Collaboration: Key to Online Learning

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In collaborative learning, students work together on teams to maximize learning.  The teacher acts as facilitator, coach and coordinator.  Among the attributes of teamwork are a clear, positive interdependence among students, regular group self-evaluation, behaviours promoting each member's success and learning, individual accountability and responsibility and successful interpersonal and social skills. Directing learners to work collaboratively in small groups to build knowledge is an important strategy in my teaching.

One of the first steps to success is the establishment of a constructivist environment wherein students create projects, building their own knowledge. The process of selecting teams and having students work together starts at the beginning of the course. Learners are given many online resources and suggested guidelines for the projects they will build together. All are encouraged to subscribe to the idea that they are responsible for their own learning.

The information shared with you is based on experience with the design, development and delivery of the following post secondary courses:

1.  “Web-Based Learning” ( is one of five online courses in the Designing Curriculum Using Technology certificate program at Seneca College. The course focus is helping educators and trainers integrate their curriculum, primarily by creating web-based learning material.

2. “Enhancing Holistic learning with Computer Technology” ( is a graduate course offered at OISE/UT in the Curriculum Teaching and Learning Department, with the focus of Holistic and Aesthetic Studies. This course attracts masters and doctoral students who have a special interest in both problem-based learning and in computer applications. (note collaborative projects, class of spring 2002)

3. "Computer Applications" ( is a hybrid course for Marketing and International Business students at Seneca. Students work individually and on teams in the computer lab and online as they learn how to create Microsoft Power Point presentations and Web pages.

4. "Essentials of eCommerce" ( is a sixth semester hybrid Marketing course that is designed to help students bring together all of their marketing skills while working in teams on web-based projects.  Work is done in the computer lab and online.

5. "How to Be a Successful Student" (, is a first semester Business course delivered in the classroom. This course has a Website with weekly notes and a number of online resources; a variety of online assignments are incorporated.

Numerous online activities - many for small groups, have been created to accompany Marketing textbooks for both McGraw Hill Ryerson ( and for Nelson Thomson Learning ( These experiences have yielded a treasury of insights and tips regarding collaboration.

Resources on the Web regarding Online Collaboration - Online Collaboration for Learning:A Case Study of a Post Graduate University Course - Teacher's Guide to International Collaboration on the Internet - Learning Together in the Classroon: Online Collaboration - Online Collaboration in a Face-to-Face Educational Setting: Myth or Challenge? - Learning through Online Collaboration - Online Students Fare Better - Online Collaboration to Support Instruction - Face to Face and Online Collaboration: Appreciating Roles and Adding Complexity (a pdf file)

Collaborative WebSites: Examples

The first, Webzotica, was created online by folks who met in a course given by Spectrum Virtual University . The other two were done in collaboration at OISE/UT .

Webzotica Odyssey An adventure in learning on the web - tutorials, stories, graphics
Home on the Info Range E-Mail and Information Management for Newbies
Voyage of Discovery Summer 98 Computers in Education course project.

Dr. Selia Karsten
May 2002