CHAPTER 14 Learning Together Virtually


In the first three editions of e-Learning and the Science of Instruction, we concluded that the research evidence was insufficient to offer firm guidelines regarding optimal use of computer-mediated collaborative learning. However, over the past ten years an empirical research base has grown sufficiently to warrant several principles on when and how to leverage technology for collaborative learning. Optimal learning from online collaboration will depend on appropriate decisions regarding the collaborative group, the technology, and the instructional environment. The principles we include in this chapter address the following questions:

  1. Which types of collaborative assignments most benefit individual learning?
  2. What are optimal group sizes, composition, and individual accountability structures for online work?
  3. When should you use synchronous versus asynchronous collaboration?
  4. Which online features promote group work?
  5. How should facilitators promote social presence in online courses?
  6. What is the best way to set up collaborative controversy assignments?

In the past ten years new technologies, collectively called social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, have exploded in popularity. However, in terms of experimental evidence of what works best in computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL), there remains a scarcity of experimental studies and guidelines on social media.

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