Virtual study groups allow students to connect together easily without having to be physically present. “Most learning management systems have a group function that allows the professor to create virtual groups with an e-mail list and a shared discussion space, but you can also use any number of social networking sites. Facebook allows groups large and small, and a group hashtag will allow its members to communicate on Twitter.” (Bowan 2014). Students within your virtual study group may be scattered across the country and still have the same collective goals of solving problems within the learning content.
Here is an example from a blog from Boise State University on how to start a virtual study group. Ground rules are set to give general guidelines and expectations of each member. Self-assessments were also recommended to work towards each individual’s strengths and help support weaknesses.
I feel collaborating with peers through virtual study groups is an amazing way to expand each other`s minds. In cooking, there are many different factors in why a recipe or a technique might fail. Being able to have these processes tested from different locations and perspectives can help understand those reasons. Someone might be from an area where the elevation is higher or certain ingredients may be different in terms of taste or texture due to different regions. These factors can be tested to find out reasons for failures or find breakthroughs to make techniques better.
Top Chefs of the world have food labs to create new innovative ideas in a test kitchen with their own culinary team. Here is an article about restaurants that have created food labs to innovate for their respective kitchens (Future of Food). By applying a virtual study group to cooking, you would essentially be creating a food lab that can expand all over the world. Chefs can contribute and learn from each other`s experiments to raise the level of food knowledge within the group.
Being able to collaborate with peers from many different areas of the world can be very helpful in solving problems by testing them in different conditions. Having the same recipe tested from different perspectives lets us understand the factors which can be ideal or unfavorable to the success of the product. With the ability to connect to peers across the globe easily, the possibilities are endless in what we want to question in the world of cooking.
I am certainly excited about what these virtual groups can achieve but there are concerns about forming such groups. I came across this paper talking about The Seven Problems of Online Learning. Problems four (the free rider), five (possible inequalities of students abilities), and seven (the assessment of individuals in groups) are the ones that stand out to me the most. Forming these groups to promote collaboration is certainly positive, but there is no guarantee that you will have all members contributing equally. Problem five and seven relate to each other where you have to have enough trust to work with someone you may not have the opportunity to meet. Trusting that they have performed experiments or techniques properly can affect the results and compromise the lab at hand.
Having virtual study groups is something I definitely would like to explore. Creating an environment online where my students can visit to interact, learn and collaborate is something I believe is positive.
Before something like this can be conceived, I think I need to be organized in deciding the materials and tools needed for this environment. Guidelines must be set and the students need to have a firm understanding on the purpose of such a group.
Looking at the possibilities I mentioned earlier seems very exciting. I do believe it will take time to scale a virtual study group globally. Being able to find success in a local environment would be a good starting point, and I believe it won’t be long before Chefs from around the world start building connections and friendships through these virtual study groups.
Teaching Naked by José Anotonio Bowen
Boise State University
The Future of Food: Ten Cutting-Edge Restaurant Test Kitchens Around the World
by Gabe Ulla
The Seven Problems of Online Group Learning (and There Solutions) by Roberts, T.S., and McInnerney, J.M. (2007)