Strategies for Meaningful Collaboration in Online Environments

Strategies for Meaningful Collaboration in Online Environments

Valerie Beltran (University of La Verne, USA), Jessica C. Decker (University of La Verne, USA), Mark Matzaganian (University of La Verne, USA), Nancy T. Walker (University of La Verne, USA), and Sammy Elzarka (University of La Verne, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9814-5.ch001
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This chapter examines the complexities of creating a collaborative community in online classes. A fully online Master's of Education program is studied, with students being surveyed regarding their experiences with collaboration in the online courses. Results of the study are discussed, along with recommendations for establishing a sense of community in the online environment. Recommendations include structuring introductory activities for the instructor and students, providing opportunities for authentic collaboration and communication through tools such as blogs and wikis, and following guidelines for establishing effective group projects in an online class. Suggestions for future research are also included. Overall, a case is made for the importance of creating meaningful, collaborative experiences for students within the context of class content in online courses.
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Establishing Collaboration In The Learning Environment

In their research on how online learning environments facilitated collaborative learning, Han and Hill (2007) identified three important categories: context, community, and cognition. Context includes providing structural support and opportunities for active participation. Collaboration occurs more readily when a sense of community is present. Indicators of a strong community include group cohesiveness, member specific jargon, willingness to engage in discussion, and developing a social presence. Han and Hill’s (2007) research concluded that small discussion groups, multiple modes of communication, nurturing of the community, and encouraging meaningful discussion amongst participants were critical components in a collaborative environment.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Web Conferencing Software: Tools that facilitate synchronous online interaction in a virtual classroom environment such as WebEx or Adobe Connect.

Screencasting: Software that permits users to capture their computer screen with voiceover such as Jing, SnagIt, or Camtasia.

Presentation Software: Software used to organize and deliver content to others such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Prezi.

Chat Systems: Online tools that allow one or more people to chat via text or video chat such as Skype, Google Hangout, or Google Chat.

Social Presence: The affective or interpersonal presence of the instructor and students in an online course.

Learning Management System (LMS): A platform for delivery of online instruction such as Blackboard or Moodle.

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