The Importance of Group Development
Currently, typical perceptions of online learning involve an isolated student at a computer simply completing and submitting assignments. In this situation an addressee is far from being a consideration. However, my experience is that online education has the potential to be much more dynamic, but it takes the somewhat delicate organization of solid groups. Distance Education scholars Kayleigh Carabajal, Deborah LaPointe, and Charlotte N. Gunawardena maintain that productive group formation is possible in an online environment (220). Researchers discovered that even in asynchronous communication situations, group members were able to form relationships, and even accomplish goals more efficiently than face-to-face groups (225).
However, many instructors experience as much of a challenge online as in the classroom when they encourage students to form authentic groups. Some students choose an online learning environment because they wish to avoid interaction with others. Unfortunately, distance-learning stereotypes are a proponent of this perception. But for the students who do participate in online interaction, the experience can be liberating.