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As convinced as we are about the power of social learning, not all instructional designers actually practice it. Rarely will anyone design something different from what they practically know, mainly because it is much safer, quicker and easier to go with something that has already been tried and tested. Collaborative elearning activities can provide a fresh approach to elearning. The designing of a successful and unique eLearning course requires creative instructional designers, setting appropriate learning objectives, developing effective content and making it as interactive as possible within the given time and budget.
To enforce eLearning into long-term memory some sort of assessment is required that will give the learners a chance to illustrate how much material they were able to absorb. However, collaborative activities do not follow the standard procedure of developing instructional design. They are designed differently and approached with a completely new perspective and with a different assessment method as well. Here are various dos and don’ts of successful collaborative eLearning activities.
While you cannot always decide the composition of the online group, it can be a deciding factor for the success of collaborative eLearning activities. While heterogeneous groups bring different perspectives, it is much easier to manage a homogeneous group.
Whether asynchronous technology or synchronous technology is utilized, it really depends on the complexity of the material being covered. Asynchronous technology provides a distinct advantage over synchronous technology because it does not require much social presence or involvement, which means it is perfect for the purposes of eLearning.
A surprising number of eLearning candidates will be able to retrieve information from their e Learning courses but when asked to apply newly learned concepts, they will be at a loss. The problem often lies with the design of the eLearning course, where the concept was explained but not its application. This transfer of learning is essential so that eLearners can apply newly learned information in a specific context.
Time is another deciding factor for the success of collaborative eLearning activities. When designing a course, the designer needs to keep in mind that collaborative activities take more time than individual assignments. The best approach is to set a time constraint so that these activities can be completed on time.
Incentives improve the learning experience of eLearners and motivate them to participate more actively. It is important to ensure that the entire group is participating in online discussions and group activities. This can be achieved by making these activities mandatory through intrinsic and extrinsic incentives.
Developing online collaborative activities is not the job of a single person. It is a group effort between the instructional designers and eLearning course developers. The instructional designers are merely responsible for providing a blueprint of the online collaborative activities. They create the content, structure, activities, assessments and eLearning course interface. The remainder of the work is then passed on to the course developers. Instructional designers have to keep in mind that the activities they develop should be presented as an option and the entire content should not be entirely based on those activities.
How the facilitator approaches the activities can either make it a success or a failure, and that is why these activities are optional. The manner in which the facilitator monitors and sparks interesting discussions should not affect the effectiveness of the eLearning content. The entire purpose of these activities is to improve the learning experience of the eLearners and for that reason, it is important to choose a facilitator who possesses the right skills. Since a skilled facilitator is not guaranteed, it is best for the instructional designers to play it safe with the activities and keep them optional.
While formative assessments are the most traditional way to assess the knowledge of eLearners, there are many other effective ways for assessment. ELearning portfolios or peer-to-peer evaluation may be utilized. Special e Learning training is required for the facilitators so they can appropriately evaluate assessments.