Collaborative Learning: An Effective Tool to Empower Communities

Collaborative Learning: An Effective Tool to Empower Communities

Hakikur Rahman
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-671-6.ch011
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Learning is considered as one of the potential tool to empower a community. Over the past three decades, technology mediated learning has been recognized as an alternate channel replacing/ supporting/ strengthening the traditional forms of education in various forms, especially with the advent of interactive and collaborative learning. Open and distance learning (ODL) emerges as a potential means of enhancing educational access. On the other hand, open educational resources (OER) emerge as a potential material of this new paradigm of knowledge acquisition process. However, the organizational learning at the peripheries and capacity development at the grass roots remain almost unattended, despite recognized global efforts under many bottom-up empowerment sequences. Social components at large within the transitional and developing economies remain outside the enclosure of universal access to information and thus access to knowledge has always been constricted to equitably compete with the global knowledge economy. Despite challenges in designing and implementing collaborative learning techniques and technologies, this chapter would like to emphasize on introducing collaborative learning at community level and improve the knowledge capacity at the grass roots for their empowerment. This chapter, further, investigates the relationship of collaborative learning towards improved e-governance. In the main thrust section, the chapter goes through various channels of collaborative learning, methods that could be adopted during the implementation, and technologies that could be availed during the dissemination phases of collaborative learning. Later on a few cases are being included, and before the conclusions, the chapter puts forward a few future research issues in the aspect of collaborative learning for empowerment of communities.
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Learning nowadays is not only comprise of traditional brick-and-mortar classroom sessions, but also encompasses advanced computer assisted collaborative learning and peer learning (Roberts, 2004; Tu, 2004) that support education, knowledge development and research. In recent years, traditional education has shifted towards new methods of teaching and learning through the proliferation of information and communication technologies (ICT). At the same time, the continuous advances in technology enable the realization of a more distributed structure of knowledge transfer (Dutton, Kahin, O'Callaghan & Wyckoff, 2005; Iahad, Dafoulas, Milankovic-Atkinson & Murphy, 2005). Furthermore, Internet has allowed the learners and education providers to reach out the sky as the limit in designing, understanding and taking knowledge acquisition processes through various learning techniques. In addition, as classrooms do not remain enclosed to confined peripheries anymore, and the learners do not confined to regularly attended sessions anymore. Anyone, with capability and acceptability can attend a learning session at any time in sequel of his/her career.

Learning is no more a customized pattern of education, but an accumulation of information, content and knowledge to become an accomplished sequence of knowledge acquisition. It is a shift from traditional education to ICT-based personalized, flexible, individualized, self-organized and at the same time collaborative, depending on the demand of a community of learners, teachers, facilitators, experts and researchers (Markus, 2008). Learning has broadened the door of knowledge acquisition processes in multi-disciplinary faculties through multi-dimensional approaches. It is become more dependent on the dynamism of interactive information and content, rather than static information and content that were only available in the form of print. As the society and community that have been based on information, has been more or less, turned into information society and as the economy of information society is mainly based on the creation, dissemination and exploitation of data, information and knowledge, thereby not only learning, but also the whole life system has been inclined towards the dynamism of information and content. In this aspect, Figure 1 illustrates the different component of a computer mediated communication leading to knowledge acquisition and Figure 2 shows the technological evolution in the learning processes based on virtual form of knowledge delivery.

Figure 1.

Technology evolution in e-Learning (Adopted from Markus, 2008)

Figure 2.

Components of a system of computer mediated communication (Adopted from Silvio, 2001)


Based on the various forms of virtual knowledge delivery system and depending on technologies available for the dissemination process, this chapter will concentrate on the need of collaborative learning for the overall societal benefits, including the traditional learning methods. Evident, observations and researches confirm that collaborative learning can strengthen the traditional learning and at the same time, provide the learner a multifaceted window of knowledge acquisition. Incorporating these ideas, the chapter goes on providing concepts of learning on various society development activities. Along these perspectives, the chapter will try to relate to the main theme of the book, that is e-government and argue that by empowering community people e-governance can be improved. Furthermore, the chapter put forwards a few cases around the globe, that have been providing capacity development through community empowerment processes and finally it suggests a few research ideas before conclusion.



Learning is the acquisition and augmentation of memories and behaviors leading to development of skills, knowledge, understanding, values, and wisdom. In longer term, it is the outcome of experience and the ultimate goal of education1. Thereby, learning is the process of acquiring knowledge, attitudes, or skills from study, instruction, or experience (Miller & Findlay, 1996:167).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Online Learning: Online learning is an option for learners who wish to learn in their own environment using technology and/or the Internet39. It is a form of learning conducted via a computer network, using the internet and the World Wide Web, a local area network (LAN), or an intranet40. Online learning can comprise of any learning experience or environment that relies upon the Internet/WWW as the primary delivery mode of communication and presentation41

Distributed Learning: Distributed learning is a term used to describe educational experiences that are distributed across a variety of geographic settings, across time and across various interactive media (Dede, 2004). It is a culture of learning in which everyone is involved in a collective effort of understanding. Distance learning is characterized by four characteristics, such as the diversity of expertise among its members who are valued for their contributions and given support to develop, shared objective of continually advancing the collective knowledge and skills, emphasis on learning how to learn, and incorporate mechanisms for sharing what is learned (Utsumi, 2005a, b)

Distance Learning: A form of learning where the instructor and the students are in physically separate locations. The learning process can be either synchronous or asynchronous21 by which technology is used for mainly continuing education in various ways where the participant does not have to physically be in the place where the educator initiates the learning22. It is a type of education where students work on their own at home or at the office and communicate with faculty and other students via e-mail, electronic forums, videoconferencing and other forms of computer-based communication23

E-Learning: A form of learning that is enabled by the use of digital tools and content, involving interactivity between the learner and their educator or peers17 utilizing a network (LAN, WAN or Internet) for delivery, interaction, or facilitation18. e-learning can be any technologically mediated learning using computers whether from a distance or in face to face classroom setting (i.e., computer assisted learning)19. This form of learning can be used to deliver online courses and/or establish online learning communities, and it supports flexible learning anywhere, anytime for anyone20

Lifelong Learning: It is the process of acquiring knowledge or skills throughout one’s life via education, training, work and general life experiences34. Lifelong learning is a form of continuing education, and act as an essential means of accelerating assimilation of new technologies35. Usually, these are non-credit instruction of a community service nature other than recreational and leisure time36. This form of learning encompasses all learning activity undertaken throughout life, with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competencies within a personal, civic, social and/or employment-related perspective37 for professional development with a broad concept where education is flexible, diverse and available at different times and places is pursued throughout life38

Cooperative Learning: It is an instructional method that allows students to work in small groups within the classroom, often with a division of assignment of specific tasks24, and it is an instructional strategy in which small, usually heterogeneous groups of students work collaboratively to learn25. Cooperative learning was proposed in response to traditional curriculum-driven education26

Experimental Learning: This form of learning is learning by doing27, or acquired through workplace28, or based on experience29. Experiential Learning is the process of making meaning from direct experience30. It is the process of acquiring skills, knowledge and understanding through experience rather than through formal education or training31. This process of learning involves the student in his/her learning to a much greater degree than in traditional (pedagogical) learning environments32. It addresses the needs and wants of the learner and is seen to be equivalent to personal change and growth33

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