Collaborative learning is an e-learning approach where students are able to socially interact with other students, as well as instructors.
Collaborative online learning is usually called “online teams” or “online groups.” my Courses Groups and Discussions tools, along with web-conferencing tools like Zoom, enable instructors to create student groups that can collaborate easily online, and help eliminate logistical problems associated with face-to-face group meetings.
By encouraging students to use these online collaboration tools, you can monitor their progress and intervene, if needed, so you won’t be surprised at the end of the project when students suggest that some members weren’t cooperative, didn’t contribute, or that the project went off-track.
Strategies for Effective Online Collaboration
Build strong group interdependence
One design goal for any online group activity should be to build strong group interdependence. For example, offer bonus points to a group if all members score above a certain grade on an assignment, test, or paper. This can motivate better-prepared students to help and encourage members who may not meet the goal—and the less-prepared students are likely to work harder so they don’t disappoint the group.
Keep groups small
Group members need to interact frequently; a good guideline is three to five members.
Establish peer evaluation
Peer evaluation helps to build team skills because it lets students reflect on their process and outcomes, and provides instructors with continuous feedback. Faculty can survey students not just at the end of a project, but also 25 to 30 percent into the process, when students can learn from the feedback and make adjustments. Ask:
- Did all members of the group contribute?
- What could be done next time to make the group function better?
- What were the most important things I learned?
- What contributions did I make?
Form diverse groups
Deliberately mixing students—based on achievement level, gender, ethnicity, academic interests, learning styles, or other relevant factors—typically enables students to work constructively with others who bring different strengths and approaches to their learning tasks.