In group reports, students in groups of 3-5 collectively research a topic and then present that topic to the instructor or class in some way, usually in text. The topic difficulty is such that a group of students is needed to effectively report on the varied information sources. The topic complexity may also benefit from group synergy of thinking.

Goals and Objectives

The goals of a group report is to develop the students ability to research a given topic and present their findings on that topic. Goals can also include building team skills, research skill buidling, report writing skills, etc. Sample objective statements include:

During and after performing the Group Report activity, students will…

  • evaluate information for validity,
  • uncover themes and recognize key facets within a given set of information,
  • prepare a report explaining a concept,
  • synthesize information from numerous sources,

…as determined by successfully attending to 80% of rubric items.

Materials and Resources

The instructor prepares the assignment description. Students need access to research materials.

Guiding Questions for this Lesson

As with most activities, the guiding question will depend on the purpose. A standard guiding question for the instructor might be how well can students research and report on a given topic.

Lesson Outline and Procedure

  1. The instructor presents the students with the assignment description. As this is usually a major assessment in terms of points value, this description may be present in the course syllabus. Providing the description early provides the students time to think about the report and to formulate who they may want in their groups.
  2. At a specified time, use student self-selection or instructor selection to put the students into groups of 3-5.
  3. Either provide a list of topics specific to the course or allow students to come up with a specific topic that meets certain general criteria. Then allow the groups 2-3 weeks to compose a report on the subject. Additional time may be used for more detailed reports. Using 2-3 week assignments may allow the groups to compose 3-4 reports as the course progresses.
  4. Keep informed of student-student communication during the group process. Intervene as appropriate to help teams that are falling behind or falling into conflict. Assess this process.
  5. Final reports are submitted directly to the instructor or to a plagiarism detection service.
  6. The instructor returns prompt feedback and possible incorporates some of the report materials into the course discussion.

Teaching Strategies

  • Group work is a fickle fiend in online education. Resources are provided below regarding effectively implementing online group work.
  • If groups have already been used in the course, the same groups may be maintained to reduce group formation time.
  • It is common in group reports for one person to be responsible for editing the final document together that the group may turn in; however, using Web tools such as a wiki or group collaboration tool such as Writely (Google Write), the students could collectively work on the final report.
  • Require that certain primary research articles be incorporated into the final work. This will help with academic honesty issues and will ensure that the students are on the right track.
  • A sample report from an earlier class can help explain expectatations for the students.
  • Additional academic honesty tips
    • Make the topics specific rather than general
    • Discourage trivial topics
    • Avoid using the same topic repeatedly
    • Ask questions from a specific point of view
    • Require a specific citation style
    • Require copies and/or links to all resources or the abstract of the resources
    • Use electronic submission and plagiarism detection services
    • Assess process as well as product


What accommodations may be needed for students with disabilities or other special needs? The primary accommodation will involve communication changes as needed for those with disabilities to actively and effectively participate in the group activity.


A typical group report should be given 2-3 weeks to complete depending on the difficulty.

Ideas for Lesson Evaluation and Teacher Reflection

How did the students like the lesson? End of semester evaluations should ask about the usefulness and learning accomplished through such activities. Also, the conversation that occurs during the activity will help guage how the students are enjoying various aspects and whether they are learning and/or participating.

Questions the instructor should ask when evaluating the lesson include: Were the students engaged in efficiently working together? Is the final report of a quality expected?

How was student learning verified? Participation can be assessed in discussion sessions and communications archives. A rubric can also be set up to help gauge the quality of final work.

Useful Online References on Group Work in General

A Few Books with Information on Group Work Online

  • Harasim, L. (2007). Assessing online collaborative learning: A theory, methodology, and toolset. In B. H. Khan (Ed.).Flexible learning in an information society. pp. 282-293. Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing.
  • Horton, W. (2000).Designing Web-based training. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Ko, S., & Rossen, S. (2001).Teaching online: A practical guide. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.
  • Nicolay, J. A. (2002). Group assessment in the on-line learning environment. In R. S. Anderson, J. F. Bauer, & B. W. Speck (Eds.). Assessment strategies for the on-line class: From theory to practice. pp. 43-52. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (1999).Building learning communities in cyberspace: Effective strategies for the online classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2001).Lessons from the cyberspace classroom: The realities fo online teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • Salmon, G. (2002). e-tivities: The key to active online learning. London: Kogan Page Limited.