Where’s Waldo: The missing group member

An email from a student in my fully online course reads, “Waldo is in my group but I haven’t heard from him. I’ve emailed him several times; suggested that he contribute visuals to the group effort; and sent him a link to the collaborative group document to which he could add his work. It is now the day before the assignment is due and our group still hasn’t heard from Waldo. The group doesn’t want to lose points because of Waldo, especially since we have tried our best to reach him and include him in the assignment. What should we do about his part?”

When it comes to group assignments, this can be a common occurrence that is exacerbated when students never see each other face-to-face. I’ve spoken with colleagues to get their thoughts on how to best handle situations like this. Some thoughts were averaging a group grade with an individual grade; assign the group grade based on what is submitted and except that those issues happen with group assignments; and just fail the group member who went A-Wall. While I was taking an online professional development course, I posed a similar scenario to my colleagues requesting their advice. One of the group members, Jude Meche from Eunice, LA wrote that she includes “The Survivor Clause” in her syllabus for all group assignments. With the professor’s approval, group members are allowed to vote a member out of the group for lack of participation. As creative solutions go, I thought that was one of the best I’ve heard for dealing with unresponsive group members. Then the instructor can address the circumstance with the missing group member and impose grace or sanctions as warranted by the individual’s circumstance. When I teach my next online course, I plan to give The Survivor Clause a try. If you try it out before me, please share your opinion of the idea.