Collaborative learning supports instruction through interactive methods or online communication using social media tools such as chat rooms and discussion forums, and video tools such as webinars and webcasts. These tools can be implemented in online and classroom learning environments to support a course of instruction. They permit a number of students to work together with an instructor or facilitator and they also permit student-to-student peer learning, for example, a student can share his/her insight about how to solve a complex problem. This active exchange of discussion and ideas promotes critical thinking and problem solving. Collaborative learning can be synchronous, when learning occurs in real-time, or asynchronous, when learning does not occur in real-time.
Collaborative learning tools include:
Chat Room. A synchronous tool in which a virtual meeting space is used to facilitate instant communication among instructors and students. Users must be present and can type their messages simultaneously, and their messages appear immediately on a screen in the chat room.
Discussion Forum. An asynchronous tool in which students can post and reply to comments published by an instructor or other classmates. Students reply on their own schedule and do not need to be present while posts are being submitted. It permits interaction and collaboration through threaded discussion postings.
Wiki. A web page on a particular subject that students can collectively contribute. They can prepare, write and post content directly to the page and it can be revised with updated information that appears instantly, unlike traditional printed material that may take a considerable amount of time to write, edit and publish. Students can subscribe to the wiki to receive periodic updates on a subject.
Webinar/Webcast. A tool that delivers an educational session online using streaming video to distribute content to learners. A webinar is synchronous—a live educational session that permits interaction. Students are directed to a specific website to view the video. A webcast is asynchronous—a recorded educational session that can be selected and replayed by students. It can be accessed through a website or embedded in an e-Learning course.