Collaboration plays an important role in most academic classes or courses, regardless of delivery method, but achieving successful collaboration with remote learning also poses some unique challenges. Yet, while all members of the learning group are separated physically, there are a number of steps that academic institutions, teachers, and students can take to help to facilitate successful remote teamwork.
Read on for more on precisely how successful collaboration with distance education can be achieved.
The vast majority of academic courses include collaborative elements and this applies to remote learning too. Whether it is group discussions, in which ideas are shared, discussed, and expanded upon, or closer collaboration between individuals within the learning group, teamwork can serve to boost engagement and improve understanding. However, with regards to distance learning, the physical separation does prevent some of the usual collaborative activities you might find in traditional classroom settings from taking place, and technological solutions tend to be required. In this article, we explore the ways successful collaboration with remote learning can be made possible.
Why is Collaboration Important?
Before exploring how successful collaboration can be achieved, however, it is useful to establish an understanding of why collaborative activities are necessary and what the benefits actually are. As an article for Education Week explains, collaboration can help students to consider subjects more deeply and also to think about other people’s perspectives. Additionally, collaborative skills are learned over time and the vast majority of employers actively seek candidates with the ability to successfully work as part of a team.
Of course, the importance of collaboration within remote learning goes beyond this, because it can help to overcome some of the natural isolation associated with studying from home. Crucially, the social aspect can help to make virtual classrooms more fun and interesting, which is essential for generating the right levels of student engagement.
One of the most obvious ways in which collaboration through distance learning can be made possible is via synchronous communication. In simple terms, this refers to communication methods that occur with all participants present and actively engaged in communicating at the same time, despite being in different geographical locations.
For example, online chat and instant messaging platforms allow for students to have back-and-forth interactions. This can make it much easier to work together on projects or share knowledge and information about the course. Collaboration can also be made easier through virtual classrooms, which function as a shared online space.
Concepts like video conferencing, digital whiteboarding, and screen sharing can all help members of the same learning group to collaborate, and these can all be enabled through solutions like myViewBoard. Meanwhile, teachers can help to encourage teamwork through virtual classroom quizzes, presentations, and similar team activities.
While most people think of collaborative efforts as group activities that occur through real-time interactions, the reality is that asynchronous communication has a role to play in facilitating successful collaboration too. For instance, many courses make use of bulletin boards, which can allow students to discuss topics and share information.
In some cases, students may be able to collaborate through delegation of different tasks and a subsequent sharing of their work via email. As an example, students working on a joint project may each take on separate workloads and then send each other the work they have done, before combining it all into the single finished project.
There are several advantages associated with asynchronous collaboration. For one, students do not have to be working on collaborative projects at the exact same time, providing flexibility. In addition, message board posts and emails do not suffer in the event of a temporary loss of internet connection. However, asynchronous collaboration is slower.
The Role of Cloud Computing
When it comes to generating the right level of collaboration with remote learning, cloud computing technology can be invaluable. As a starting point, cloud-based solutions like Microsoft Office 365 can help to ensure all students are using the same software, eradicating the compatibility issues that can otherwise plague collaborative efforts.
Beyond this, however, cloud storage solutions can help to facilitate fast, safe and efficient sharing of digital files, either with individuals or the whole class. In fact, using a combination of cloud-based software solutions and cloud storage, it becomes possible for multiple students to make changes to the same document at the exact same time.
Encouraging students to work together on certain tasks can help to improve their understanding of key concepts and can also help to develop the kind of crucial collaborative skills that are needed in many workplaces too. Although remote learning requires some adjustments to the ways collaboration usually works, as students are not physically present in the same place, both synchronous and asynchronous digital communication can help.
Examples of possible collaborative activities can range from team brainstorming exercises, presentations, and joint projects, to virtual classroom-based team quizzes. When collaboration becomes a key part of a remote learning course, participants tend to become more engaged and a culture of shared responsibility can be cultivated.