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Let's Work Together: Pros and Cons of Online Group Grades

written by: Regina Woodard•edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 9/20/2011

Are you prepared for group grades in an online course? Online degree programs have redirected their focus from individual to group learning. Learn more about the pros and cons of group grades and their impact on student learning.

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    Which Type of Student Are You?

    We are witnessing paradigm shifts in distance education and in traditional learning. These shifts are in reference to student grades and recognition, from competitive individual performance to collaborative learning or CL. As you select the online degree program that works best for you, keep this new emphasis on group learning in mind.

    Attending an online degree program that majors in group learning may transfer well into some business settings that value consensus building for the greater good of the company, or where international communication or sales presentations make up the better part of your job description. But it may not be as useful in other employment settings, such as research and development, where independent thinking and risk taking are paramount.

    These types of students might argue that not enough time is being spent on actual subject matter since much of their time is being Group Grades in an Online Course taken up in problematic group dynamics. These young adults may not want to pay for group results. If group work is a requirement, they would prefer that one class be devoted solely to it and the group grade, while all other classes be strictly competitive individual mastering of subject material.

    Or perhaps, they surmise, the online university should offer such courses for free since the group grade becomes a permanent part of the individual's record. Others might argue the opposite. They want to be part of a team in hopes of manipulating other team members for their own ends. The important thing, therefore, is to know which type of student you are.

    As mentioned above, this could be a rude awakening to some people; not only are you being graded on subject material, you are also being graded quite heavily on group dynamics, which can sometimes be good or even disastrous. Are you ready for group grades in an online course?

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    What are the Pros and Cons of Group Grades?

    There are so many things that factor into group learning. Some of the pros are:

    • Know how to work well with others
    • Show initiative in order to negotiate within the group for the role you wish to play
    • Ability to receive constructive criticism from teammates because it encourages emotional growth and builds character
    • Learn how to handle problems collectively, getting a sense of belonging
    • See things from a different perspective or to learn alternative ways of doing things
    • Learn to compromise, to give and take, and to build consensus
    • Know what your peers think of your contribution to the group

    However, there are also cons to group grades:

    • Some may feel students are not qualified to evaluate for grading purposes. A peer, after all, is just another student and not a qualified professor
    • A group member may not want to go against their own internal value system due to majority rule
    • Groups sometimes are not constructive
    • Peer pressure can cause members to capitulate on personal principle
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    No Way Around It

    Even online classes are required to have some project that will employ a little bit of group work. Just like the 'brick and mortar' aspects, the group setting is to foster communication between people of different backgrounds, different thoughts, in the hopes of achieving even greater communication and fostering greater ideas.

    There are of course, people who don't enjoy working in groups and probably won't enjoy the concept of group grades in an online course, but sometimes it's best to bite the bullet and try to enjoy the experience and learn from it.


  • Managing Distance Learning Groups,

    Image Credit: Morgue File/mconnors