Collaborating Online: The Benefits of Working Together

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After reading chapter 2– “The Process of Online Collaboration“–from the book Collaborating Online: Learning Together in Community by Rena M Palloff and Keith Pratt, I took away a lot of insight into the benefits of collaborating online and the steps to create a community where students feel competent, confident, and motivated to work and collaborate not just in online communities but in class and later on, in their future endeavors.

The article outlined the stages of collaboration:

1. “Set the Stage” in other words, explain to students the importance of collaborating along with clear expectations of what you want from them and how you want them to work collaboratively. If students are clear about the nature of the activity and how they are to complete it, they are much more likely to pick up the gauntlet and move forward with minimal instructor intervention (20).

This is exactly what our goals are as teachers, to be the guide for students and gradually release them into the world to feel more competent, confident, and the most capable learners they can be!

2. “Create the Environment”- teachers need to provide students with options of how they will work with one another, for example, discussions don’t always have to be on an online discussion board; they can create spaces where discussion, creating, and working can be accessible and easy for everyone to participate (21).

3. “Model the Process”- The teacher needs to follow their own example and take the journey into collaborative activites alongside the students. Students won’t feel as committed to following through on this path to collaboration if the teacher doesn’t do the work themselves.

By modeling collaborative behavior in the course and by allowing students to negotiate some of the parameters within which they will work with one another and with the instructor, the instructor demonstrates what good collaboration looks like (22).

4. “Guide the Process”- It is very important that the teacher stay close by to assess how the students are doing with their collaborative work and if what they are doing is something that he/she approves of. As the article says–Students will always be wondering what your opinion is about what they’re doing (22).

5. “Evaluate the Process”- In order to see if “learning objectives of specific activ[ities] were met,” the instructor needs to evaluate how the collaborative activities went. Otherwise known as reflective teaching–to see if things either worked or didn’t work with students, a teacher must always be reflecting on his/her practice in order to provide students with the best learning experience possible.

I don’t believe this is a simple process to create with your students as a teacher, but I believe the benefits, if the proper steps are taken, will be rewarding for not only the students but for the teacher as well; because what are we as teachers, if not always growing with our students?

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