The Benefits of Collaborative Learning

Many students sign up for online classes out of convenience.  If the class is online that means we can do it on our own time.  We do not have to wake up early.  We do not have to drive to campus.  We can do our classes from the comfort of our homes.  However, the problem with online classes is that I do not feel that I learn much.  Often online classes incorporate a lot of “busy work.”  You read a chapter, you take a quiz, you get an “A,” end of story.  But I wonder to myself, what is the point?  Why am I paying for a class where I do not even learn anything?

Online classes that follow a format that suggests collaborative learning are much more beneficial to students.  Students can actually learn in such classes instead of simply doing tedious work to learn nothing.  In collaborative learning classes, students actually help each other learn.  Students do this by participating in groups and interacting with one another.  For example, students may participate in group discussions.  Now learning does not happen by just submitting a post to a discussion board once a week.  Students must be actively participating in such discussions to get anything out of them.  When students participate in discussions and share their thoughts and opinions, they also are able to learn about other group members’ thoughts and opinions.  Seeing how others look at things can open up your mind to new ideas.

So one may ask if students can learn from each other, then what is the point of having a teacher?  Well, a teacher is necessary to guide students in the right direction.  An instructor must show students how they can get the most out of a collaborative learning type class and make guideline to promote participation.  One way that this can occur is by having part of the students’ grades determined by interacting with each other.  I admit that as a control freak, this is a scary thought in my mind.  However, being forced to work together is a learning experience in its own.

Overall, collaborative learning is a great way for students to absorb information, especially in an online classroom atmosphere.  The bottom line is that students must actively participate in order for collaborative learning to work correctly.


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