Creating emotionally supportive learning environments when undertaking assessed, online, group activities

Hilliard, Jake (2023). Creating emotionally supportive learning environments when undertaking assessed, online, group activities. In: 46th Computers and Learning Research Group Annual Conference, 28-30 Jun 2023, Online.


Over the past two decades, extensive research has underscored the significant influence of emotions on students’ learning, achievement, and overall wellbeing. Pleasant emotions, such as enjoyment, have been associated with improved task focus, the utilisation of effective self-regulation strategies, and enhanced mental wellbeing. Conversely, experiencing unpleasant emotions, such as anxiety, has been linked to increased task-irrelevant thinking, reduced motivation to learn, and diminished physical and mental health.

Despite the growing understanding of the impact of emotions when learning, there remains a dearth of research specifically focusing on the emotional experiences of students during assessed, online, group activities. These collaborative learning approaches, commonly employed at The Open University UK, encourage students to engage in group discussions, share thoughts and opinions, solve problems together, and collectively produce group products or artefacts.

While these learning methods offer educational benefits, existing research, albeit limited, has highlighted that these activities can elicit a diverse range of emotional states, including heightened levels of unpleasant emotions (particularly anxiety and frustration). Due to the potential detrimental impacts of these emotions, it is crucial that strategies for establishing emotionally supportive learning environments when undertaking online group work are identified.

This presentation consists of two parts. Firstly, it provides a succinct overview of key findings derived from a doctoral study that investigated students’ emotional experiences in assessed, online, group activities. Secondly, building upon these findings and drawing from theoretical frameworks of emotion, the presentation presents potential approaches to foster an emotionally supportive learning environment when undertaking online group work. By attending to students’ emotions, these approaches aim to cultivate healthy and optimal learning environments that nurture both cognitive and affective aspects of student development.

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