In addition to preset course rules and guidance on how to complete the course and assignments it can be useful to allocate time for a group task where the students create shared ground rules or values for the course. Creating common ground rules can work as a team building exercise and foster a feeling of belonging and safety which can encourage students to speak up and participate more.
What do I need?
Allocate time in the first the lesson or orientation for students to discuss and create the rules for the course together. Use breakout rooms and small groups as well as digital tools that allow co-authoring. Reserve a space in the course’s digital learning platform for the ground rules, where they can be found throughout the course.
What do I need to do?
To start up the exercise and process of creating ground rules, explain the student what is expected of them and how the exercise will flow. At the beginning of the exercise offer students a shared platform where ideas, rules and values be written down for everyone to see. It can be shared text document or you can use collaborative platforms like Flinga. Students can think up certain number of rules by themselves first, then be moved into small groups in breakout rooms or in the classroom to discuss ideas and at the very end of the exercise ground rules are discussed and decided with the whole group present and then published in the online learning platform.
What should I take into account?
The exercise should be at the beginning of the course after preset course rules and learning objectives are clear to the students as it works both as a team building exercise and it can set the tone for the rest of the course.
It is important to reserve enough time for the exercise. It can take up to an hour even in a course of around 20 participants, so it’s mostly fit for medium sized and small groups rather than as shared exercise for all participants in a mass lecture. Although the exercise is time consuming and may take some effort to organize and facilitate, the benefits can be significant later on in the course. For example, if the group sets rules that foster interaction and participation in the discussions it may reduce the effort the teacher needs to put in to activate the student during the course.