Date Presented 04/01/2022

The purpose of this study is to examine the anxiety levels of graduate students related to virtual group work. Results showed a slight negative correlation between satisfaction with group work and anxiety. Educators can use this research to focus on adapting teaching methods to facilitate learning.

Primary Author and Speaker: Ashley Van Ells

Additional Authors and Speakers: Yesenia Lopez, Christopher Harrell, Barbra Katerberg

BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused uncertainty among college students resulting in increased anxiety levels. Universities have had to transition from in-seat classes to online resulting in more virtual group work. Group work can be an effective method to develop students’ critical thinking, decision-making and communication skills. It also provides students with an avenue to incorporate diverse viewpoints and to develop teamwork skills. Online group work lacks some of the social-interaction that occurs in face-to-face settings.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this study is to gain a stronger understanding of the perceptions of virtual group work among graduate students pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic and how it is affecting anxiety levels.

DESIGN: A mixed-method study was conducted to measure anxiety and perceptions of virtual group work. Participants included first and second year occupational therapy students.

METHOD: A study was conducted to measure anxiety levels in graduate students (n = 52) related to virtual group work. Quantitative data was collected using the AMAS-C survey. Qualitative data was collected using a survey with questions about virtual learning and group work. Qualitative data was analyzed by investigator triangulation and both sets of data was merged. Dependability was ensured by each researcher coding the qualitative data and then creating a collaborative conclusion of the emerging themes.

RESULTS: The results of the qualitative data was slightly inconclusive because students who reported being somewhat satisfied with virtual group work (n = 29) still used negative emotions to describe their experience (n = 22). Additionally, students who reported they were somewhat satisfied or had neutral satisfaction with virtual group work (n = 41) had elevated anxiety levels greater than a standard t-score of 55. These results indicate a slight negative linear correlation between anxiety and student satisfaction with virtual group work.

CONCLUSION: Perceptions and emotions around virtual group work trend negative. Since group work presents many advantages for collaborations and communications, incorporating new strategies to change students’ perception is beneficial. Changing the way student’s perceive and experience virtual group work will provide them with the real-world experience’s students will need for their future careers working on teams. Educators can use study results to create solutions that facilitate positive virtual group work experiences for students.


Chang, Yunjeong & Brickman, Peggy. (2018). When Group Work Doesn’t Work: Insights from Students. CBE life sciences education. 17. ar42.10.1187/cbe.17-09-0199

Chirikov, I., Soria, K. M., Horgos, B., & Jones-White, D. (2020). Undergraduate and graduate students’ mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. SERU Consortium, University of California - Berkeley and University of Minnesota.