Using the Groups Tool

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Intended Audience

WSU instructors currently using Brightspace and interested in using groups in their Brightspace courses.


Groups are a means of organizing learners within a course offering into smaller units. The Groups tools can be used for:

  • Any group assignment or activity that requires users to interact, submit or share materials within the Learning Environment.
  • Collaborative activities.
  • Peer editing and assessment.
  • Creating smaller or differentiated learning cohorts within a course offering.

How the Groups tool is used

Combining groups and other Brightspace tools

Groups can be used in several different ways. Some of the more popular include:

  • Creating small groups for discussions. When used with the Groups and Discussions tools together, instructors can create topics that are private to a subset of students and the professor. This encourages participation from students that may not normally contribute. (See How do I create private discussions with my students? for more information.
  • Defining dropboxes for group projects. Using Groups in conjunction with Assignments allows for a secure dropbox for posting group work. Each group has a private space accessible only to the group's members and the professor.
  • Allocating locker areas for small group file sharing. Group lockers are file-charing areas private to only the members of the group (and the professor).

However you decide to use the Groups tool, it promotes collaboration between students, build teamwork skills, and encourages participation in coursework.

Best Practices

  • Control the size and number of the groups. In some cases, you will want to control the size of each group. For example, you may want to limit groups to three members if the assignment is to reenact your favorite Three Stooges' skit. Conversely, you may want to define four groups if your project is something more like "research the musical background on one of the members of The Monkees."
  • Allow students to self enroll. Allowing self enrollment let's students work in groups with people they like. This is one way to increase engagement.
  • Enroll students in the groups. By selecting the membership yourself, you can set up groups by experience level, skill level, or any way you see fit.
  • Switch up the group memberships. Try creating new groups for different projects to expose the students to new group members from time to time. It will teach them adaptability and teamwork skills they may not get if they work with the same students all semester.

Where do I go from here?

Ready to get started? Take a look at:

  • Setting up Groups in Your Class - One of the first steps in using Groups in a course is designing the structure of the groups. This involves forethought and group layout. "Will my students self-enroll?" "How many groups to I want?" "How large should each group be?" "How do I keep Johnny and Bobby from teaming up?"
  • Groups and Discussions - Groups can be used to create smaller discussion cohorts, making it easier to get the quieter students involved.
  • Groups and Assignments - Group dropboxes are great for submission of group projects.
  • Brightspace Tool Integration - Take a look at an overview of which tools work together and how careful thought and planning can make the course more engaging and save the professor time.

Instructional Resources

More Information

Related Wiki Topics

D2L Overview Topics

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