It’s common for students to walk into lecture halls and feel alone when learning and understanding the material. Group projects and small discussions are designed to help ease those feelings, but are often an obstacle for professors teaching large classes. To combat this sense of isolation, professors should encourage student work outside of their classrooms. This kind of group work can be done through shared Google Docs, Facebook groups, Piazza and other collaborative online learning sites.
Clint Tuttle, a senior lecturer in the McCombs School of Business, said group work outside of the classroom can often become a breeding ground for academic dishonesty. Students in GroupMe chats will ask for homework or quiz answers from other students and receive them with no way to understand the reasoning behind choosing the letter ‘A’ over ‘B,’ ‘C,’ or ‘D.’
As a result, Tuttle said that professors need to pave way for collaboration outside of the classroom. Tuttle has utilized an online discussion board where every student is able to post questions which lead to crowd-sourced answers from the group and himself. To avoid academic dishonesty and to advocate for better learning, professors should play an active role in their students’ outside collaboration.
“I’ve never heard a compelling reason why students need to have private collaboration,” Tuttle said. “(Students) have the tendency to think no one is looking in these chats, then ask others, ‘What did you get for this question?’”
Tuttle sees students receiving answers from others as an issue hindering learning. Tuttle said professors like him are working to break down barriers and involve themselves with student collaboration efforts. The hope is that this will lead to better learning of the topic and higher grades.
Lauren Rosa, a human development and family sciences senior, was a student in assistance professor Shagufta H. Shabbir’s organic chemistry class. According to Rosa, a Facebook group was created for the class where professors, TAs and students could help each other understand the content. Rosa states this collaboration between the students and the professor was beneficial for her success in the class.
Margaret Siu, a Plan II junior, created a Google Doc in lecturer Jeffrey Leon’s philosophy class during her sophomore year. Siu encouraged students to collaborate on the Google Doc study guide by adding, refining and organizing information together. She then took the finished product to Leon who reviewed and approved of the document. In this case, Leon was an advocate for student collaboration, and the following test had a better test score average.
When professors are directly involved in or advocate for collaborative efforts outside the classroom it leads to a higher understanding of material. If professors want to see their students do the best they can, they should encourage and participate in outside classroom engagement.
Torres is a Plan II, English & creative writing junior from San Antonio.