I envision collaborative learning as an essential part of any course I teach and research project I am involved in. This can provide learners with a wider range of perspectives and experiences, which can help deepen their understanding of course content and critical thinking (Árnason et al., 2018).
In my distance courses, I incorporate online discussion forums and virtual rooms to encourage learners to engage with each other and share their perspectives. They also have access to read and reflect on each other’s work on the online learning platform and further discuss in virtual seminars. For a more collaborative environment, it would also have been possible to incorporate group projects into the course design, where learners work together on virtual laboratories (with MATLAB Online, for instance) and provide feedback to each other on Canvas or via online meetings, like the PBL group in our ONL course. They can write their reports in collaboration using document editing tools such as Google Docs, Microsoft Teams, and other AI technologies. However, achieving this through distance learning requires learners to maintain a similar pace of study, which can be difficult as individual pace is often a motivator for choosing a distance course. Including distance courses in the professional development plan of learners who are employed full-time can be a valuable means of support from their employers. It would be advantageous for all parties involved if employers could provide support for the course activities, such as participating in seminars or group assignments (Ioanna et al., 2020).
Overall, from my limited experience and from this course as well, I have learned how collaborative learning is essential for promoting deep learning and developing soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and critical thinking. Therefore, researching how to incorporate more effective collaborative learning and assessment tools and strategies, engaging students and other stakeholders in the course design, is what I would like to focus on in my future courses.
- Árnason, Hróbjartur, Alastair Creelman, Carola Eklund, Jørgen Grubbe, Taru Kekkonen, Aina Knudsen, Barfuss Ruge, and Torhild Slåtto. “Silent learners: a guide.” (2018).
- Aslanidou, I., Zaccaria, V., Fentaye, A. D., & Kyprianidis, K. G. (2020, September). Development of web-based short courses on control, diagnostics, and instrumentation. In Turbo Expo: Power for Land, Sea, and Air (Vol. 84157, p. V006T08A004). American Society of Mechanical Engineers.