Students not only learn from you but they often also learn from each other. Collaborative Learning encompasses any situation where two or more students are collaborating and learning together in an active manner. They do so through analysing each other’s texts, discussions, assessing each other’s work, or completing group assignments. On this page you will find information on how to add collaborative learning to your online class, and what to take into consideration.
You could use this…
- To support your students with the development of higher level cognition skills such as oral communication, leadership, collaboration and self management.
- To promote engagement and expose the student to different perspectives, encouraging a deeper understanding.
- To stimulate social interaction and bonding within the bigger group of students.
Keep in mind
- Manage expectations, set goals, and decide on roles
When working in an online environment the roles, expectations, and goals are key in delivering a successful learning experience. Make sure that the groups have internal alignment on these elements, so all members are working towards the same end goal. It might be interesting to add a moderator to your class to make sure everyone stays on the same page. You can find more information on the ‘Add a class moderator’ page that you can find on this website. In addition, we advise you to read the Connect with your Students page on this website.
- Explain the technology
Any new technology you introduce for collaborative learning needs an explanation of how it works (providing links to manuals or explanatory video for instance) and how you are going to use it in this particular case. Be prepared to help students on their way with using the technology, and check on them. And remember: keep it simple! The most low tech solution can be the right one.
- Set the Climate
Be clear in your instruction what the role of each student is, and what kind of behaviour you expect from them. Model this behaviour yourself. Make sure that the social mores of your class are written down explicitly in a place they can easily access. For tips on how to communicate with your students we advise you to take a look at the Connect with your Students page that can be found on this website.
- Explain the reason behind the choice for collaborative learning
It is important for students to know why you have selected this methodology, and what you expect they get out of it. This will increase their acceptance and appreciation. Be explicit on the exact learning objectives you want your students to achieve, not only the what, but also the how. And make sure they have a way of self-evaluation and can check if they are on the right path.
Options & examples
There are many ways you can add collaborative learning to your classroom online, just like you would in an active classroom or seminar. For many of these formats and activities, we have added separate pages with more in-depth information, like the pages Generating a Knowledge Base, Peer feedback, and Simulations & Serious Games that can be found on this website.
Still, we wanted to include some examples of collaborative learning that you can incorporate in your class on this page as well.
- Create together
- Generating a knowledge base
In tools like a wiki, or a document on One Drive can be used to create a blog, journal, or knowledge base with a group of students. Here they can write together in one document, comment on each other and make suggestions, track changes etc. For more information we advice you to visit the Generate a Knowledge Base page on this website.
- Produce a Podcast or Video
Using their own laptop or smartphones, students can create podcasts (audio) or videos themselves. You can assign topics and let students prepare a presentation or short video lecture. Podcasts are a great way to share stories or explain concepts. The created materials can be posted in the learning environment, where other students can give feedback. You can find more information on how to do this in the Video Toolkit. You can read more about producing podcasts in this article “How podcasting can enrich your teaching”.
- Facilitate Discussion through Forums
Brightspace contains discussion forums. Students start a thread on a topic, to which others can reply. The teacher can highlight good replies, or choose to summarize the discussion so far and offer new talking points. On the Debate & Discussion [LINK] page that can be found on this website we also include some tips regarding facilitating a discussion.
- Generating a knowledge base
- Peer Assess each other’s work
By asking students to first assess each other’s paper, essay, research proposal or case study, you raise the quality of the final result. Please consult the section on peer feedback on this website, to review the options in the available learning management systems
- Deliver a project
You can use an environment like One Drive to let students work on group assignments like advisory reports, reviews and case studies. Students can organize themselves in dedicated channels or folders where they can work together on documents, brainstorm on a whiteboard, plan & manage their activities and create artefacts.
- Chat or (video) call
Students can have synchronous group conversations. Chat or (video) calls are ideal to use during group assignments. Due to synchronous communication, students can collaborate in an efficient way.
Tools Supported by Leiden University
- Use discussion fora in your learning management systems:
- Peermark for peer reviewing papers or essays:
- Pitch2Peer for presentations
- Microsoft teams and other office 365 programs for facilitating interaction
- Wiki systems: various variants of open source software available.
- Project management tools
- Annotation tools