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Improving Synchrony in Small Group Asynchronous Online Discussions
Online courses often select asynchronous tools for teamwork as it allows temporal freedom for students who might come from different time zones or have busy schedules. These solutions work better with larger groups, where due to the quantity of participants, it is easier to get replies faster. In this study, we investigate challenges that arise in asynchronous discussions with small group (4-5 participants). Empirical data was collected from the UNIPS pedagogical employee training online course Becoming a Teacher and its teamwork period, where Google Docs was used as a discussion platform by 42 students. We observed that (1) discussion activity peaked around deadlines (2) students often came online in vain as their team members had not replied yet and (3) when students were online simultaneously, they were not able to take advantage of this by engaging in synchronous communication. As solutions, we propose improving the synchrony of the communication via more structured instructions and increasing the affordances of the communication tools.