Your students' team experiences can be more productive if you promote understanding of group dynamics and the right collaborative tools.
If you select the individual students for each team, experts recommend letting students know the criteria you used. Was it to promote diversity? To encourage students with different specializations to work together? Whatever your reasoning, it is a good idea for students to understand the thoughts behind your decision-making process. Alternatively, you can let students create their own teams. If so, encourage them to use these questions to determine the best teams for them:
Are you a work-ahead type or a procrastinator (or something in between)? Choose teammates with the same style.
Do you and your potential teammates have compatible schedules?
Do you and your teammates live mostly on- or off-campus? Consider assigning smaller teams--with four, three, or even pairs of students. Research suggests that "social loafing" (otherwise known as free-riding) occurs less in smaller groups.
Promoting Collaborative Tools
Suggest these collaborative IT tools to your students:
Google Docs is a way to create and edit documents collaboratively. This may work better than the cumbersome "track changes" feature in Word. While you do not need a Google mail account to use Google Docs, you do have to create an account. But it is free and very quick. (Note: It is not good for charts.)
YackPack is a site where group members can talk live and, even, record and send audio. You will need a microphone for this. (See the Office of Business Communication to borrow a microphone if your computer does not have one built-in.) This is a great way for groups to stay in touch, and there is no typing! The informative video provides a decent introduction.
del.icio.us is useful for keeping and sharing bookmarks on the web so you can access them from anywhere. Others can see all the bookmarks with a common tag. For example, Team 1 in ITEC 200 could agree to tag all its reading and references as "ITEC200Group1."
del.icio.us is also a great research tool. You can find people with common interests and resources based on descriptive tags instead of keywords.