“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
The changing landscape of today’s education has paved the way for diverse methods to achieve effective learning. Nowadays, learning is not only limited to the quizzes, recitations, or lectures given by the teacher. With the advent of Vygotsky’s Constructivist Learning Theory, educators were encouraged to reflect on their teaching strategies. Moreover, they were challenged on how to engage students and create effective learning environments (Ozer, n.d.). Effective learning may be achieved through various activities such as collaboration.
Collaboration is defined as working with other people who have different ideas to contribute to the achievement of a common objective. Learners come together to do collaborative work such as “solving problems, creating products, or learning content” (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group, 2003). Hence, learner to learner interaction promotes collaboration among students and this eventually leads to effective learning.
Oftentimes, people have their own ideas, views, beliefs, opinions about things. How then is one going to communicate his own ideas to others when they are faced with the task of arriving at a common goal? In a virtual learning environment, where people seldom see each other, where people have hectic schedules both at work and at home, collaborating with others seems to be a daunting undertaking. However, collaborative activities should be viewed as opportunities to tap each other’s expertise, to pool resources, to solve problems, and collectively make decisions. Collaboration is essential because it fosters a sense of teamwork and community.
Collaboration can be best achieved through interaction among students. However, before any collaborative activity, students must develop a sense of trust with one another. There are a variety of ways to develop the relationship and sense of community among the learners. One such example is the use of icebreakers. According to Mansbach (2015), icebreakers are interactive activities that help students and instructors get to know each other. The use of icebreakers helps students unravel each other’s’ beliefs, attitudes, and expertise. It also lays the foundation for collaborative work among students.
To encourage collaboration in the virtual learning environment, online collaboration tools can be utilized. Proofhub, MindMeister, Google Docs, BigMArker, SlideRocket, and Skype are some sites that promote collaborative work among students (Thomson, 2014). They are avenues for learners to discuss, create, and produce team output. Encouraging a culture of community or collaboration ensures effective learning among learners.
Collaboration can be considered as one of the best learning online activities because it promotes exchanges of ideas, and as a result, new ideas are constructed. The involvement and interaction among learners encourage higher-order thinking skills, exploratory and active learning needed in the 21st Century.
Benjamin Franklin Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved March 3, 2017, from https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/benjaminfr383997.html
Mansbach, J. (2015, July 28). Icebreakers, Online Learning, Active Learning. Retrieved March 3, 2017, from https://dl.sps.northwestern.edu/blog/2015/07/the-importance-of-icebreakers-in-online-classes/
North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group .(2003). Literacy in the Digital Age.Retrieved March 3, 2017 from http://pict.sdsu.edu/engauge21st.pdf
Ozer, O. (n.d.). Issue – CONSTRUCTIVISM in Piaget and Vygotsky. Retrieved March 11, 2017, from http://www.fountainmagazine.com/Issue/detail/CONSTRUCTIVISM-in-Piaget-and-Vygotsky
Thomson, S. (2015, November 12). The 5 Best Free Collaboration Tools for Teachers. Retrieved March 4, 2017, from https://elearningindustry.com/the-5-best-free-collaboration-tools-for-teachers