Group Management in OWL

The Group Manager tool in OWL allows instructors to put students into groups to facilitate student interaction or to control the release of OWL content. Using the Group Manager, instructors can create Discussion or Chat and Whiteboard groups, assign different Assignments or Assessments to different groups, or selectively release course material. It is also useful when delivering cross-listed courses, or courses with multiple sections. The following guide will cover:

Accessing the Group Manager

To access the Group Manager, click on the TEACH tab and select GROUP MANAGER from the Instructor Tools menu found on the left-hand navigation bar. The Group Manager page will be displayed, listing all existing groups, their descriptions and their membership.

Creating Groups and Choosing Group Members

To create a new Group, click on the CREATE GROUP link at the top of the Group Manager page. A page will appear that offers you three options:

Creating Custom Groups

To create a single group, click on CREATE CUSTOM GROUP from the Create Groups page (shown above) and click CONTINUE. The Custom Group parameters page will appear.

Enter a name for your group in the GROUP NAME field and provide a description if you would like to. If you want to leave the group empty for the time being, click SAVE. If you wish to add members now, click on ADD MEMBERS. A pop-up window will appear with a list of all the individuals enrolled in your course, including instructors, TAs and auditors.

The FIND MEMBERS button allows you to search your course enrollment for particular individuals according to a set of criteria. You can also choose to manually select the members you would like to add to the group from the list, or click SELECT ALL to add all members currently shown.

Once you have chosen all of the members you would like to add to the group, click ADD SELECTED. You will return to the Create Custom Group page and will see a summary of the member information you have specified. If it is correct, click SAVE. You can also choose to add another group immediately after by clicking SAVE AND CREATE ANOTHER GROUP. Follow the same procedures listed above for creating another custom group.

Creating Multiple Randomized Groups

To create multiple groups in which students are randomly distributed, select CREATE MULTIPLE GROUPS from the Create Groups page (shown above).

Enter a word or phrase to be used as the prefix for each of your groups in the WORD OR PHRASE field. OWL will automatically append a number to each group (e.g. if you enter in Group and create two groups, your groups will be called Group 1 and Group 2).

If you like, you can enter an optional description that will be applied to all groups in the DEFAULT DESCRIPTION field.

Below the discription field you are provided with a number of options for distributing members into the groups you have created. To randomly distribute students into the groups you have created, select the second option CREATE FULL GROUPS AND RANDOMLY DISTRIBUTE STUDENTS. There are three parameters to set once you have chosen to randomly distribute students:

Students: Under the Students heading you are provided the option to add the Demo Student to one of the groups. When you view your course under the Student View tab, you take on the role of the Demo Student. Enrolling the Demo Student into one of the groups will allow you to view that group's information when under the Student View tab.

Set Up Groups: Here you can choose to create your groups either by entering the number of groups you want and then having your students randomly distributed, or by selecting to set the number of students you would like to see in each group and then having OWL create the necessary number of groups for the students available in your course.

What Should Be Done with Any Extra Members: If your students do not distribute evenly amongst the groups you have established you can choose to (1) distribute the extra members among the groups, (2) put the extra members in their own group or (3) leave the extra members out of the groups and add them to groups manually at a later time.

Click CONTINUE once you have set all of the parameters. You will be shown a summary of your group information. If necessary, you can edit the names or discriptions of individual groups. If you are unsatisfied with the distribution of students, click SHUFFLE MEMBERS to randomly distribute the students again. When you are satisfied with the groups, click SAVE.

Creating Group Sign-Up Sheets

To allow your students to enroll themselves into groups, select the CREATE GROUPS WITH SIGN-UP SHEETS option from the Create Groups page.

First, enter the number of groups you would like to create, followed by a word or phrase that you would like to use as the group prefix. You can choose to enter an optional description if you would like.

In the field below the description field, enter the maximum number of students that can sign up for a group. Clicking the STUDENT VIEW option below will allow your students to see who has already signed up into groups.

Under Sign-Up Sheet Settings, enter a title for your sign-up sheet in the SIGN-UP SHEET TITLE field. If you would like, you can enter sign-up sheet instructions in the field below. Then, choose on which page of your OWL course you would like the sign-up sheet to appear by clicking on the drop-down menu below the sign-up sheet instructions field.

Click CONTINUE when you are finished. You will be presented with a summary of your group parameters. Here you can make any last changes to the group names, descriptions, or numbers of students per each group. Once you are satisfied, click SAVE.

The Student Sign-Up Process

Once you have created a group sign-up sheet, your students will be able to access it on the page that you specified. When your students click on the link, they will see a list of all the available groups. If the group is not yet full and the student has yet to sign up for a group, an active SIGN UP link will appear beside each group. To sign up to a group, a student simply clicks on the link.

Once the student has signed up, they will see their name listed under the Members heading beside the group they have joined and the Sign Up link will no longer appear active. Students cannot unenroll themselves from a group.

Removing Students from Groups

For a variety of reasons, you may wish to remove a student from a group. This often occurs when using sign-up sheets and a student mistakenly chooses the wrong group, or wishes to change their group membership. Only a TA or Instructor can change group membership. A student cannot unenroll themselves from a group.

To remove a student from a group, go to the GROUP MANAGER and click on the GRAY DROP-DOWN ARROW beside the specific group to which the student currently belongs and select EDIT GROUP. The group parameters page will appear.

Under the Membership Information heading, you will see a list of all the group's members. To remove a particular student, select the box beside the student's name and click on the REMOVE SELECTED link found below.

The student will no longer appear in the Membership Information. Click SAVE to save the changes.

Creating Group Discussion Topics or Chat and Whiteboard Rooms

Once you have created groups, you can create and then assign specific Discussions or Chat and Whiteboard Rooms to them. To do so, make sure that you are in the GROUP MANAGER. Select the group that you would like to create a Discussion or Chat Room for from the list and then click on the CREATE GROUP ACTIVITY drop-down link. Choose either DISCUSSION TOPIC or CHAT ROOM and then click the GREEN ARROW beside the drop-down menu. You will immediately be taken through the Discussion or Chat Room creation process. See our Discussions in OWL and our Using Chat/Whiteboard in OWL manualettes for information on how to configure these tools.

Controlling Group Access to Course Content

When you have your students organized into groups, you can control which tools and files in your OWL course each group has access to. To do so, you will use the Selective Release tool.

To access Selective Release, click on the SELECTIVE RELEASE link from the Designer Tools menu when under the Build Tab, or the Instructor Tools menu when under the Teach Tab. Both are found on the left-hand navigation bar.

Find the tool or course item that you would like to set release criteria for and click on SET RELEASE CRITERIA.

Note: Clicking on HIDE ITEM will hide the item from your students. You, nor your students, will be able to see the item under the Student View tab. When under the Build or Teach tabs, the item will be grayed out.

After clicking SET RELEASE CRITERIA, a page with all of the available release criteria options will appear. There are four types of criteria available: date criteria, member criteria, group criteria and Grade Book criteria. Clicking one of these links will open a corresponding pop-up window allowing you to edit the details for a given criterion. In this section we are concerned only with adding Group Criteria. See our Selective Release manualette for more information regarding setting other release criteria.

To add Group Criteria, click on ADD GROUP CRITERIA from the top of the Set Release Criteria page. A pop-up window will appear with the following options:

Group Name: determines which groups listed below can access the item based on one of two conditions: Equals or Does not equal. Selecting EQUALS allows each group that is selected to see the specified item (e.g. if Group 1 is selected, all members in this group will see the item). When DOES NOT EQUAL is set, all selected groups will not be able to see the item.

Click SAVE once you have set your desired group criteria.