How To Use Collaboration Tools in eLearning
Collaborative learning is an important part of eLearning. It allows learners to benefit from the experience of their peers, become fully engaged in their own learning experience, and more effectively acquire and retain information. As such, collaboration tools may very well be one of the most powerful tools you have at your disposal as an eLearning professional.
- Find collaboration tools that are easy to use, accessible, and ideal for your learning goals.
First and foremost, you should focus on usability and accessibility when selecting collaboration tools for your eLearning course or deliverable. Another key consideration to keep in mind is how the collaboration tool will serve your primary learning goals. Ideally, you want to choose a collaboration tool that is going to be user friendly for all of your learners, and can be accessed on a variety of different devices, such as mobile phones and tablets. The collaboration tool should also fit in with your strategy and allow learners to gain skills, insight, and experience that will help them to achieve the learning objectives of the eLearning course.
- Explain how the learner can benefit from the collaboration tools.
The learners must always be made aware of the benefits associated with the usage of the collaboration tools. Otherwise, they will lack the motivation and incentive that is required to get the most out of these programs and applications. In other words, they won't see the real value of using collaboration tools, because they don't know how these tools are useful in the real world, or even in eLearning environment, for that matter. So, it's essential to tell your learners exactly how they will be benefiting from the tools that you've selected, and be as specific as possible.
- Replace old practices with new collaborative ones.
Try to determine if there are any current practices or activities that you have in your eLearning course that could alter so as to enhance group collaboration. For instance, is there self study project that could be transformed into an interactive and immersive group collaboration project on Google Drive? Think of how already existing aspects of your deliverable could be converted to online group work or discussions via collaboration tools.
- Incorporate scenarios and real world examples that boost engagement.
It's always wise to include scenarios or examples into group collaboration exercises or discussions, primarily because these allow learners to see how what they are learning can directly be applied in the real world. In addition, these also allow you to create more emotionally engaging experiences, as learners will be able to connect the key ideas of the eLearning course with real life context.
- Hold live virtual events that facilitate group discussion.
Create a live event that involves group discussion, debate, and/or further exploration of a particular topic. You can even hold a virtual event that is centered around a document or spreadsheet you've shared with your learners online. Then, you can encourage them to talk about the content and use it as a guide for the group discussion to ensure that they are as productive as possible. You may find valuable the How To Use Google Hangouts For Synchronous Learning article.
- Keep in mind that collaboration tools are also great support tools.
Collaboration tools aren't just ideal for group projects and assignments; they also offer invaluable support for learners. They can quickly and conveniently communicate with their peers if they have a question or concern, or ask for instructor feedback on a project that is overly challenging for them. In many respects, collaboration tools are ideal for learners who may need additional help and support throughout the eLearning course.
- Create assignments based around video chats, instant messaging, and emails.
Develop projects or assignments that encourage learners to chat with one another, either through video discussions or instant messaging. In fact, you may even want to make it a requirement task of the assignment to boost participation. For example, have them carry out reality based scenarios, or ask them to represent opposing sides of a debate topic. Get them talking and interacting with one another to make the learning process exciting and engaging at the same time.
- Encourage learners to work together by creating shared projects.
Upload an assignment that the learners must collectively complete via collaboration tools, so that they can share experiences, feedback, and opinions with their peers. Thanks to technology, learners can leave comments, chat, and discuss topics in real time, which enables them to benefit from the knowledge base and skills of their peers.
- Ensure that everyone is aware of expectations, timelines, and objectives.
Each of your learners should be aware of when projects are due, what role they play in the group, and what the primary objective of the assignment really is. They should be given a general timeline that ensures the group stays on-topic and that everything flows as smoothly as possible.
- Remember that you are the facilitator not an active participant.
As an online educator it is your job to facilitate the learning process, not to become an active participant within it. Your role is to guide the discussion, to pose questions that will trigger meaningful discussions, and to ensure that everything is moving along at a productive pace. If you accomplish this, then the collaboration tools are more likely to become invaluable tools within any eLearning setting.
Regardless of the collaboration tools that you will decide to use while developing your eLearning courses or deliverables, by keeping these collaboration tool tips in mind you will have the ability to take full advantage of the features they offer. Whether you are designing for K-12, private institutions, or corporate training, collaboration tools can provide a number of advantages to your learners.
Looking for free collaboration tools that can help you to make your eLearning course more engaging and interactive? The 5 Best Free Collaboration Tools article highlights the 5 best free collaboration tools and how to use them.