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20 July 2021

Engaging students in real-world projects online

Through collaborative assignments such as group projects, students can apply their learning in a practical, real-world scenarios and develop their teamwork skills. Digital tools such as Microsoft Teams and Planner can support collaborative learning. Associate Professor Bardo Fraunholz, unit chair of Information Systems in Practice, implemented the use of these tools with the support of Vivek Venkiteswaran from Deakin’s Digital Learning Innovation team. In the capstone unit in the Master of Information Systems, students work for an industry client on a consultancy style project that involves solving information systems problems.  

Key considerations to engage students in online project work 

Bardo brought to the fore the need for instructors to have oversight of the group work to facilitate positive and constructive interactions between students and monitor team members’ contributions to the project. By having oversight, instructors can better support students who may lag in their project work through customised guidance and support. There should also be transparency so that various stakeholders, including industry clients that students are working with, can keep track of project progress. Transparency promotes ‘accountability for learning’, as emphasised by Vivek. Students develop essential project management and collaborative skills and are encouraged to take ownership of their learning. 

Another consideration is the assessment and evaluation of learning outcomes. Bardo contends that, beyond assessing the final artefact produced from the collaborative project, it is also important for students to be individually assessed based on their contributions to the work. Individual assessment decreases the risk of ‘social loafing’ and ‘free riding’. 

Find out more 

In the episode of the Tales of Teaching Online podcast, Designing and Supporting Online student project work, Dr Isma Seetal from the Digital Learning Innovation team chats with Bardo about the capstone project. 

Bardo discusses supporting students in their collaborative work and the challenges they encounter. He also shares how Microsoft tools such as Teams and Planner support students in their projects. 

Watch the video tour of the Microsoft Teams and Planner area used in the unit to support students in organising their group work and tracking the progress of tasks. 

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