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Community Contributor

Successful Self Sign-Up for Teams?

I am working on an ID project where my client wants teams to self-select. In all of the documentation I have read, it says this is a recipe for disaster. The audience for this project will be K-12 educators and administrators, eventually world-wide. I have scaffolded the directions by giving success tips for virtual teams, I am making a discussion to help the learners find commonalities. It's going to be messy, but sometimes messy is good(see below). Has anyone been successful with learners doing the self sign-up? I would love to hear both sides...I live in this squiggle

6 Replies
Community Champion

 @melissa_kreider , I wouldn't say self-selection is a recipe for disaster but typically more common is randomized groupings I find.  The biggest negative to self-selection in an online classroom that I have seen is often (if no preparation is provided), students will start selecting at the top so the students that move ahead early in the course and are on task join the first groups and occasionally towards the end you get multiple procastinative (is that word?) students together versus a nice mix.  But I've not seen it be a huge issue...just one possible negative.

If you do self selection, I would do some preparation ahead of time as you suggest.  Allow participants to join into a discussion ahead of time and drive them to talk about aspects of the work they will be doing together so they can find commonalities as you mention.  Setup the discussion so perhaps they form groups around their discipline, their time zone (only relevant if synchronous work is required), their schedules.  

If it's something your client feels strongly about, just offer them the pros and cons and be sure to provide clear directions to students to find the signup up and to develop perhaps an ungraded assignment with a date to be sure they remember to signup and go for it.

The design of the actual group work is usually much more critical I find to the success than the actual group formation But group formation does play a role definitely so I'm glad you are not discounting the importance of it.

- Melanie

Community Champion

Many of our face-to-face courses use self-signup groups. We've found that scaffolding the group selection process can help improve compliance with selecting and signing up for those groups. We find that most problems arise when students haven't signed up for groups prior to submitting the first group assignment.

Toward that end, we typically take a few steps to help improve compliance:

  • Configure a no-submission, ungraded assignment that prompts students to sign up for groups. We include instructions and links for doing so in the assignment description. This puts a reminder of the task on their to-do lists, the syllabus page, etc.
  • Use the Group Leader (How do I assign a student leader to a group?) feature. (We set the group leader as the first student who joins a group.) The group leader can add and delete group members (How do I manage groups as a student group leader?), so groups can put one person in charge of registering their groups on Canvas. Students still retain the ability to leave a group and join another, so they can join a different group if they want. 

We also encourage teaching teams to review group formation after that form-groups-by date passes and then either remind people to join, and/or manually place laggards into groups. After that, self-signup can be turned off to prevent people from switching groups.

Good luck!

Community Coach
Community Coach

 @melissa_kreider ,

We are giving the Instructional Designers area a little bit of love and just want to check in with you.  This will also bring this question new attention. 


Were you able to find an answer to your question? I am going to go ahead and mark this question as answered because there hasn't been any more activity in a while so I assume that you have the information that you need. If you still have a question about this or if you have information that you would like to share with the community, by all means, please do come back and leave a comment.  Also, if this question has been answered by one of the previous replies, please feel free to mark that answer as correct.



Teams really fell flat in this project and we ended up not doing teams in the next iteration of the course. We can mark this complete.

Hi Melissa Kreider,

I'm sorry -- but not terribly surprised -- to hear that groups didn't work as expected. There's a lot that can go wrong with groups and group assignments, and a misconfigured assignment or bad student compliance can scare people away from trying it again.

If you have a moment, I'd love to hear about what happened.


Although the course was gated by open/close dates, the client did not want to gate the modules - and wanted learners to be completely self-paced, with no instructor facilitation. So, while a few teams formed, there was very little follow-through or interaction in the teams. In the second iteration of this course, we totally redesigned it and moved the "teams" aspect to more of a community of practice - which is really what the client wanted to do. We used an external tool called Mighty Networks and it has been very successful!