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Groups versus groupings

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What is the difference between a Group and a Grouping? In a nutshell, groupings are clusters of groups.

One metaphor that has worked well in training is this: At the Olympics, there are many sports—gymnastics, swimming, track—and many countries. In this way, there are two levels of being categorized as an Olympian: by your sport, and by your nationality. To be on the United States Olympic Team, you must first be a swimmer, a gymnast, a runner, etc.; you cannot be on the US Team without first being an athlete in a certain sport. Your sport is your group. Your country is your grouping. You must belong to a group before joining a grouping. Does this make sense?


The effects/results of each can be summarized like this:

To place students into workgroups, to work separately on the same activity (such as group A, B, and C all discussing in a forum on technology) they just need to be put into groups. This first level allows them to have workgroups, with either visible work or completely separate work in the same activity.

To have students working on different activities, not even seeing activities for other groups (such as group A writing a report, group B using a forum, and group C creating a wiki), you need to put them in groups first, such as group A, B, and C, THEN you must place each group in their own grouping, such as Grouping A containing Group A, Grouping B containing group B, etcetera. The only way you can make an entire activity available for only one set of students is to pass through groups to groupings—just like the only way to be on the US Olympic Team is to first have a sport.

The advantage of this structure is you can have really creative combinations of groups and groupings. For example, maybe groups A and B are supposed to write in a forum, and groups C and D are supposed to make a wiki. You might create a Forum Grouping, containing groups A and B, and a Wiki Grouping, containing groups C and D. Then, you make the Wiki activity available to only the Wiki grouping, but you still have your two Wiki sub-groups, as well - C and D - for an added layer of distinction. This can be especially useful if you have many different topics for projects paired with different activity types.

Another way to get creative is to give yourself lots of flexibility. For example, on a staff site, you might have four groups: Teachers, Secretaries, Aides, and Special Ed Staff. If you have some forms that go to Teachers and Aides, and some activities that go only to Teachers, and some that go only to Special Ed Staff and Aides, you could create your four groups, then groupings like this:

  1. Special Education (containing only the SpecEd group)
  2. Teachers (containing only the Teacher group)
  3. Secretaries (containing only the Secretaries group)
  4. Aides (containing only the Aides group)
  5. Teachers and Aides (containing the Teacher Group and the Aide group)
  6. Aides and Special Education (containing the Aide group and the Special Ed group)
  7. etc...

...then assign your activities, documents, or resources to JUST the people that need them.

The possibilities are endless, once you wrap your mind around the structure.

See also