What is collaborative learning?

Do you ever compare your grown-up working life to your school days? If you do, you might be struck by how important teamwork is in most workplaces, compared to the ‘learn (and be tested) as an individual’ style of your student days.

Over recent years, that disconnect has been diminishing. Increasingly, education is now built around the same principles of collaboration and co-operation as workplaces. And – in parallel with the shift towards a knowledge-based 21st century economy – digital platforms play a central role in this.

In this week’s blog, we look at the key principles of collaborative learning, and assess how a solution such as IT WORX’s WinjiGo maximizes them.

What is Collaborative Learning?

Collaborative learning means grouping your students – in any number from pairs upwards to small teams – so that they can work and learn together.

It means that – rather than being ‘taught’ – they are asking one another for information, evaluating one another’s ideas, monitoring one another’s work and so on.

Collaborative learning can take the form of numerous techniques, not necessarily involving digital techniques. The ultimate aim is that students benefit in ways that traditional learning doesn’t enable them to.

What characterizes it?

Collaborative Learning requires:

–  Interdependence – a commitment to ‘all being in this together’.

– Input – every student has to contribute.

–  Interpersonal skills, such as communication, trust, listening and even compromise.

What are the benefits?

Collaborative learning brings four main benefits:

1    It’s about active involvement, not passive study. And it’s proven that students learn best when they’re active, and exploring a topic rather than just absorbing it.

2    Equally, the best learning is that which is focused on the student, more than just the content.

3    Students don’t only learn and develop from their teachers. Sometimes they learn just as easily and readily from their peers – if not more so. By creating opportunities for this, collaborative learning adds to traditional teacher-led instructional methods.

4    A fundamental trait of collaborative learning is problem-solving as a team. This is an indispensable life skill.

There are other benefits too, less direct but just as valid. These include the fact that collaborative learning builds self-esteem and responsibility in students. It also enhances their satisfaction with the learning experience, and can even improve student retention.

How does digital learning help?

Digital platforms and collaborative learning are a perfect pair.

Firstly, digital platforms like WinjiGo enrich collaborative learning. Through techniques and features such as forums and chat functionality, gamification and badge awarding, they dramatically open up the potential ways that students can learn together, and add new, exciting and engaging dimensions.

Secondly, they extend collaborative learning. No longer does a group of students need to be physically together to learn as a team; now they can be virtually together. This means that learning can take place at times and location that suit students.

Finally, they enhance the ways that teachers and students can interact and use collaborative learning. A teacher can be involved in the learning process in numerous ways, and they can also monitor and assess performance using dedicated and dynamic tools.

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