Educause Learning Initiative. Retrieved from
  11. McConnell, D. (2006). E-learning groups and communities. Berkshire: Open University Press.
  12. McGrath, J.E. (1990). Time matters in groups. In J. Galegher, R.E. Kraut, & C. Egido. (Eds.),
  13. Naismith, L., Lee, B.H., & Pilkington, R.M. (2011). Collaborative learning with a wiki: Differences in perceived usefulness in two contexts of use. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27, 228– 242. Doi:10.1111/J.1365-2729.2010.00393.x
  14. Oliveira, I., Tinoca, L., & Pereira, A. (2011). Online groupwork patterns: How to promote a successful collaboration. Computers& Education, 57, 1348–1357. Doi:10.1016/J.compedu.2011.01.017
  15. Oliver, R., Herrington, A., Herrington, J., & Reeves, T.C. (2007). Representing authentic learning
  16. Ozturk, T.H., & Hodgson, V. (2017). Developing a model of conflict in virtual learning communities in the context of a democratic pedagogy. British Journal of Educational Technology, 48(1), 23– 42. Doi:10.1111/bjet.12328
  17. Payne, B.K., Monk-Turner, E., Smith, D., & Sumter, M. (2006). Improving groupwork: Voices of students. Education, 146(3), 441−448.
  18. Roberts, T.S. & McInnerney, J.M. (2007). Seven problems of online group learning (and their solutions). Educational Technology& Society, 10(4), 257–268.
  19. Sclater, N., Peasgood, A., & Mullen, J. (2016) Learning analytics in higher education: A review of UK and international practice. Retrieved from
  20. Selwyn, N. (2009). Faceworking: Exploring students’ education-related use of facebook. Learning, Media and Technology, 34(2), 157–174. Doi:10.1080/17439880902923622
  21. Sfard, A. (1998). On two metaphors for learning and the dangers of choosing just one. Educational Researcher, 27(2), 4–13. Doi: 0.3102/0013189X027002004
  22. Smith, G.G., Sorensen, C., Gump, A., Heindel, A.J., Caris, M., & Martinez, C.D. (2011). Overcoming
  23. Tess, P.A. (2013). The role of social media in higher education classes (real and virtual)—A literature review. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, A60–A68.
  24. Thorpe, M., & Edmunds, R. (2011). Practices with technology: Learning at the boundary between study and work. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27, 385–398.
  25. Webb, N.M. (1995). Group collaboration in assessment: Multiple objectives, processes, and outcomes. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 17(2), 239–261.

These references have been extracted automatically and may have some errors. If you see a mistake in the references above, please contact