Virtual groupwork using MS Teams

This article will show an example of how MS Teams can be used to organize Virtual group work.

Virutal groupwork using MS Teams (hand typing on a computer)

Course: WRM60309 Sustainable Land and Water Management in Spain
Period: Period 6

Short Introduction and background

Introduction and story behind the emergence of this learning activity. What was the need, what issue/problem was the teacher facing and wanted to resolve? 

During this ACT course, students work in a group of 4-5 students on a real-life Spain-based project. In the first four weeks, students work on the project proposal in Wageningen and learn how to do so by attending lectures, following workshops and by being coached by a supervisor and team coach. 

Students also work on small assignments that they peer review. At the end of the four weeks, they present their draft project proposal to their peers and after reviewing the feedback the proposal is finalised. 

In this period of the course the students also work-out what personal development goals they want to achieve while working on the project. The content of two workshops and one on one sessions with a coach helps them determine what these individual goals are. As a group, the students work together to make sure all group members are able to achieve these personal learning goals. 

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After these four weeks of preparation, the students and their mentor travel to Spain as a group. Upon arrival, they first get acquainted with the environment and present their project proposal to the commissioner. If needed they adjust the project proposal and start working on their project. This means gathering data by doing interviews or whatever they decided upon in their proposal. 

In the end, they write a project report and present this to the commissioner, mentors and their peers. Individually students reflect on their personal learning goals and as a team, they reflect on the team process. 

Due to Corona students could not travel (abroad) and the course needed to be taught completely online. Location was on the one hand of less importance if it concerned projects that did not require local fieldwork and on the other hand of high importance if it concerned projects that did require local fieldwork. 

International projects (Jordan, Spain, Africa) were selected that could be done completely remote and were acquired through the personal networks of the teaching staff. These international projects relied on the analysis of existing data, online interviews and the analysis of secondary data. Some Dutch projects were also selected, since if fieldwork was necessary the highest probability of being allowed to do so within COVID-19 restrictions would be local.  

Lectures and workshops were taught by using either Virtual Classroom or Ms Teams. 

Students needed to be able to work in groups meaning working on documents together and being able to meet online. Ms Teams met these requirements best.  

Relevant tools/ apps (software) or hardware used

Learning outcome(s)

What has been learned after this lesson/activity has been executed ?

After successful completion of this course, students are expected to be able to:  

  • Design an interdisciplinary (research/consultancy) project proposal in the field of land and water management based on the question/demand of an external commissioner. 
  • Use project management and planning tools to carry out a team research/consultancy project in the field of land and water management at an appropriate academic level. 
  • Employ (field) research methods from different disciplines to collect data on land and water management processes. 
  • Analyse collected data to design contextualized land and water management measures, and/or analytical concepts and related recommendations. 
  • Communicate to a broad audience the research results, analysis, recommendations and/or designs convincingly in a clear and concise manner, both in writing and verbally. 
  • Reflect on their professional competences and development in a team as well as individually in relation to becoming a professional in the field of land and water management. 

Lesson idea / Learning activity

Specific description and demonstration of the lesson idea/learning activity.

Each group worked together using their own Ms Teams environment and also decided how to use the environment. Students met each other online (some for 6 to 8 hours a day) and worked together on the project/ files. When necessary they would start a meeting. The team supervisor was online available for questions during certain time slots and met up with the team two or three times a week online to see how they were progressing and advise/support them on the content if needed. The team coach met up with the group once a week to discuss the teamwork and also frequently individually with each group member to go over their personal learning goals. 

Lessons learned / Tips

Mentions tips lecturer has for colleagues based on their experience.

Trust the capabilities of your students concerning the use of new tools. They are able to (mainly) figure it out by themselves.   

Online group work has advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, there was less friction within the teams since they did not need to spend 24/7 time together during the second part of the course. On the other hand, the teams did not develop a real ‘team spirit’ when solely working online. This difference was most visible when comparing the teams working completely online on foreign projects and the teams working on the Dutch projects. The latter teams were able to meet-up, do fieldwork and work together offline. 

Coaching students online was less intensive than normal in a face to face setting. Normally a supervisor would sit in during interviews e.g. In this way you miss out on opportunities to give feedback on e.g. interviewing skills. 

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For next time we will create obligatory activities e.g. intervision groups (mixed groups with members from different teams) to make sure students also learn from the other groups. We did offer similar optional activities but students only focused on the obligatory parts of the course.  

We will also keep using the different set-up of the workshops for personal development. This self-paced, more student-centred online method using instruction clips and a handbook proved to be more effective than the usual plenary set-up (lecture and assignments at set times). Learning outcomes were better met this way. Coaches were online available for questions. 

Another thing that we will keep on using for this course is the online ACT instructions that were supplied. 


Teacher(s): Jaime Hoogesteger van Dijk
TLC contact (on MS Teams): 
Eline Noorbergen
Author (interviewer): Anniek Wintraeken



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