Collaboration

Teamwork where teams report out
Students are divided into teams with a leader designated for each team. They apply course concepts to solving a problem the instructor has given them and report to the back to the instructor and/or the entire class. Other students may or may not be encouraged to comment on the final solutions of other teams. Bulletin boards, e-mail, chat, and even telephone could be used to facilitate this at a distance.

Peer assessment
Students may be asked to complete an assignment that will be assessed by their peers through a tool such as the course bulletin board or e-mail (i.e., in Electrical Engineering students are given three problems to solve. Answers involve the use of mathematical equations and several variables. Answers are turned in to the instructor for grading and passed on to another student for comment.) This is an effective learning assessment tool when conditions are such that there is "no single right or wrong answer", when several methods may be used to solve a problem or address an issue.

Reading and collaborative discussion
Students are asked to read certain material and then come up with a set number of questions. They are directed to post the questions to a bulletin board or chat site and then to collaboratively address the issues. They can be split into teams or work on it as a whole. The instructor usually monitors this type of collaborative discussion lightly. The instructor can redirect if students need to refocus, or settle disputes, or add a comment to lead them in a new direction, or simply encourage them. If enrollment is large team captains can be chosen. The team captain position can rotate according to which lesson they're on, or sometimes a person will captain for a number of lessons and then switch, according to how many are enrolled.

Mentoring
Students are matched up with an expert who is local to them. (The mentors are approved by the course instructor.) That expert then serves as a mentor to the student, facilitating an instructor-designed learning experience. For example, there might be a counselor education course where students need to experience group counseling firsthand. By being paired with a local psychologist, the student could participate in such an environment in a way that would otherwise be difficult to simulate at a distance.

Networking
Students are asked to contact or describe someone they admire in the field, and the assignment is structured so they learn how to make contacts and report back on their experiences. On a more simple level, students could network with other students in their class to learn more about the rich experiences they each bring to the course.

Jigsaw
Jigsaw is good for teaching complex concepts that have a number of pieces. For a basic Jigsaw activity, you would separate students into "expert" groups. Each "expert" group is assigned a different piece of the concept to present to the rest of the class. The class first meets to discuss their individual learning needs. Then each group member goes to his or her "expert" group. In the "expert" group, the students work on ways to present their piece of content effectively so that the rest of the class "gets" it. Once their presentation is ready, the "expert" groups teach their concept to the class. You can assess this learning activity through peer review or through a quiz that shows the success of the individual presentations within a group. Jigsaw is a good way to ensure individual responsibility while using collaborative learning.

Communications


Guided discussion forums
This is structured around a bulletin board or chat tool. The instructor can come up with various topics of discussion and post them at strategic points in the course timeframe. Points are allotted for class participation. Instructors are encouraged to monitor lightly and sum up key points at the close of discussion. Role playing or debate can be useful frameworks around which to build discussion.

Interview
Students are asked to interview an expert in the field of study and draw up a report on it. They can post the report to a bulletin board or chat area, they can turn in hard copy, or they can be guided to collaborate on their findings. The interview can be guided in various ways by the instructor, i.e., preset questions or suggestions can be introduced. The interview can be by phone, e-mail, or face-to-face. (Permission waivers must be completed by the interviewee.)

Guest lecturer
The instructor invites a noted expert to speak at a designated time in a "conference" session. For example, an expert can be asked to monitor a bulletin board session for as long as a week, engaging once a day for an hour or two, or whatever time frame suits. Topics can be sent to students ahead of time or discussion can be guided by other parameters.

Pen pals
Students become pen pals with someone outside of the class and communicate regularly with that individual, either by handwritten letters or e-mail, in order to learn more about the other person and his/her experiences or to gain practice communicating in this manner. Such activities are especially popular in foreign language classes where students get to practice their language skills and also learn more about each others' cultures.


"Ask an expert"
Students are asked to write a letter (handwritten or e-mail) asking a question of someone of influence in the field, i.e., a government official, an editor at a publications company, etc., using concepts and ideas relevant to the course. A copy of the letter, and the expert's response, is submitted to the instructor.

Open forum
Students attend an open forum area and share their opinions and experiences on an "unmonitored" basis. Points may be given for class participation.

 

Students-as-teachers
Students are given a simple teaching assignment that does not require a degreed or certified representative to teach. The concept of teaching is built into their assignment in such a way as to make them actually apply the methods they've been studying.


Polling, debates, and fishbowls using "CourseTalk"
CourseTalk is a Web-based tool for course discussions (similar to a news group or bulletin board). The tool can be used for specific instructional purposes (such as polling, hotseats, and fishbowl exercises), or for general classroom communication. Users participate in discussions by posting messages via the Web. The Web-based conversations are organized and monitored by faculty or assigned moderators.