“In the three modules I studied last year, I was satisfied with tutor – student interaction. Some tutors really nurtured and allowed for group interaction, encouraging a sense of belonging within the class. They also fostered an environment where questions and queries were welcomed” (Student quoted in Farrell et. al, 2019, p. 12)
In this chapter we will explore the role of collaboration in the context of online teaching and learning. Students are more likely to engage with the course and achieve the learning outcomes when they have interactions with other students both through synchronous activities in the online classroom and asynchronous activities on the virtual learning environment. Collaborative learning involves students working together in small groups toward a joint goal or output (Mihai, 2021). Co-creation of a joint output is at the heart of collaborative activities. Group or team-based activities reinforce social presence in the online course and enable the sharing of skills and the co-construction of knowledge. Collaborative activities can be used effectively to support student engagement in an online course.
What does the literature say?
Group work in an online environment is not the same as in the face-to-face classroom. It requires careful consideration and needs to be contrived, highlighting the importance of the educator in a mediating role (Coker, 2018). Students need clear and practical guidelines to support successful collaboration and larger groups than normal are required as absences can be greater in the online environment (Gómez-Rey et al., 2018; Trammell & LaForge, 2017). The use of collaborative activities will increase student interaction which promotes social presence in the online course and allow an opportunity for students to share experiences (Martin et al., 2019; Meyer & McNeal, 2011; Trammell & LaForge, 2017). The focus needs to be on collaborative rather than cooperative activities to ensure the students interact (Trammell & LaForge, 2017).
Benefits of collaboration
Watch the video below where some of the benefits of collaborative activities are articulated.
This video was created by the Center for the Advancement of Learning (C.A.L.) in the University of the District of Columbia.