Online Collaborative Learning Tools and Types: Their Key Role in Managing Classrooms Without Walls

Online Collaborative Learning Tools and Types: Their Key Role in Managing Classrooms Without Walls

Sarika Sawant
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5849-2.ch002
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Online/web-based collaborative tools enable teachers and students to perform a wide range of tasks, such as interactive discussions, online collaboration activities, sharing and accessing electronic learning resources, and many more others. It not only promotes critical thinking and reflection in students but also encourages them to develop a sense of community, thus enabling the creation of an environment in which further collaborative work can take place. The author has categorised various tools into 11 types that deal with idea generation and brainstorming, live conference, robotics and coding tools, mapping, design, online group work and document collaboration, and online communication and content development. The chapter explains the online collaboration with its features, preparation required by institution and role of teacher presence in online learning. It also emphasizes that library consultations (i.e., librarians) directly boost student learning, so the active collaboration of librarians is a must.
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A. Collaborative Learning

Collaborative learning is a situation where students are able to socially interact with other students, as well as instructors. In essence, learners work together in order to expand their knowledge of a particular subject or skill.

Collaborative learning is based upon the principle that students can enrich their learning experiences by interacting with others and benefiting from one another's strengths. In collaborative learning situations, students are responsible for one another's actions and tasks which encourages teamwork as well (eLearning 101 – concepts, trends, applications, 2014).

Collaborative learning engages learners in knowledge sharing, inspiring each other, depending upon each other, and applying active social interaction in a small group. Therefore, collaborative learning depends upon the art of social interaction among learners rather than a mechanical process (Tu, 2004). The idea of group work in learning finds its root in work from the Russian psychologist Vygotsky (1978) who explored the causal relationships that exists between social interaction and individual learning providing a foundation of the social constructivist theory of learning (Muuro,Wagacha, Kihoro & Oboko, 2014).

Collaborative learning is based on the view that knowledge is a social construct. Collaborative activities are most often based on four principles:

  • The learner or student is the primary focus of instruction.

  • Interaction and “doing” are of primary importance

  • Working in groups is an important mode of learning.

  • Structured approaches to developing solutions to real-world problems should be incorporated into learning (Chandra, 2015).

Some activities or assignments well suited for collaborative learning include:

  • Case studies

  • Discussions

  • Student-moderated discussions

  • Debates

  • Collaborative writing

  • Collaborative presentation

  • Games

  • Demonstrations

Benefits of collaborative learning include:

  • Development of higher-level thinking, oral communication, self-management, and leadership skills.

  • Improves analytical skills and critical thinking

  • It boosts confidence

  • Promotion of student-faculty interaction.

  • Increase in student retention, self-esteem, and responsibility.

  • Exposure to and an increase in understanding of diverse perspectives.

  • Preparation for real life social and employment situations.


B. Online Collaborative Learning

Collaborative learning can be conducted either offline or on the web, and can be done asynchronously or synchronously. It allows students to learn from the ideas, skill sets, and experience of others enrolled in the course. By engaging in a shared task (whether it be a project or lesson) students gain the opportunity to learn a variety of skills, such as group analysis and collaborative teamwork building skills.

In addition, even students who are unable to attend a live event online can participate in collaborative learning, using online forums, message boards, and other various posting sites that don't rely on real-time interaction (eLearning 101 – concepts, trends, applications, 2014).

Key Terms in this Chapter

E-Learning: It is commonly referred to the intentional use of networked information and communications technology in teaching and learning.

Academic Library: An academic library is a library which serves an institution of higher learning, such as a college or a university—libraries in secondary and primary schools are called school libraries. These libraries serve two complementary purposes: to support the school’s curriculum, and to support the research of the university faculty and students.

Real-Time Communications: The real time communication is the communication in which sender and receiver exchange their information and data over a channel without any delay.

Collaborate: To collaborate is “to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.”

Wiki: Wiki is a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit web page content using any web browser.

SlideShare: It is a Web 2.0-based slide hosting service.

Learning Management System: An LMS is an integrated software environment supporting all these functionalities along with some mechanism for student enrolment into courses, general user management (including administrator, teacher, and student) and some important system functions like backup and restore.

Concept Mapping: It is a technique where users externalise their conceptual and propositional knowledge of a domain in a way that can be readily understood by others.

Collaborative Project Management: Collaborative project management is based on the principle of actively involving all project members in the planning and control process and of networking them using information, communication, and collaboration modules.

Collaboration Suites: An online collaboration suite provides an integrated set of web tools that span a range of collaboration needs.

Online Learning/Virtual Learning/Distributed Learning/Web-Based Learning: It refer to educational processes that utilize information and communications technology to mediate asynchronous as well as synchronous mode of learning and teaching activities.

Blended Librarian: The Blended Librarian is the academic professional who offers the best combination of skills and services to help faculty apply technology for enhanced teaching and learning.

Synchronous Learning Model: In the synchronous learning model (Online model), the students can attend ‘live’ lectures at the scheduled hour from wherever they are irrespective of their location forming a virtual classroom.

Digital Citizen: A digital citizen is a person utilizing information technology (IT) in order to engage in society, politics, and government.

Asynchronous Learning Model: In asynchronous mode of elearning generally teacher can post study material, and have announcements and calendar online, assignment posting, submission, and evaluation with feedback etc.

Digital Instructor: An educator who uses technology in teaching and learning.

Task Management: Task management is the process of managing a task through its life cycle.

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