Teaching Tip: Fostering a Collaborative Online Learning Environment

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The PLC (Professional Learning Community) will be providing the teaching tip of the week throughout the academic year in support of their goal of interdisciplinary collegiality.

In today’s work places, team-based projects are the norm, and therefore, group work and collaborative activities are becoming vital in the instruction and learning process in schools. While in traditional classrooms collaborative opportunities can be plentiful and outcomes of collaborative learning are well evidenced, creating participation and collaboration opportunities in an online course can be challenging. To realize similar outcomes in a digital setting, courses need to be designed leveraging both online tools and online instructional techniques.

The most widely used tool in asynchronous learning is Google Drive, where learners can easily organize their work and view edits in real time. It assists in evaluating individual contributions, allows for asynchronous conversations, and lets participants incorporate media and text.
Another tool is Padlet , which is a free blank slate to collaborate with others. It is great for sharing ideas and brainstorming in both synchronous and asynchronous learning environments. Further, learners do not need to sign up to use Padlet. Here is a link to a “how to use” Padlet.

Other techniques an instructor can use in group projects are:

1. Design projects that require students to regularly post updates on their progress.
2. Have each group create a Team charter that outlines expectations of communication, rules of delivery, and responsibilities toward the project.
3. Follow the team formation rule which allows for effective participation and shared learning: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning.
4. Ask for student reflection on their portion of the project to help them gauge their contribution.
5. Encourage students to be actively involved by using individual grades as part of group projects.

~Karabi C. Bezboruah, bezborua@uta.edu, Assistant Professor, School of Urban and Public Affairs.

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