Online Collaborative Tools
With more colleges and universities making the switch to online learning, they’re being tasked with finding new and innovative ways to keep students engaged, even though they’re not interacting in person. Collaboration in online learning can take many forms, and just as there are different types of students, there are various ways to promote engagement and collaboration within the digital space. Instructors should look for online collaborative tools that are right for the students they work with.
Prior to developing an online collaboration strategy, however, instructors should understand the importance of collaboration in education and ask what is online collaboration to look like. The benefits of collaboration in face-to-face classes are evident, but perhaps even more so in digital learning environments; students need to be able to interact with their peers and instructors. In-person, there are numerous opportunities for organic collaboration. Those working within the digital landscape have to go out of their way to create these opportunities, but they are crucial to the learning process.
By creating spaces for online collaboration, you can better engage students and help keep everybody on the same page. Without a solid framework for interacting with peers and instructors, students can quickly become confused and fail to access critical course material. Additionally, collaborative learning in online classes allows instructors to step back and let students take greater control of their education. Rather than being spoon-fed information, they can learn directly from their classmates. Hearing diverse perspectives can help promote a more positive classroom experience overall.
There are many types of collaborative learning, and what works for one institution may not work for another. For this reason, it’s important to communicate with others in your department to assess student needs and determine what type of online tools would benefit them the most. If you teach large classes, for instance, online group learning can be particularly advantageous, as it allows students to break off into smaller groups for more targeted, direct discussion. On the other hand, if you work within an individual learning model, your students might appreciate online discussion boards in which they can share ideas and comment on their peers’ posts at a later time.
You might be asking, what are online collaborative tools? Despite the challenges associated with online learning, instructors can access a variety of collaboration apps to promote collaboration and make it easier for students to connect. They can use virtual discussion boards, video chat, and other methods of communication to work on group projects and exchange ideas. Contrary to popular belief, online learning can be just as collaborative as traditional learning, provided that instructors implement the right tools. By promoting collaboration between their students, instructors can create quality learning programs that foster growth in more ways than one.
Online lectures are great for conveying information, but in order to truly digest that information, students need to be able to interact with one another, express their thoughts and opinions, and ask questions related to the course material. Online collaboration tools enable them to do just that, and it is for this reason that instructors should look for any and all opportunities to encourage interaction between their students.
Benefits of Collaborative Learning
The benefits of collaborative learning range from the development of leadership skills to increased knowledge retention. By engaging in collaborative learning, students are exposed to diverse viewpoints, which can broaden their perspectives and encourage high-level thinking. One of the other advantages of online collaborative learning is that it allows instructors to remove themselves from the learning process to see how well students are absorbing critical concepts by listening in on their discussions — which can at times help with professor burnout issues. Instructors can then adjust their curriculum or teaching plan to better meet student needs.
Viewing collaborative strategies examples can give you an idea of what good collaboration looks like and how you can strategize for increased collaboration in your digital classroom. You can also look at a distance learning tool to see how they inspire discussion and connection between online students. Harmonize’s online collaboration tools help improve student engagement, spark creativity, and more. With Harmonize, students can sharpen their career-ready skills and access the collaborative tools they need from a single, centralized platform.
Harmonize is unique in that it can seamlessly integrate with your LMS to create an inclusive learning environment for interactive discussions. The platform enables critical thinking and encourages students to stay connected, no matter where they happen to be learning from. For some institutions, it’s the chosen approach for how to increase student engagement in online learning.
As an educator, you can benefit from boosted student retention and engagement in higher education; students can benefit from enhanced opportunities for collaboration with their peers. Unlike some other platforms that rely on clunky, outdated technology, Harmonize makes it easy for students to connect and communicate with each other. This can help create a better classroom environment for all and improve the learning experience across the board.
Collaboration Tools for Instructors
Online collaborative tools for instructors are crucial to the success of online learning programs. But what are online collaboration tools? These technology tools for collaboration include chat, polls, and discussion boards or collaboration boards for students. To learn more about collaborative learning strategies, you can view collaborative learning activities examples or online collaborative learning examples. You might also browse examples of online collaboration activities to get a better idea of specifically how instructors are using online classroom collaboration tools to engage students.
There are many different types of technology, collaborative tools in the digital world, so no matter what your specific needs, you should be able to find collaboration apps and features to enhance your teaching strategy. Harmonize’s collaborative online learning tools are designed to create a better online learning experience for students. They include:
- Q&A boards for students to interact.
- Digital annotations allow instructors to leave feedback on images and videos.
- Discussion boards where students can come together to chat about course-related topics.
- Multimedia capabilities that allow students to embed media and upload files to discussion boards.
- Chat functionality for real-time interactions.
- Polls for assessing student learning and gathering feedback.
