2022 is shaping up to be another year where most higher education institutions will combine online and in-person learning methods to deliver instructions and support students’ learning experiences. As many professors recognized during the past couple of years, a key to effective online learning is student engagement and interactions through collaborative learning.
Let’s look at the top collaborative learning strategies for delivering an engaging online learning experience. We’ll also discuss some key considerations to help you implement these methods effectively.
What Is Collaborative Learning?
Collaborative learning refers to an educational approach that involves joint efforts among students or between students and teachers. Students work in groups of two or more to complete a task or an assignment, such as exploring a topic, devising a solution, or creating a product. Through peer learning and instruction, students can teach and learn from each other to deepen their understanding of a subject.
The Benefits of Collaborative Learning in Higher Education
Collaborative learning is a tried-and-true approach in higher education. Here’s how it can also enhance online learning:
- Increase student engagement using various formats, such as virtual group meetings, webinars, chats, study sessions, and discussions, to enhance the learning experience.
- Create interactive learning experiences with immersive technologies such as digital whiteboards, on-demand and pre-planned sessions, screen and file sharing, etc.
- Boost student performance and achievement by promoting deeper learning through engagement and high-quality discussions.
- Encourage the development of high-level thinking, oral communications, self-management, and leadership skills in students while promoting student-faculty interactions.
- Provide students with exposure to different perspectives and increase their understanding of various points of view to prepare them for real-world situations.
- Promote a positive learning environment that helps improve self-esteem, autonomy, resiliency, and emotional maturity. It also helps reduce stress and anxiety.
- Deliver an outstanding student experience to help institutions improve their student retention rates and reputation.
Top Collaborative Learning Strategies for Higher Education
Here are the most effective collaborative learning strategies that are particularly suitable for supporting online learning curriculums in higher education:
Online Discussion Boards
Professors start a discussion thread on an online forum like Ment.io (e.g., by posting an open-ended question) and ask students to share their views anonymously or openly. This collaborative learning strategy encourages shy and introverted students to participate in group activities by giving them the opportunity to share their thoughts individually and at their own pace.
Breakout rooms encourage student interactions by having smaller groups meet for scheduled sessions to brainstorm ideas. You can use popular video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, etc., to divide students into groups during live sessions. This strategy not only enhances learning and absorption but also fosters community building.
The Jigsaw Method
This approach involves breaking problems into smaller parts and assigning each one to a group of students. The groups will devise a piece of the solution that contributes to the “puzzle.” Then, each one will teach others about their assigned topic. Students will learn different concepts in less time while retaining the information more effectively.
This low-stakes, low-effort strategy supports active learning and abbreviated collaboration. Professors divide students into pairs and give each one a topic to discuss and analyze. Then, the pairs will share their learning with the rest of the class. This strategy works best with open-ended questions that encourage greater intellectual freedom in the discussions.
Also called peer review, this process guides students to review and provide feedback on each other’s written assignments. It can help participants strengthen their evaluative skills and develop the craft of academic writing both as an editor (e.g., to read critically and communicate comments) and writer (e.g., to consume and incorporate feedback.)
Problem-Based Learning (PBL)
This approach introduces a problem to groups of students, who will then investigate the topic and propose a response or solution over time. A commonly used PBL method is guided design. Students conduct preliminary research, identify stakeholders, work through compromises, and devise a solution while they regularly report back to the class as part of the iterative process.
Case Studies and Simulations
These two methods leverage real-world examples and scenarios to drive engagement and support learning. For instance, students may analyze the solution to a sample real-world problem in a case study. Or they may adopt different roles as they perform the work of a problem-solving group (e.g., model United Nations) in a simulation exercise.
Key Considerations For Implementing Collaborative Learning Strategies
Address these critical areas to reap the full benefits of collaborative learning in online teaching environments and deliver an outstanding student experience:
Set Clear Student Expectations
Let students know what to expect by introducing collaborative learning early in the semester as part of the curriculum. Establish rules for participation and explain how these discussions will operate and how the grading system works.
Incorporate periodic self-assessments and peer assessments based on the course’s guidelines to help students evaluate their contribution to ensure that they meet expectations. Professors can also use an online discussion board, such as Ment.io, to monitor participation and analyze the quality of the discussion to provide guidance.
Promote Diverse Perspectives
Collaborative learning enables students to gain exposure to diversified viewpoints from peers with different backgrounds. Professors should nurture the spirit of diversity and inclusion by making sure that every student has the opportunity to contribute to the discussion.
However, this can be challenging in a classroom setting where students who are the most outspoken or comfortable with English often dominate the discussions. Incorporate an asynchronous learning component into collaborative learning to give students who are introverted or non-native speakers the time to formulate their answers and contribute productively.
Encourage Thoughtful and Healthy Discussion
High-quality discussions help students develop analytic skills and in-depth knowledge of the subject matter. Yet, most online learning platforms only allow professors to see the quantity of output instead of the quality of each student’s contribution.
Ment.io’s AI-drive technology helps you analyze discussions to gain in-depth insights into each student’s participation—even in large groups. Meanwhile, our modern discussion board provides a valuable structure that encourages meaningful and collaborative conversations.
Leverage the Latest Technologies
Zoom fatigue has made many students feel worn out, leading to lower concentration and impacting their learning experience. Professors should leverage a variety of technologies to mix things up and deliver a rich learning experience that goes beyond video calls.
However, managing the many types of interactions can be challenging, so it’s important to use the appropriate technologies that can also help lighten your workload. For example, Ment.io’s AI-powered online discussion board integrates with any LMS to streamline processes while giving you in-depth student grading profiles to help you save time and focus on teaching.
A Modern Approach to Collaborative Learning
Online classrooms may make collaborative learning more challenging, but they also open up new opportunities to encourage participation in different formats while accommodating diversified talents and viewpoints. Besides selecting the appropriate strategy to support your topic, instruction objectives, and classroom dynamics, you also need the right technologies to streamline workflows, encourage participation, and monitor students’ progress.
An online discussion board is an indispensable component of the modern online classroom. Ment.io’s AI technologies can help you build students’ analytical skills, foster deep discussion, and simplify assessment. Get in touch to see how we can help you enhance the collaborative learning experience in your classroom.