Students Working Remotely in Groups

[NOTE: This page gives you the reflective tools to begin adapting your course to remote teaching.] 


If group work has been an essential part of the active learning process in your face-to-face classroom, you can rest assured that you still have various options for students to engage with each other collaboratively within a remote learning environment. Both Moodle and Blackboard offer various options, tools, and activities for student collaboration.  Which option you choose will depend upon your specific learning goals in your syllabus. For information on how to reflect on your goals, see our Prioritizing Learning Goals and Activities page.  

As is the case in face-to-face learning environments, providing explicit direction and transparency is essential for students to work effectively in remote learning environments.  Therefore, we recommend you let your students know:   

  • Your expectations 
  • The purpose of the assigned group work 
  • The required knowledge and skills needed to complete the work 
  • Which resources will be necessary to accomplish the group work (including where and how to access them) 
  • The structure of the activity/assignment 
  • Due dates/deadlines  
  • Specific details about how they will be evaluated (i.e., rubrics, will it graded/ungraded?)  

Consider Issues of Access, Inclusion, and Equity

Since working in remote learning environments is new to many of us, we need to be aware that some students may struggle more than others. Also, keep in mind that not everyone will be able to work remotely from a comfortable, private, and quiet space. In addition, some of your students may have:


  • Unreliable access to the internet
  • Only their cell phones to access your course 
  • Technology that is shared with family members 
  • Limited data plans
  • Responsibilities to care for others

To help you identify your students’ unique needs, check in with your students individually or consider sending them a survey to find out what is doable for them during this time of disruption.

 Things we recommend:    

  • Keep the expectations for group work low, especially in regards to grading 
  • Communicate regularly with your students (i.e., check-in with them, offer reassurance, encourage them) 
  • Be flexible 
  • Send reminders 


 To strategize the best way to convert (or not to convert, as the case may be) collaborative work to a remote learning setting, we encourage you to think through the following questions. 


What do I need to do to adapt group work to the remote teaching and learning environment? 

  1. List all the ways you have been engaging your students with group work in your face-to-face class.  
  2. For each group work activity, identify why you are engaging your students with this type of group work? What is the learning benefit or goal? 
  3. Develop an action plan. 

Develop an Action Plan 

Choose one group activity that is a) essential to student learning and b) can easily be adapted to the remote teaching and learning setting.  

  • What’s the purpose for this group activity?  
  • How do you set up this group activity for success during class?  
  • What might you need to do differently in the remote teaching and learning setting?  
  • What possible challenges can you anticipate in an online setting? 

Choose one group activity that is essential to student learning but needs more consideration. Address the following as you consider the selected group activity:   

  • Be specific: What is the learning benefit of doing this activity that you would like replicated in the remote teaching and learning setting? 
  • Is it essential that you use the same format (e.g., group work) for the learning benefits to be achieved?  
  • Experiment with changing the format of this activity in some way. What new considerations does this bring up?  
  • How do you maximize the opportunity for engagement in the remote teaching and learning setting?

 Next Steps and Tools 

Choose the right tools for the learning goals that you have identified for group work. 

  • Use Zoom for video conferencing, screen sharing, group messaging, and as a collaboration tool.  

  • If you want students to discuss class materials, share multiple perspectives, and construct meaning through small group discussions, for asynchronous activities add Discussion Forum activities (Moodle) or Discussion Tool (Blackboard). Or, for a synchronous activity, use Zoom breakout rooms. 

  • If you want students to collaboratively solve problems and apply concepts, use the Zoom Whiteboard feature. To create content as a group (i.e., collaborative storytelling or poetry, collaborative authoring of an online book, create a study guide) use the Moodle Wiki tool.