Student Perceptions about Online Collaborative Coursework

Tracia M. Forman, Ava S. Miller


Objective: Collaborative coursework may improve student engagement but is often viewed as problematic by both students and faculty, particularly in the online classroom. The aim of this research is to present results of a retrospective, qualitative content analysis of student related perceptions about group work in the online classroom. Methods: Data analysis was completed with the use of qualitative content analysis (QCA), a valid research method for describing the meaning of qualitative data in a systematic way. QCA was used to inform the following research question: What perceptions do students have about working with a group in the online classroom? Data were collected through a retrospective analysis of student responses posted to discussion board forums. Responses of students (N = 192) enrolled in three different courses, over two semesters were analyzed by a team of two researchers. Results: Findings included student reflections about group work being a stressful, negative experience, with the asynchronous environment of the online classroom increasing student anxiety about group work. Students reported different academic goals and lack of participation among group members as common issues. In addition, students reported concern with group management or organization and the fairness of group work grading practices. Conclusions: These results inform a discussion of best practices, skills and technology faculty can use to transform online group work into a positive learning experience for all students. Online education needs to be meaningful and responsive to meet students’ needs. Research has shown group work can improve student engagement and facilitate accomplishment; however, the negotiation of group work processes can be stressful for students and faculty, particularly in the online classroom.

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Journal of Curriculum and Teaching ISSN 1927-2677 (Print) ISSN 1927-2685 (Online)  Email:

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