“Avoid study groups . . . choose virtual sessions”: Multicultural factors affecting University of Botswana ESL students’ attitudes towards online group work.
Displayed on a small billboard standing along the road next to a busy pedestrian gate in the University of Botswana (UB) are the words “Avoid study groups . . . choose virtual sessions”. This caption motivated the author to conduct this study because research shows that group work is one of the popular instructional methods espoused by the students, but the caption seems to suggest that UB students prefer virtual group work to something else virtual. In view of the message carried by this caption, the present study sought to investigate the UB Social Sciences students’ attitudes towards online group work as compared to in person or face-to-face group work. Data for this study was collected through triangulation of questionnaire and semi-structured interview research methods. The findings of this study buttress the observations made by previous researchers that students support online group work although they did not fully do so because of its limitations and previous bad experiences of using dysfunctional Internet and “free riding” or lack of participation by some students. The findings of the current study further show that face-to-face group work was comparatively favoured more than online group work and that cultural differences did not seem to have direct influence on the students’ attitudes towards online group work.