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Collaborative Learning

Explore resources and solutions to implement effective collaborative learning in online and hybrid courses

What is collaborative learning?

Collaborative learning (CL) is an educational approach that involves learners working in teams to solve a problem, or complete a task. This approach fosters both declarative and procedural knowledge, develops higher-order skills, and addresses learner variability.

Collaborative learning represents a shift from a teacher-centered to learner-centered approach, where: 

- Teachers play the role of a guide, facilitator, or coach that guides students throughout their learning process.

- Students are challenged socially and emotionally, having to articulate and justify different perspectives.

- Students actively apply the learned knowledge to solve problems via presenting and exchanging ideas.

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Foster an online collaborative environment with FeedbackFruits

At FeedbackFruits, we fully understand the role of collaborative learning in developing higher-order thinking skills and procedural knowledge. That's why we developed our Tool Suite to help instructors implement effective collaborative learning, by focusing on 5 essential elements:

Enhance peer collaboration and group contribution

Group Member Evaluation provides transparency and streamlines the way students give feedback to group members.

Maximize the effect of team-based learning

Team Based Learning supports the readiness assurance process, by optimizing both individual and group work.

Improve student engagement with activating study materials

By adding questions and discussion threads to the study material of all types, students have chance to interact and help each other, while being able to think more critically about the course content.

Initiate engagement and interaction in online discussion

Discussion Assignment creates an online platform where students can interact and exchange ideas on their work.

Enable in-depth self-reflection

Peer Review and Group Member Evaluation allow teachers to design self-reflection activities where students reflect on their peers' feedback and group contribution.

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Strategies for collaborative learning in online and hybrid settings

Use peer and group feedback to improve collaboration among group members.

From Utrecht University

Dr. Frits Flesch from Utrecht University aimed to improve his students' teamwork and collaboration skills by incorporating project-based learning in his hybrid course. In this activity, students were given a research problem to investigate as groups and share their progress with weekly presentations of which the final one was graded.

Dr. Flesch implemented the FeedbackFruits Group Member Evaluation tool in between the activity to track group dynamics, and individual students' performance and contribution.

When students were asked to give feedback to their fellow group members on their collaboration skills and write a self-reflection on their learnings, they felt that “speaking up was made easy using the tool”.

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From Columbia University

Problem-based learning (PBL) has been widely adopted at SPS to foster critical thinking, problem solving, and most importantly, collaboration skills. To support the implementation of PBL, specifically peer to peer evaluation, the Columbia team relied on FeedbackFruits Group Member Evaluation. 

Using the tool, instructors could facilitate a Group Evaluation Assignment where students evaluate their team members using a rubric. Group Member Evaluation also allows for downloading student analytics while the assignment is still running, enabling instructors to improve the assignment. Thanks to this, a significant increase was observed regarding student engagement rate, specifically from 50% in the first assignment to 80% in the second assignment.

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Foster deep learning by collaborative annotation activities on study materials.

From OsloMET

Collaborative learning can be used to ensure students to be prepared before class and foster safe and effective in-class discussions through course readings.

Asmund Hermansen from OsloMET achieved this by assigning his students a reading material on FeedbackFruits Comprehension tool and asking them to annotate the passages that relate to the topics he identified.

The activity helped Dr. Harmansen to include students with diverse learning attitudes in the learning process more and give relevant input. Annotations that were visible to all students also led to more student interactivity and deeper in-class discussion of the reading.

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Allow students to discuss and digest study materials with each other before class, thus ensuring them to be well-prepared.

From Texas A&M International University

Having to create an online course that maintains student engagement, and helps learners develop academic reading skills, the teaching team at Texas A&M International University needed to find a pedagogical tool that could put these goals into practice. Using the Interactive Document tool, the teacher could add guiding questions, highlight specific sections to help learners better comprehend the articles. Besides, the tool’s straightforward interface and timely support helped save tremendous time for course preparation.

Overall, the students showed significant improvements in academic reading comprehension after completing the course. In other words, students could critically process a scholarly paper, identifying the main topic, theoretical framework, and methodology, and drawing conclusions. The performance of students was at its highest ever, since the implementation of Interactive Document.

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Improve your students' critical thinking with open-ended discussion assignments.

From Deakin University

For an engineering course at Deakin University, instructor Catherine Fraser issued a year-long project for her students, which ended with a presentation and a poster symposium. However, the COVID outbreak made it impossible to organize this poster conference in-person, requiring a solution that supported online discussion. Catherine decided to use Discussion Assignment to facilitate the online symposium, as it allows students to present, view, and comment on each other’s posters.

In total, around 75 students uploaded their work and about three quarters of them actively contributed to discussions in the tool, writing about 2-4 comments each.

Catherine remarked that the Discussion tool had been an effective “de facto presentation format”, allowing the symposium activity to continue online. Furthermore, the platform was found to be effective for stimulating a discussion among students.

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From MITxPRO

For his Mechanical Engineering course, which lasted for 12 months with 80 students, Matthew Waterman required his students to write and submit a report based on the materials covered in the face-to-face sessions. The entire process was facilitated within the Discussion Assignment tool with LTI integration into the LMS.

The results of the adoption were positive, according to the instructor. Discussion Assignment supported constructive learning as the discussion acts as a form of correction, addition, confirmation of students’ knowledge. At the same time, seamless integration allowed students to focus on the learning instead of the tool. Finally, the tool fosters open source learning: students could benefit from different perspectives, opinions. Their thinking was broadened by the depth and thoughts of ideas.

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Motivate your students to actively engage in discussions by collaborative activities before the lecture.

From Leiden University Medical Center

In a blended course for first year medical students, the instructor adopted a flipped classroom approach to enhance students’ active consumption of the (video) study materials during the preparation step of the team-based learning process.

Interactive Video was then adopted to facilitate this stage, as the tool allows the instructor to add in-line practice questions to his recorded videos.

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We help foster rigorous collaborative learning practices at over 70 institutions, including: 

Best resources for collaborative learning

Practical guides, strategies, and use cases to elevate your collaborative learning activities

Free ebook

Our ebook 'How to build a learning community' covers 5 strategies to design engaging learning activities, and facilitate effective group work.

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Resources from CTLs

Tips and recommendations from the teaching & learning centres of selected universities on facilitating effective collaborative learning.

Academic papers

Stay up-to-date on collaborative learning practices with these in-depth academic articles.

Bring effective collaborative learning into your courses with FeedbackFruits pedagogical tools

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Streamlined learning activity setup

All you need to do is to describe the assignment, choose the right settings and enjoy.

Easy-to-use, uniform design within your LMS

All tools have a similar look and feel and are directly accessible through LMS - which flattens the learning curve for both teachers and students.

Co-created with educators

Tools are co-created with educators from partner universities, addressing the most advanced use cases.