Team player, a familiar expression in many educational and workplace environments, is also an important component of online learning environments. The inclusion of teams and groups in discussions, group projects, problem-solving exercises, and role playing activities is a vital part of teaching and learning that encourages students’ social interaction and leadership skills. The need for students in online environments to acquire and use social skills such as cooperative learning skills, group discussion strategies, and conflict resolution skills, that are traditionally included in face-to-face teaching and learning environments is an intrinsic goal of online teaching and learning. A brief historical perspective of the development of online learning programs highlights some of the factors that have influenced the need for including student teams in online learning environments.
The fast pace demand for online learning and e-based instructional environments in the United States prompted many questions, concerns, and criticisms by educators and the public regarding the quality of online learning as compared with traditional face-to-face classroom learning. The prominent question dominating the field is the following: “do online courses adequately substitute for on-site courses?’ (Grubbs, 2000, September 19, para. 5) A key area of concern inherent in this question is the degree of social interaction and student involvement and participation in online learning versus on-site learning. Although course content is considered as an important component of both online and face- to-face learning, critics of online learning question the degree of social interaction and student engagement as the key issue for comparing online learning with face-to-face learning environments. Proponents of e-learning suggest that online delivery must contain quality structured content, opportunities for question and answer considerations, and interactivity between learners and their peers (Grubbs, 2000, September 19; Online Education Resources, 2007; Jana, 1999, September 15). The British Open University provides several electronic resources that support structure and general guidance for assisting student teams in online project development and implementation (Bissell, 2001).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Attachments: Documents or materials that are sent as additions to messages rather than within messages in online learning environments.
Cohort: A group of individuals with a common purpose such as learners within a class. Virtual
Asynchronous Learning Environment: Learners post messages according to their preferred available flexible timeframes rather than at the same time.
Team Charter: Team members develop a contract describing their contributing efforts and operational goals as individuals within a team. Chat Protocol: Team members develop rules and guidelines for etiquette and manners while communicating in online environments. e-Learning: Instructional software, educational online programs, and/or electronic platforms that serve as delivery systems in online learning environments.
Face-to-Face Learning Environment: A traditional classroom setting whereby learners are physically present in the classroom together.
Learning Environment: A classroom learning environment with no face-to-face experiences.
Real-Time: Online synchronous communications and face-to-face learning environments.
Synchronous Learning Environment: Learners communicate at the same time online.