Each member of an online group will have his or her own expectations of how the project should be completed and how it develops.  Students might find it  worthwhile for their group to establish a set of norms, or common expectations, early in the group work so that each group member has a similar understanding of issues.  Some considerations include:

  • How will the group function?  Will someone serve as the group leader or will everyone be responsible for keeping the group moving forward?
  • When will the group meet?  Will the group meet asynchronously, synchronously or a combination?
  • What technology will the group use to support the decision making process of the group (e.g., E-mail, Blackboard Group Discussion Board, Blackboard Group Chat, Voice-Over-IP, Telephone Conference Calls)?
  • What technology will the group use to support the resource-sharing process of the group (e.g., e-mailing resources as attachments, posting resources as attachments to the Blackboard Group Discussion Board, posting resources to a wiki)?
  • What technology will the group use to support the creation of the group paper (e.g., e-mailing versions of the paper as attachments, posting versions of the paper as attachments to the Blackboard Group Discussion Board, hosting the paper online using a Wiki or GoogleDocs)?
  • When will tasks be completed? Will the group stagger the completion of the various tasks or will it all be completed at once?
  • Who will complete various tasks?  Will individuals be assigned to different tasks or will the group work collectively on all tasks?

Instructors can encourage groups to develop these norms early in the group project by making it a required activity after the groups are formed.

Collaborative tools, such as the group wiki tool in Blackboard, could be used for the members to collectively develop the norms.