The importance of collaboration in higher education

The importance of collaboration in higher education
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One of the biggest concerns students have when it comes to online education is losing the experience of interacting with their peers and professors because collaboration is often so integral to success in their future workplaces. In the past, online learning platforms have struggled to recreate these interactive environments that students value so much in traditional classes, but new technologies are now addressing the issue and created a collaborative online environment. 

Advances in technology, particularly with respect to videoconferencing, have changed the way courses are taught online. Learning management systems like Moodle now allow professors to build courses with real interactive elements, ranging from message boards and group wiki pages to real time streaming video and collaborative assignments and presentations. Much of this technology is open source and allows for developers to continue building add-ons that facilitate interaction. 

As education continues to shift towards online learning, a collaborative environment becomes more and more important for a number of reasons.

1. Online Communication is a must-have skill

Even if a student is not active on social networks or doesn’t even have a Twitter account, online networking is still a skill that they must develop to become linchpins at their future companies. By being thrown into a collaborative, online environment of education, they are forced to adapt to a new style of communication and productivity. This is first hand experience that is invaluable as one progresses through their career.

2. Enhance Team Project Management

A collaborative, online environment inspires team building and group project management. This is an aspect of traditional classrooms that online education needs to replicate because of its importance in the real world. If done right though, an online environment can be more beneficial because such a workspace calls for self-starting minds and leadership because no professors are there to coach or guide a team along.

3.  Open door for collaborative creativity

An open work environment inspires creativity and new insights into projects that may not have been available otherwise. Integrating a platform such as Google docs into workflow allows team members to make suggestions on the fly and brainstorm around information that is already on display. Without an environment like this in an online space, students cannot fully benefit from the collaborative aspects of online learning.

Online learning continues to evolve, but as it grows collaboration must be at the forefront of the evolution. Collaboration, networking and face-to-face communication are the key benefits to traditional education and for this experience to be replicated, online collaboration must be present. Online programs are now integrating video classes and study sessions into their platforms… This is a big step because online learning is no longer a solo venture, but rather an opportunity for professional development fit for the 21st century.

About the author: Harrison Kratz is the Community Manager at MBA@UNC, the new distance learning MBA degree program at the University of North Carolina and sticks to his entrepreneurial roots as the founder of the global social good campaign, Tweet Drive. Feel free to connect with him on Twitter, @KratzPR!

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JohnnieSpoons's picture
Community Member

As a father of a student who is getting her graduate degree online, I agree with your article. She was very disappointed to not be involved in a traditional classroom, but the classes do have bulletin boards and she recently met with some classmates in person to work on a joint project which was helpful.

key logger free's picture

Now learning online can be a good experience as there is ample resource to find on any subject and also interactive with others to work on the projects.
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kingadd's picture

That will be helpful for furture's work .

Yannick Warnier's picture

There are several nice open-source tools which already match that description, with different levels of customisation required to cover all of them, but the "standard" first choice of Moodle might not be the best option. Chamilo's got social common interest groups, RSS reader to link to your blog, and all the classical LMS features (and it's GNU/GPLv3)

Terri Main's picture

Uh... Hello!!!!! I've been doing this for a decade in our online classes. Frankly, my online students do as much, if not more collaborative work, than my face to face students because they are not limited to MWF 10-11. They can collaborate whenever whether synchronously or asynchronously.

This isn't exactly new. True online educational professionals have engaged students in conversation and collaboration since the 1990's. Only the correspondence school on the web types didn't.