Collaborative learning

Collaboration can be defined as the process of working together to achieve a common learning Collaborative learning is a term that covers various educational and teaching approaches involving a shared effort by student peers, or students and teachers together. Collaborative learning is usually students working in smaller or larger groups towards a shared goal – the goal does not need to be a finished product or assignment but can take the shape of a discussion of concepts, problem exploration, problem-solving, argumentation, or evaluation, or assessment activity.

The learning outcomes of collaborative learning student groups depend on the quality of student discussions, including argumentation, explaining ideas to each other, and integrating and building on one another’s ideas. Explaining things to each other and discussing concepts and topics

can lead to a deeper understanding, identifying misconceptions, and strengthening the connections between new information and previously learned content. Furthermore, teachers implementing collaborative learning usually view themselves as facilitators of learning or learning coachers, rather than being viewed as an expert or the “all-knowing” professor.

Collaborative activities

  • Collaborative documents

Collaborative documents can support your students with opportunities to engage with their peers and reflect on and discuss course content and assignments in a joint effort. Research has shown that collaboration and group work can give students insights into new perspectives, arguments, and areas that they would not necessarily get acquainted with on their own. Examples of collaborative documents could be brainstorms, mindmaps, and analyses.

  • Online group work

With online group work, students are able to work together remotely, which makes sense in large classes, cohorts with a diverse and international student group, or in intense study periods. New technological developments in video conference software make it easy to discuss academic content, share presentations and files and collaborate on study activities, even when the students are not sitting together. Software as Microsoft Teams or Zoom makes it easy to do group work when working remotely.

  • Collaborative wiki

Students can collaborate on a shared note-taking resource, such as a wiki or a discussion board in Canvas. You can also enable students to edit pages in Canvas, which could then work as a shared collaboration document – or create an empty document for them to work in with Word through Office365.

Tools for supporting collaborative activities

In Mindmeister, students can collaborate on mindmaps and brainstorm concepts.

In Office365, students can work together in many different applications, such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Teams, etc.

In Peergrade, students give each other feedback on assignments or products – this can also be done in groups.

Collaborative Learning, Cornell University:

Goodsell, A. S. (1992). Collaborative Learning: A Sourcebook for Higher Education. National Center on Postsecondary Teaching, Learning and Assessment.

Laal, M. & Ghodsi, S. M. (2012). The benefits of collaborative learning. In: Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. (31). pp. 486-490.

Scager, K., Boonstra, J., Peeters, T., Vulperhorst, J. & Wiegant, F. (2016). Collaborative Learning in Higher Education: Evoking Positive Interdependence. In: CBE Life Sciences Education. 15(69). Pp. 1-9.

Team Collaborative Teaching, Vanderbilt University: