Topic 3: Why, What, and How? A Reflection on Collaborative Learning From a New Faculty Perspective

As a new faculty member embarking on my teaching journey, I quickly realized that pedagogy and teaching are processes of continual learning and adaptation. With my very first course underway, I found myself grappling with the challenge of catering to the diverse needs of students at various stages of their education. This led me to ponder deeply on how to design course content that would effectively engage students with diverse backgrounds and levels of prior knowledge.

In my quest for a solution, I turned to networked collaborative learning as a promising approach, as it is characterized by “a pedagogical approach focussed on the learner, cooperative building of knowledge, and increasing the diversity of its learner base” (Ravanelli & Serina, 2014, p. 1174). This reflection explores my journey of incorporating networked collaborative learning into my teaching practice, drawing on personal experiences and deliberations.

At the outset of my course (Analytics Across Business Domains), I approached the first lecture with a traditional information-oriented mindset. I introduced the course overview and topic of business analytics, and interactions with students were primarily limited to questions and answers. While this approach served its purpose, I recognized the need to cultivate a more engaging and dynamic learning environment.

Upon reflection, I realized that fostering collaboration among students could be the key to achieving this goal. I introduced group discussion activities into the classroom, where students were randomly assigned to groups and tasked with discussing specific questions related to the course topic. For example, one question posed was “What are the key skills required for a business analyst job?” Following the group discussions, representatives from each group shared their insights with the class, allowing for additional contributions from other group members.

This collaborative approach was beneficial for encouraging active participation and facilitating the integration of diverse perspectives and ideas. By collectively synthesizing the outcomes of the group discussions, students gained a comprehensive understanding of the topic while honing their critical thinking and communication skills.

(The image was generated by Canva)

I would say, to the best of my knowledge, this concrete case is not a real “networked collaborative learning”, but I believe this case still includes many elements that are embedded in networked collaborative learning.

To answer the “What” question:

The bringing together of learners via personal computers linked to the Internet, with a focus on them working as a ‘learning community’, sharing resources, knowledge, experience and responsibility through reciprocal collaborative learning

— (Networked Learning Editorial Collective (NLEC), 2021, p. 315 Cited from McConnell, 1998).

“Networked collaborative learning is a social oriented e-learning strategy in which collaboration plays the major role. Promoting the social dimension of e-learning means considering the network not only as a mere tool for content distribution but rather a safacilitator for the interaction among all the participants involved in the educational process.”

(Ribaudo & Rui, n.d., p. 41 c.f. Trention, 2006)

“Networked collaborative learning is therefore the bringing together of learners via personal computers linked to the Internet, with a focus on them working as a learning community, sharing resources, knowledge, experience and responsibility through reciprocal collaborative learning.”

— (McConnell, 1999, p. 233)

To me, collaborative learning refers to an educational approach where individuals engage in collaborative learning activities within a networked community or group. In this context, participants work together to share knowledge, exchange ideas, solve problems, and co-create learning experiences. This approach leverages digital technologies and online platforms to facilitate communication, collaboration, and knowledge sharing among learners.

To answer the “Why” question:

Networked collaborative learning is crucial for several reasons, particularly from the perspective of personal experience as a new faculty member navigating the challenges of teaching. Here’s why networked collaborative learning is essential:

Engagement and Participation: Through collaborative learning activities, students are actively engaged in the learning process. In my experience, I found that students were more motivated and enthusiastic when working collaboratively with their peers as content generators, rather than being seated in the classroom as passive receivers of knowledge. This heightened engagement fosters a positive learning environment where students feel valued and invested in their learning journey.

Diverse Perspectives: Collaborative learning brings together students from various backgrounds, each with their own unique perspectives and experiences. This diversity enriches classroom discussions and allows students to learn from one another. In my course, I witnessed firsthand how students from different academic disciplines and levels of expertise contributed valuable insights to group discussions, broadening everyone’s understanding of the topic.

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills: By working collaboratively, students are challenged to think critically, analyze information, and solve problems collectively. In my classroom, group discussions encouraged students to critically evaluate different viewpoints and arrive at well-reasoned conclusions. This process not only deepened their understanding of the subject matter but also honed their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as social interaction among peers.

Communication Skills: Collaboration requires effective communication and teamwork, skills that are essential in both academic and professional settings. Through group activities, students have the opportunity to practice articulating their ideas, listening to others, and providing constructive feedback. As a result, they develop stronger communication skills that are invaluable for future endeavors.

Promoting Inclusivity: Collaborative learning creates an inclusive learning environment where all students have the opportunity to contribute and participate actively. Thanks to the small size of my class, I made a conscious effort in my course to ensure that group dynamics were inclusive and that every student felt heard and valued. This inclusivity fosters a sense of belonging and promotes positive relationships among students.

Networked collaborative learning is attractive because it enhances engagement, promotes diversity and inclusion, fosters critical thinking and communication skills, and prepares students for success in an interconnected world. Through my personal experience, I have seen firsthand the transformative impact of collaborative learning on student learning outcomes and overall classroom dynamics.

However, there are also several concerns coming together with the implementation of networked collaborative learning. For example, managing group dynamics can be challenging, particularly when dealing with diverse personalities, communication styles, and levels of engagement. In collaborative learning settings, some students may dominate discussions, while others may struggle to participate actively. It’s essential to create a supportive environment where all students feel comfortable contributing. In addition, in collaborative learning activities, there’s a risk of unequal participation, with some students contributing more than others. This imbalance can impact the quality of group outcomes and may lead to feelings of frustration or disengagement among certain students. Educators should implement strategies to encourage equitable participation and ensure that all students have opportunities to contribute. Also, social loafing occurs when individuals exert less effort in a group setting than they would if working alone. In collaborative learning environments, some students may rely on their peers to carry the workload, resulting in reduced individual accountability and motivation. As teachers, we should implement measures to mitigate social loafing, e.g., assigning specific roles or tasks to each group member and fostering a sense of accountability within the group. Moreover, assessing individual contributions in collaborative learning settings can be complex. It may be challenging to evaluate each student’s level of participation and contribution accurately, especially in larger groups. Educators may need to implement alternative assessment methods, such as peer evaluations or individual reflections, to assess students’ contributions fairly. Apart from that, networked collaborative learning relies heavily on technology, which can be prone to technical glitches, connectivity issues, or compatibility issues with different devices. These technology-related challenges can disrupt collaborative activities and hinder the learning process. Educators should have contingency plans in place to address technical issues promptly and ensure the smooth implementation of collaborative learning activities. These proactive concerns leave to be further thought over so that teachers can maximize the benefits of networked collaborative learning while mitigating potential challenges.

To answer the “How” question:

Trentin’s (2010) work on Networked Collaborative Learning offers insightful examples and practical advice for creating effective online courses and training instructors. He emphasizes the importance of social constructivism, peer-to-peer teaching, and strategic communication in course design. Combining these principles with my personal experience, the implementation of networked collaborative learning follows several steps in a developmental manner:

Step 1: Identify Learning Objectives

Begin by identifying the learning objectives of the course or lesson. Determine what knowledge and skills students need to acquire and how collaborative learning can help achieve these objectives. In the personal experience described, the focus was on engaging students, fostering collaboration, and promoting critical thinking skills in the context of business analytics.

Step 2: Design Collaborative Activities

Design collaborative learning activities that align with the learning objectives and course content. Consider the size of the groups, the nature of the tasks, and the tools or technologies needed to facilitate collaboration. In my personal experience, group discussions/projects were organized around specific questions.

Step 3: Establish Group Norms

Set clear expectations and guidelines for collaboration to ensure productive group interactions. Discuss the importance of active participation, respectful communication, and shared responsibility for group tasks. Encourage students to establish their own group norms or ground rules to promote accountability and mutual respect.

Step 4: Provide Necessary Resources

Provide students with the resources, tools, and support they need to engage in collaborative learning effectively. This may include access to online collaboration platforms, guidelines for using ICT tools, and access to relevant course materials. In my personal experience, interactive ICT tools were utilized to facilitate group discussions and enhance engagement.

Step 5: Facilitate Group Interactions

Act as a facilitator or guide during collaborative learning activities. Monitor group discussions, provide guidance as needed, and encourage participation from all group members. Foster a supportive and inclusive learning environment where students feel comfortable sharing ideas and asking questions.

Step 6: Promote Reflection and Feedback

Encourage students to reflect on their collaborative experiences and provide feedback to their peers. Reflection can help students identify areas for improvement, consolidate their learning, and develop metacognitive skills. In my personal experience, notes were taken during group discussions, and outcomes were shared collaboratively to synthesize key insights.

Step 7: Assess Collaborative Learning

Develop assessment criteria to evaluate students’ participation, contributions, and learning outcomes from collaborative activities. Consider both individual and group assessments to provide a comprehensive evaluation of students’ collaborative skills and knowledge acquisition. In the personal experience, group outcomes were documented, and individual contributions were assessed based on participation and engagement.

In conclusion, networked collaborative learning offers a promising avenue for educators to foster collaboration, critical thinking, and knowledge co-construction among students. By embracing this approach, faculty members can create dynamic and inclusive learning environments that empower students to succeed. As a new faculty member, this experience taught me valuable lessons about the power of networked collaborative learning in creating inclusive and engaging learning environments. Moving forward, I am committed to further exploring innovative teaching methods and leveraging technology to enhance student learning experiences.


McConnell, D. (1999). Examining a collaborative assessment process in networked lifelong learning. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 15(3), 232–243.

Networked Learning Editorial Collective (NLEC). (2021). Networked Learning: Inviting Redefinition. Postdigital Science and Education, 3(2), 312–325.

Ravanelli, F., & Serina, I. (2014). Didactic and Pedagogical View of E-learning Activities Free University of Bozen-bolzano. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 116, 1774–1784.

Ribaudo, M., & Rui, M. (n.d.). AULAWEB, WEB-BASED LEARNING AS A COMMODITY. Retrieved April 14, 2024, from

Trentin, G. (2010). Networked Collaborative Learning: Social interaction and Active Learning. Elsevier.

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