Groups are great!

Using the Groups tool in the LMS is a great way to enhance teaching and learning in your subjects or communities. Once you have created groups, they can facilitate faster grading, adaptive release of content, the ability for students to collaborate, and more! Below is a brief overview of some of the great benefits of setting up groups in your subject or community.

  • Smart views

Groups can be used as the basis of Grade Centre Smart Views.  Smart Views allow you to view a subset of the Grade Centre of your subject or community users, displaying just the group members that you are interested in.  Smart Views are commonly set up to allow tutors to view just their own tutorial group in the Grade Centre while marking and inputting gradses. Grade Centre exports can also be based on a Smart View, meaning the export will include just the students from that group. Smart Views can be created in bulk after groups are created from the groups area. For more information, see the Smart Views guide.

  • Group tools

After creating groups, tools can be given to each group to facilitate group work, group sharing and group assessment.  Available tools are email, journals, blogs, wikis, file exchange, tasks and discussion boards.  When creating a group, staff select which tools the group will have access to and the group then can use these tools to complete learning requirements.  For example a group wiki could be used to jointly write a team contract that the group will use while completing an assignment.

Group wikis and journals can be set to private for the group only, or set to allowing sharing with the wider cohort. Group blogs are always able to be viewed by the whole subject or community cohort.  Group journals, blogs, wikis and discussion boards can be set up to be graded with feedback and grades going back to the whole group or, alternately, individuals within the group.

  • Group assignments and feedback

The Blackboard assignment tool has a group assignment option. When this assignment type is selected, one person from the group can submit a Blackboard group assignment on behalf of all the members of the group. All group members can the view the marking and feedback for that one group assignment. Plus, if there is reason to do so, staff can give an individual in the group a different grade to the rest of the group.

  • Self-enrol groups

Staff can set up self-enrol groups whereby students can sign themselves up for a group rather than the staff member allocating them to a group.  Self-enrol groups can be used to let students form their own groups for group work, sign ups for a particular assignment topic or register for a particular lab.

Once the students have completed the self-enrolment to the group they will have access to both the group pages and the group tools chosen for them, without any waiting period. For example, a self-enrol group could be given a group journal, and students can begin sharing journal entries as soon as they sign up. There is even the option to let students create their own self-enrolled groups and give the group their own name and description as well as set the maximum number of members for their group.

  • Using adaptive release to give content to just one group

Creating groups can allow you to choose to deliver content to one or more groups and restrict access from others using the adaptive release feature. Staff can edit the adaptive release rules on any content item, test or assessment so that only one or more groups can view the particular content. For example, there could be one test for the students who were in the group focusing on one topic and another test for the group which focused on an alternate topic.  For more information, see the guide on Adaptive Release.

  • Random enrol groups

If staff wish they can use the LMS to populate groups, instead of having to manually choose students for each group. Creating random enrol group sets in this case can be suitable when staff do not mind how groups are allocated. Random enrol groups are best done once the cohort has been finalised as the random allocation is done at the time the random group set is created.  Arrivals to a subject after this date will need to be  added to a group manually.

  • Easy administration of groups

The groups area in the LMS is found: Control Panel >> Users and groups >> Groups. In this area the groups are created and  can be viewed by ‘All groups’, ‘Group sets’ or ‘All users’.  The ‘All users’ view lets staff view all student users in the subject and see which group each individual is a member of.  It is a very helpful view to confirm students are in a group and to make changes to group membership.

Groups can be set up as individual groups or a group set.  A ‘Group set’ is a set of groups for a similar purpose such as tutorial groups.  It allows staff to easily manage a group of groups. This includes managing the group names and memberships across the set. Within a group set, as a default, students are only allowed in one group to ensure that students are not accidentally added to more than one group.  This default can be over ridden.

  • Group visibility

Groups can be made visible to students and this visibility is necessary if the intention is for the group members to engage with group tools.  When a group is available to students, the students  will see the group(s) they are in at the bottom of the subject menu on the left of the subject. Here, they can assess any group tools or Blackboard group assignments allocated to the group.

Groups can also be hidden from students where they may be intended for administration purposes only. For example, if you are using Smart Views in the Grade Centre, or using adaptive release to limit the viewing of content to particular groups, you may not necessarily need to make the group visible to students.

Group import features to populate group members

Creating and populating groups is simple via the interface but there is also an import option. CSV imports can be used to populate group members if staff prefer to import group memberships.

Group email

The staff email function in the LMS is found: Control Panel >> Subject / Community tools >> Email.  Once staff have set up groups, they can use the email tool to email single groups. This option is available even if the group email tool has not been given to the group. The group does need to be ‘available’ to students for the group email to function.

For more information on Groups, see the Groups guide.  If you would like to speak to someone about these Groups options, please don’t hesitate to contact us via our support form.

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Written by
Catherine Manning

Learning Environments support centre