Group Work & Labs

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Find ways of supporting collaborative work online, for when students need to interact in smaller teams and labs.

Facilitate Groups in Canvas | Facilitate Groups in Microsoft Teams | Run Labs

Facilitate Groups in Canvas

One way to organize student group work, projects, and assignments online is to use groups in your Canvas course. Each group will have its own private group area to work in, which contains announcements, pages, discussions, and files that are shared only within the group.

Canvas has two types of groups: group sets that are managed by you and student groups that are organized by students. You can use both simultaneously in a course. Group sets are the group type that you can use for grading purposes.

Use Canvas group sets

  1. Log in to your Canvas course, and click People in the Course Navigation.
  2. Click +Group Set blue button in the upper right side of the screen to create a new group set.
    • Give your group set a name. It’s important to include the course name in this name to make it easier for students to find.
    • Allow self sign-up, if you wish. This allows students to move between groups.
    • Choose to automatically split students into x number of groups or to create groups manually.
  3. Save your group set.
  4. You can now manage which students are in which groups for this set.
  5. Once groups are populated, students will be able to access the private group area.

Tip #1:
Use group sets any time you want to assign grades to groups of students.

Tip #2:
If you’re interested in adding group work to real-time lectures, try the breakout rooms in Zoom »

Group sets can house different group arrangements within a course. For example, if students will work on Assignment 1 and Assignment 2 in different groups, create two group sets: “PSYC 101 – Assign 1” and “PSYC 101 – Assign 2”.

Learn more about Canvas groups »

Enable Canvas student-created groups

  1. Log in to your Canvas course, and click Settings in the Course Navigation.
  2. Click the Course Details tab.
  3. Click more options at the bottom of the tab.
  4. Click the Let students organize their own groups checkbox.
  5. Click Update Course Details.
  6. Students will be able to set up groups by clicking “People” in the Course Navigation. When new student groups are created, you will be able to see them on the “Student Groups” tab on the “People” page.

Use group sets when you want to use these groups for your own grading purposes.

Allowing student groups in your course is a powerful way to help students collaborate on projects, discuss topics, and schedule meetings with each other.

Refer your students to learn more about using Canvas groups » in UBC’s Canvas student guide.

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Facilitate Groups in Microsoft Teams

Another option to facilitate student group work is through the collaboration and chat tool Microsoft Teams. In Teams, students can work together in a secure and privacy-compliant way while using group chat and real-time document collaboration—features not available in Canvas.

Request a course team

  1. Access Microsoft Teams by downloading the Teams desktop application or accessing the Teams web portal in your browser. Log in using your email and UBC CWL password.
  2. To request a private space (a “team”) for your course, click Get Started in the navigation.
  3. Select Microsoft Teams for UBC Instructors, then scroll down and click the Course Team Request Form button.
  4. Complete the form with the proper information (for courses this includes the course name, code, number, section, and term) and click Save.
  5. Once your request has been approved, invite students and colleagues to join the course team by generating a team code:
    • Click Teams in the navigation, then click the more options (the 3 horizontal dots) next to the team name, and choose Manage team from the drop-down menu.
    • Click the Settings tab, select Team code, and generate a code for your team.
  6. Share the code with students and colleagues to allow them to join the team. Since anyone with this code can use it to join your team, please share the code in a secure way.

Microsoft Teams can be used with Microsoft OneDrive » a secure file-hosting service that allows you to store, share, and synchronize up to 1TB of encrypted file storage.

Even if you don’t create a course team, you can encourage students to use Teams on their own for collaboration. For more information, see UBC’s Microsoft Teams student guide »

Use your course team for collaboration

  1. All teams include a default general channel for chatting. You can organize and customize your team space by adding additional channels:
    • Click Teams in the navigation, then click the more options (the 3 horizontal dots) next to the team name, and choose Add channel from the drop-down menu.
    • Give the channel a descriptive name and clear description to make it easier for students to know what type of communication it’s for. You can also choose to make the channel private, meaning it is only visible to selected students.
    • Click Add to add the channel to the team.
  2. Team members can collaborate on documents such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint in any team channel:
    • Pick a channel, and start a new message or reply to an existing one. Click the attachment paperclip icon under the message bar, and choose your file to share.
    • Write an optional message to go along with your file, to help students know what you’re sharing.
    • Click the send icon, and anyone with access to the channel can open the file, edit it, or leave comments and suggestions.
    • To access all files shared to the channel, you and your students can click the Files tab at the top of the channel.

Tip #1:
In your course team, you can use channels to post informational messages, chat with specific students, and reply to other messages including visually using emojis and stickers.

Tip #2:
You can also use Teams for ​video/audio web-conferencing and for collaborating with UBC colleagues who are outside of your course.

Channels in Teams are focused places where you and your students can communicate with each other on specific topics or course work and share related files.

Any Word, Excel, or PowerPoint documents shared in Teams receive a version history, which tracks changes made to the document over time and allows people with access to restore earlier versions.

More information on using Microsoft Teams

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Run Labs

You can take several different approaches to moving labs online. Note that if you are running labs requiring specialized software, you and your students can log in to UBC workstations and computer labs remotely, by following the steps for accessing labs on Vancouver campus or accessing labs on Okanagan campus. Additionally, you and your students can download certain lab software for free.

Suggestions for moving labs online

Have students run an online simulation

  1. In cases where a simulation activity could replace a physical activity (e.g., electronics labs), modify the lab so students can complete it remotely using online software.

Enact a sample lab for students

  1. If the lab uses unfamiliar equipment or processes (from the student perspective):
    • Use a webcam to record an instructor or lab technician doing the experiment.
  2. If the lab uses relatively familiar equipment and processes (from the student perspective) or requires close-up views hard to capture on video:
    • Use slides with annotated still images to substitute for the experiment.
  3. Post the video and/or slides wherever you are sharing course content, along with any lab data.
  4. Ask students to write up a modified lab based on what they observe.

Provide sample data for students

  1. Post sample data for the experiment wherever you are sharing course content.
  2. Ask students to write up a modified lab that preserves the data analysis, error analysis, and any other components of the lab you feel can easily be done remotely.

Tip #1:
A video sample lab can be time consuming to develop, but it might be the best approach when the process and use of the equipment are very intricate. Watch the UBC Studios quick tips for optimizing how your video looks » for help.

Tip #2:
For compiling sample lab slides and annotated images, consider requesting support from your teaching assistants.

Tip #3:
A sample data lab is especially helpful if the recording or annotating process would be unmanageable, lengthy, or would not add value.

The above lab suggestions were adapted from tips arising from community conversations among the engineering deans, faculty, and staff of Canada. Copyright and all rights are reserved to the original authors, and the list is exempt from the site Creative Commons license.

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