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How to Get Started with Collaborative Learning

Submitted by on June 5, 2013 – 12:00 pmNo Comment

building blocksTo transform your online class into an active, relevant learning environment, design your class with collaborative learning activities that connect students with their peers and provide them opportunities to make real-world connections with course content.

 “Collaborative learning – promotes student-to-student interaction as the primary mode of learning and also supports socially constructed meaning and knowledge creation.” (Paloff & Pratt, 2006)

As you design your collaborative learning activities, keep these tips in mind:

  • Seek out tools that allow students to easily edit anywhere, anytime with minimal work on your part, like Google Docs and Slides, Wikispaces, and VoiceThread.
  • Design activities that encourage students to share life experiences with peers, and tie these activities back to your course learning objectives. Get creative!
  • Follow up assignments with a reflective activity, like a blog post in which students write about what they learned from the sharing process and discuss how peers’ contributions were similar or different from their own.  Reflecting encourages continued metacognitive growth and development.

An Engaging Collaborative Activity

Kick off your class with a collaborative icebreaker, like the one below. This sends students a clear message that their journey in your course will be engaging and relevant, and that their unique backgrounds and experiences play an important role.

Note: This example demonstrates what the icebreaker assignment looks like prior to students completing it.


4 Steps for Creating an Icebreaker Like the Example Above


1. Develop a clear, simple prompt for your students to fulfill. For example, if you are a botany professor, you might ask your students to identify which plant represents them best and why.  Ask students to upload a photograph of the object and to describe why they made their selection.

2. Create a Google presentation. Log into Google Drive, select Create, and select Presentation. As shown in the example above, include the following into the presentation:

  • A sample slide to model precisely what you expect of your students. (This is an effective practice when designing any online activity—it communicates your expectations more clearly and reduces the number of questions you receive.)
  • A blank slide for each student. (Type the name of each student at the top of each blank slide.)
  • Any other information that is helpful. (For example, images must be 2MB or smaller to upload in a Google presentation.)

3. Share the presentation with your students. Click the blue Share button. Change who has access to Anyone with the link, and next to Access, select Can edit. These settings mean your presentation will only be accessible to those who have the presentation link—these individuals will be able to add content to the slides.

 Note: Students may need to sign in to their Google account if the “Insert Image” option does not appear when attempting to edit their slide.  This is a recent issue that has surfaced with editing Google Presentations.

4. Place the Link in Your Online Course Copy the URL, and paste it into your learning management system. Tell each student to locate his or her slide and address the icebreaker prompt. After the assignment is due, you may adjust the access settings to Can view to allow students to see the presentation but no longer be able to edit it.

Your Turn!

Share an example of a collaborative learning activity you use in your online class, or describe one you would like to try.  We would love to learn from your great ideas. [social-bio]

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