A virtual classroom is more effective if the students learn to collaborate with each other. There is something about social learning that makes any elearning course more efficient and effective. However, online collaboration is not just about meaningful discussions. It is about establishing a relationship with each other – even if it is only temporary. Learning from someone is great but if you are doing it with someone that you have built rapport with, it makes the learning all the more valuable.
Online collaboration is not complicated and there are various activities that you can use to help students bond with each other as they go through the learning process together. Here are 5 activities that you can work on.
Set up a getting to know each other activity.
This is a classic way to break the ice. It can be used across all platforms – even in a virtual classroom. You simply ask everyone to introduce themselves and you can let the conversation start from there. Make sure there is a short introduction included there. Encourage the students to comment on the introductions and converse for a time so they can begin establishing a connection.
Establish group conversations.
If you are working with a big group, you can divide everyone and let them discuss concepts related to the course. Being in a small group will force every individual to join the discussion and keep them from being shy. This will make them feel engaged early on and will allow you to observe their personalities more clearly as they converse with each other.
Create group games.
Another way that you can encourage students to collaborate in the virtual classroom is to create games that they will go through together as a group. Try not to pit individuals against each other. Group them and them let them compete. It makes the learning process more challenging and fun too. You will give them a platform to interact.
Let students evaluate each other.
Somewhere along the learning process, you can pair the students and ask them to evaluate each other. They can use an assessment tool that you can provide or it can be based on their own observations of their colleague. Encourage them to make constructive criticisms with suggestions on how their partner can improve their learning experience.
Use social media.
Finally, you can use social media to get your students to collaborate with each other. Create a Facebook page and transfer the discussion there. It will allow the group to use photos, videos and articles to share their thoughts to the group. Since everyone knows or has a social media account, this should be easy for you to set up. Feel free to use Twitter and even YouTube. Use the social media platform that you think best fits the elearning course.
As you encourage your students to collaborate within the virtual classroom, there are a couple of things that you need to understand. You need to set clear expectations from the group – especially if you will let them discuss amongst themselves. This is to control the conversations and make sure that it is within the context of the course. Provide them with the objectives of every activity and be sure to make your online presence known always. Not only that, give them immediate feedback so you can keep the discussions relevant at all times.
These tips should help boost the collaboration within the virtual classroom. It will not only make your learners engaged in the course, it will also make the learning experience more valuable.
Image courtesy of sheelamohan for FreeDigitalPhotos.net