Collaborative Learning and How You Can Use It In E-Learning
Collaborative learning has been widely used for some time now to improve teaching and training. What is collaborative learning, however, and can you use it in e-learning courses?
Collaborative learning is where learners work in pairs or small groups to solve problems or complete tasks. It is a technique that creates a more engaging, social, and interactive learning experience.
The Benefits of Collaborative Learning
Collaborative learning gives learners the opportunity to share their knowledge as well as learn new things and improve their skills. Learners also benefit from getting new perspectives on a topic by working with other people. In addition, collaborative learning helps to improve teamwork skills, plus it helps with team building.
Another key benefit of collaborative learning is it helps push learners beyond what they thought possible. Often, people limit themselves, believing they are not capable. When they work with others, however, they push past these limitations, achieving more than they otherwise would.
Does Collaborative Learning Have a Place in E-Learning?
Collaborative learning is an instructional technique that is not used enough in e-learning courses. In many respects, this is understandable. After all, e-learning is often solitary, i.e. the learner engaging with the course through a personal device such as a phone or computer.
In addition, some of the benefits of e-learning make collaboration more difficult. For example, e-learning is an excellent facilitator for just-in-time learning. In addition, learners can complete e-learning courses wherever they are and whenever they want to.
This is very different from classroom-based learning where everyone is in the same place at the same time and goes through the same course content. In classroom situations, it is easy to split learners into small groups to solve a problem or complete a task. With many e-learning courses, however, learners will be online at different times and, when they are online, they will be at different stages of the course.
That said, there are techniques and strategies you can use that will let you incorporate collaborative learning into your e-learning courses.
Synchronous e-learning is a course where learners complete some of the elements in a virtual classroom. The virtual classroom has a trainer as well as other learners. While the classroom is virtual, the interaction with the trainer and other learners is in real-time. This makes the course more personal and enhances engagement.
Synchronous e-learning courses give you plenty of options for introducing collaborative learning elements. This can include tasks, gamification elements that require teamwork, and more.
Chat and Messaging Facilities
While synchronous e-learning courses are most suited to collaborative learning, you can still introduce the technique into asynchronous courses (i.e. courses that don’t have virtual classroom elements).
To do this, you must set problems or tasks for learners to work on in pairs or small groups. You will also need to work out a strategy for putting learners into those groups. Most importantly, you must give learners the tools they need to collaborate, including chat and messaging facilities.
Collaborative Learning Tips
- Give learners the tools they need – don’t expect learners to already have collaboration tools as this will lead to frustration. Instead, you need to give them everything they need from chat and messaging tools to project and task management tools.
- Make the task sufficiently challenging – in classroom learning environments, learners become frustrated when working on a group activity they feel they could complete just as well on their own. This applies to e-learning too. You should, therefore, make the task or problem challenging enough so that it requires the combined effort of the group to achieve. This will improve engagement with the task and it will also help learners gain more knowledge and improve their skills.
- Help learners get the collaboration started – asking learners to collaborate on a task and leaving them to it is not enough. You also need to walk them through not only the task, but also how they should collaborate. Specifically, you must help them get started with the collaboration. This includes introducing the learners if they don’t already know each other. You should also give clear instructions on how they can make the collaboration successful. Ongoing collaboration tips for the learners will also help.
- Monitor progress and provide feedback – following on from the last point, you then need to stay involved to ensure learners stay on track. This includes monitoring progress and giving the learners a nudge if you see the collaboration is at a lower level than it should be. You should also provide regular feedback to learners on their progress and how they can improve.
Collaborative learning elements require more involvement from a trainer than other e-learning courses, as well as technical skills and knowledge to implement. The rewards for doing so, however, make using this technique worth it.