As a student, I used to do most of my learning on my own. In my (previous) experience that was the easiest and most efficient way. Learning in groups was considered not so futile, in my mind.
Today the society is changing towards a more digitalized world. With it the knowledge and education is evolving and becoming shared in the network environment, more and more. This provides opportunities to connect and collaborate with a lot of other people than those you meet in “real life”, face to face. This is the exciting part. Lately I have changed my opinion about learning.
There are several pedagogical benefits of collaborative learning: development of critical thinking skills, co-creation of knowledge and meaning, reflection and transformative learning (Brindley et.al 2009).
As a teacher, getting people to collaborate in a class can be difficult. Getting them to collaborate online might be even trickier. If the students never have met face to face, then you got a challenge. Problems like agreeing on a special time for the meetings, connection problems, documents online disappearing, dependence on the group for the final task, members of the group that do not contribute and so on. But the benefits weigh up: different people come up with different solutions, which can result in several various possibilities for the answer. Students have the support from other students to work with the questions. The result of the task might be much more complex and broader.
The more the learner works in collaborative manner, the more complex interactive skills are they raising. Brindley mentions four stages: communication, collaboration, cooperation and community (Brindley et.al 2009). The final will probably not be achieved in a single e-learning course, but is a goal to strive for. The thing is, collaboration can help students increase more complex skills. They also improve their skills in managing problems in different situations with different people. They give the student tools to widen their ability to solve different questions. But it also commends the teacher to be specific about certain things.
The teacher needs to be very specific with the instructions and expectations. They need to have enough time to solve the task. And finally, but most importantly, there’s got to be a clear constructive feedback from the teacher. That is a prevailing and important issue for all students. In our daily lives we can relate to that even as employees.