Internal - Faculty & Staff

Building a Collaborative Learning Community

Students are at their best when they are learning from and with each other. Building in opportunities for your students to work together in an online course will help them be more engaged and invested in the coursework. Students’ interest in learning increases when they are actively exchanging, debating and negotiating ideas within groups. Further, by engaging in discussion and taking responsibility for their learning, students are encouraged to become critical thinkers.

Workplace and workforce demands are changing quickly. Current and future workers need to be able to adapt to working collaboratively in a distanced team. If we are truly interested in preparing our students to be responsible citizens in an increasingly technologically advanced society, then our way of teaching our students must reflect this. The collaborative projects and activities teachers ask students to take part in should reflect the current and future needs of the learner. Teachers must help their students learn to interact positively with people who are different from themselves and who may not think the same as they do. Online collaborative group projects can help students develop a host of skills that are increasingly important in the professional world.

For online tools and resources to use for collaborative learning projects, see Engaging Online Activities and Assignments.

Advantages and Challenges

  • Collaborative learning allows students to tackle more complex problems than they could on their own.
  • Online collaboration may provide opportunities for more equality in group work than actual face-to-face group work since in the latter approach group decision-making is often contingent upon which student has the loudest voice. Online communication can help equal the playing field because students who might be shy at voicing their opinion face-to-face now have the opportunity to express themselves and can take their time and think out carefully exactly what they wish to say.
  • Through online collaboration, students may come to see the importance of taking responsibility for their own learning and feel empowered to do so while learning to respect the opinions and work of their online peers.
  • Effective teamwork requires students to develop strong communication, coordination, and conflict resolution skills, which not all instructors feel qualified, or want, to teach, especially online.