Sunday, May 15, 2011

Motivating online students to work collaboratively

Motivating online students to work collaboratively
¾     Students must understand the importance of working online collaboratively. It allows students to gain the skills necessary in order to be competitive in today’s work market. Companies often have employees dispersed around the World, and have to use online collaborative methods to meet, and plan on projects. By learning these skills at the college level, the student graduates with experience in this area. Students want to know that what they are learning in college has a direct correlation with their future career. Explaining this to the students early on, allows them to understand the importance of collaborative activities, and it allows them to acquire a positive attitude about the activity.
¾     The collaborative activity should be well developed. There should be enough time for the students to get to know one another, as well as work on each section of the assignment. Dividing the assignment into specific parts, and assigning each part a deadline can be helpful. There should be rules as to where and when they will meet within the course, while allowing them to choose how to connect: via phone, email, or instant messaging.
¾     In order for an online group to work successfully online, all members must agree to the same norms. This includes the division of or roles, how the group will communicate, how non-participation will be handled, and how quickly member responses will be expected.
¾     The instructor should make their role in the activity clear. The instructor is meant to be the facilitator of the activity. As a facilitator, the instructor can intervene in the group when help is needed. The instructor should also observe the interactions of the group to ensure that all are participating. If there are any that are not, the instructor can contact the student and encourage their participation.
¾     Some type of evaluation should be included at the end of the activity. For example, each virtual group can present their work in an area of the course for others to provide feedback.  This would allow the students to provide as well as receive feedback that can help them to work collaboratively more effectively in the future.
I will end with a quote from Bernard, Rubaclava & Rojo (2000)“In order for collaborative online learning to take place successfully, it is
crucial that the learner feels part of a learning community where his/her
contributions add to a common knowledge pool and where a community
spirit is fostered through social interactions.”

Bernard, Rubalcava, Rojo(2000) 'Collaborative online distance learning: Issues
for future practice and research', Distance Education, 21: 2, 260 — 277
Palloff, R., Pratt, K (2005) Collaborating online: learning together in community. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.