Guest Blogger: Andrew Roth
Online classrooms allow you to teach or learn from just about any place that has a computer and Internet connectivity. You can connect with the other participants at any time. However, staring at the computer screen all the time could make you feel isolated. With the lack of personal interaction, students are at risk of losing out on the social aspect of learning, which might affect their ability to successfully perform team work outside the classroom. Online learning can be made more productive and fun by improving collaboration.
What Is Effective Collaboration?
This is more than just communicating with the other participants or building a community. Effective collaboration requires students and instructors to cooperate with each other in achieving a common goal. Students who join an online classroom already have a common purpose; the social presence aspect helps them share information and resources to improve learning.
Tips for Better Collaboration in an Online Classroom:
- Planning the Course:
The online course has to be carefully tailored to incorporate collaboration. When group participation is made mandatory, its importance is conveyed to the students. Give them an agenda to follow, along with clear instructions for carrying out assigned activities. If they know what is expected of them in advance, they are more likely to believe in the effectiveness of collaboration in an online classroom if they see the instructors and management share a strong belief that the system works.
- Role of the Instructor:
An online instructor plays an important role in making collaboration work. He or she needs to decide whether the entire group should collaborate as one or whether smaller groups would bring about better results. The instructor must monitor the forums constantly to ensure that students are interacting as expected and learning objectives are being met by the collaborative environment.
- Involve Students:
Let the students start interacting with each other much before the actual group course work begins; this will foster camaraderie and make it easier to work as a team when required. Also, welcome and appreciate their ideas for improving collaboration; they know what works best for their group. Encourage them to document their plans to specify the group coordinator, the means to be used for communication and a task breakdown with internal deadlines.
- Technology and Tools:
The right technology is needed to allow collaboration between remotely located students and teachers. Set up discussion boards and forums with access control. Students and instructors can also collaborate via web calls and synchronous chat sessions over the Internet.
Online Classrooms for a Collaborative Future:
Besides the course material, an online classroom teaches students valuable lessons like working as a team, being flexible and respecting other cultures. Their problem-solving and negotiating skills are also sharpened through peer interaction. You need to keep coming up with innovative tasks like case studies and team games to make online classroom collaboration fun and help the students to learn and grow. With the right approach, an online classroom can be a highly productive social learning environment.
Andrew Roth is a professional tutor. He blogs regularly on using technology to facilitate the educational process. To learn more about long distance degree programs, check out the Concordia University Blog.