I remember that my first reaction when I start this online course (my first official MOOC), I point out at the challenges I found in collaborative online learning or work. I call it the group dynamic behavior that is very different in the online courses compared to the classic classrooms. I felt something is missing and it was hard for me to communicate and reach others (that are new for me and never met before). There was no ice-breaking activities to help us understand each other and learn about each other’s character and learning style, which usually we have in the classic classrooms. I think it is important to think about and design the online ice-breaking activities that could help the team members to know more about each other and remove the barriers of how to start and communicate with each other. I think this step will affect the whole process of collaboration and active learning or engagement, which means the interaction between student and faculty and peer-to-peer active learning and collaboration (Chen, Gonyea, & Kuh, 2008; Brindley, Blaschke, & Walti, 2009). That also affects the quality of the learning experience as the as social or group learning help students to develop skills in critical thinking and gain experience from collaboration with others (Brindley, Blaschke, & Walti, 2009). It also help students to gain skills in co-construction of knowledge and self-reflection. I think that is important because students share their experience, knowledge and resources with others, which enrich the learning experience of everyone in the online course. In my opinion that is also a challenge as students get confused with the massive amount of data and resources. So one should think, what is more important, where to start and what they really need to learn. That leads us to another important point, which is finding a mentor or a guide for each student. That is hard especially that online courses or MOOCs usually includes massive amount of students or learners. I thinking we are missing that part in the online courses. As everything else that has pros and cons, the online courses pushing toward independent leering where students feels that they do not need so much guidance or teachers help as they can learn by themselves from the massive amount of data and resources provided. Unfortunately, it reduces the personal communication between people in the same way that cell phones and other digital media do. In that sense, we are losing something, so we have to find a replacement or solution for this problem. At the same time, online courses introduce you to massive amount of people where you can share your opinion or data and get resources. However, the quality learning environments is not the same where we have direct contact with others and easy to ask questions (during or after the lecture) in classic classrooms. Previous research show that learning environments help to gain better learning outcomes such as development of higher order thinking skills (Brindley, Blaschke, & Walti, 2009). Quality learning environments here refers to the opportunities that students have to be able to engage in collaborative and interactive activities with their peers (Brindley, Blaschke, & Walti, 2009).
Brindley, J., Blaschke, L. M. & Walti, C. (2009). Creating effective collaborative learning groups in an online environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3).
Chen, P., Gonyea, R., & Kuh, G. (2008). Learning at a distance: Engaged or not? Innovate, 4(3). Retrieved February 26, 2008, from http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=438&action=article