Performing group activities is essential to enhance student’s learning, especially during online learning. However, it results in a free-rider problem – any learner reaping the benefit of other students’ effort without contribution. This issue arises in a group where a single grade is provided for the whole team. When the grades are given as per the team’s performance, students might question the fairness. The faculty member will have no choice other than using a group grade and hear the accusation of other students about the free riders or using relative grading without analyzing the exact contribution of every student.
There are a few factors that encourage students to contribute their fair share. Initially, the teacher can help every student to understand their part in the group activity. It will boost them to indulge in the activity. Also, both the activity and students’ effort should be meaningful. At times, a few students will not know that they aren’t contributing much until they get to know what their group members are doing. If the group is big, instructors can shrink it in a way that every student’s efforts truly matter. The group activity can be transparent so that every student’s contribution is visible and eradicate the free-rider problem.
It is essential to understand why the free-rider problem occurs, and teachers should find the underlying reason, instead of considering the student as “lazy” or “at fault”. There are many other reasons like the improper organization of the team, an individual being dominant or doing all work, communication barriers. So, the instructors should study the learners and organize a team that helps students to show complete involvement in the activity. A group of four members will be of great help, and it is the standard number that will let the students allocate work equally.
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