In addition to these, Harmonize offers auto-grading, auto-captioning, image, text and PDF annotation, and more. The platform enables students to get the most out of their digital learning experience. As an instructor, you can use Harmonize to monitor student interactions and ensure that course material is being applied effectively. Harmonize goes a step beyond traditional collaboration tools and makes it easy for users to access features in a centralized location. This can help streamline the learning process.
Online Collaborative Tools Examples
When facilitating collaboration in online learning, instructors should consider the students they’re working with and the classes they’re teaching. For example, if you’re teaching a small humanities class, collaborative learning activities centered around large, quantitative-based projects may be less than ideal for your students. You might instead focus on paired discussions and more intimate group projects. Chat is one of the best online collaborative tools examples for collaborative online learning, regardless of the class you’re teaching. It’s a great way to get students involved without requiring that they have their cameras turned on. This can be especially beneficial for students that refuse or are unable to participate otherwise.
Collaborative learning in the classroom can also be facilitated by asynchronous assignments. Students learn pieces of the material on their own and then share their findings with their classmates when they regroup. This collaborative strategy, often known as the jigsaw technique, is a great way to encourage independent learning. Having students report to their classmates what they’ve found is a great way to hold them accountable for their learning and teach them how to effectively convey information to their peers. With this technique, instructors can take a step back to gauge the extent to which students are grasping the course material and step in to make changes as needed.
Creating effective collaborative learning groups in an online environment is among the best collaborative learning strategies for students. Smaller learning groups are ideal for students that learn better when collaborating more directly with their peers. By contrast, those that appreciate hearing a wider range of perspectives may benefit more from larger learning groups. This is why it’s important to consider the needs and preferences of the students you are teaching. While it may be impossible to find a solution that works for each person, you should be able to get a general feel for your class’s preferred learning style based on the type of students you’re working with.
To learn more about collaboration activities for students online, you can look at what your colleagues are doing. Take note of their respective teaching styles, the type of material they’re teaching, and how students respond to collaboration activities. When possible—and especially if you’re a new instructor—it can be helpful to sit in on other instructors’ classes to get a better idea of how online classes work and start thinking about the various ways in which you might promote collaboration among your own students.
Digital scavenger hunts and quizzes are two of the best and most widely-used online collaborative learning activities. They are both fun and educational and engage students in a way that traditional lectures cannot. By incorporating activities like these into collaboration strategies for students, instructors can promote greater collaboration and help students get the most out of the digital classroom setting. To put any of these collaborative learning examples into action, consider the an online tools list of the apps you’ll need to enable students…things like: a whiteboard app, annotate tool, video annotation, image annotation tool, online discussion board, social annotation tools, as well as any other online collaborative tools and processes.
Online learning doesn’t have to be messy and disjointed—leveraging digital collaboration tools, you can keep students aligned on shared objectives.
Best Practices for Student Engagement
Increasing student engagement in higher education is vital to creating and sustaining an effective digital learning environment. By prioritizing college student engagement, instructors can create a more positive experience for everyone involved and help students sharpen their communication skills. It’s important to lay the groundwork for implementing effective engagement strategies in your online classroom.
Many factors affect student engagement online. Lack of access to internet-capable devices is among the top factors negatively impacting students’ success in online courses. Institutions should be mindful of the tech-related challenges faced by students. Poor learning habits and lack of self-motivation should also be taken into account. Many students struggle to keep up with self-paced courses, and so providing additional resources and course delivery methods is important.
When it comes to best practices for student engagement, first consider deploying a survey to students to better understand their circumstances, access, and to determine how to increase student engagement. Your survey might touch on topics related to tech accessibility, communication with instructors, and any learning difficulties they may be facing. The results of your survey can be extremely helpful when developing student engagement strategies and planning activities to engage students in online learning.
If you’re asking how to improve student engagement, some other high-impact tactics include:
- Using emotion-based, multimedia & student-facilitated online discussions for better student engagement in online learning
- Design online collaboration activities like peer reviews and small-group discussions
- Create multiple milestone due dates that guide students through a series of assignments, serving to keep them on track
Different institutions serve different types of students and can benefit from different student engagement techniques. For example, institutions with large class sizes can help get students involved in group projects. Those participating in smaller classes may be put into pairs or small groups for more personal engagement. Small class sizes allow for more one-on-one interaction between students and with instructors.
Regardless of class size, students can benefit from tools for student engagement like chat and multimedia integration. Being able to converse with their peers and instructors can help keep them involved and engaged in course material. Additionally, by incorporating relevant media into their class discussion posts and assignments, they can more easily convey ideas and help their classmates understand complex topics. These strategies promote student engagement and are shown to be highly effective at keeping students motivated and engaged.