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Facilitating group work online
Collaboration is common in the workplace. Many businesses and work teams are faced with ill-defined challenges that require creative and innovative solutions. These types of challenges often call for groups of people with a range of expertise to share and create new knowledge while working together toward a solution. However, collaboration does not come naturally, and educators are being challenged to prepare students with the skills to collaborate and provide opportunities that highlight the value of collaboration as a tool that will help them think in new ways and become creative, effective problem-solvers.
In the book Strategies for Energizing Large Classes: From Small Groups to Learning Communities, more than 100 instructors using small group activities or working to create student communities in large courses were interviewed on their rationale for using collaborative work in the classroom (MacGregor, Cooper, Smith, Robinson, 2000). Their reasons included:
- Promoting cognitive elaboration
- Enhancing critical thinking
- Providing feedback
- Promoting social and emotional development
- Appreciating diversity
- Reducing student attrition.
In 2009, the National Survey of Student Engagement identified active and collaborative learning as one of the top five benchmarks for effective educational practice. The report states: "Students learn more when they are intensely involved in their education and are asked to think about and apply what they are learning in different settings. Collaborating with others in solving problems or mastering difficult material prepares students to deal with the messy, unscripted problems they will encounter daily, both during and after college."