Internet and online resources have become catalysts for the contemporary learning style which is paving paths innovative learning opportunities and problem solving techniques (Macdonald, 2003). Collaborative online learning is a methodology to capitalize the sharing of innovative ideas over a platform for distributing the roles systematically. The online collaborative learning approach is suitable in the sense of idea formation, resource utilization, strategy evaluation, time utilization etc.
Virtual classrooms and virtual space can aid in creating a network of students over the online portal. The unprecedented levels of informational technology and skills have made the signature for new tech savvy generation (Smith, 1992). There is a learning revolution empowered by online communication portals.
Some examples of the credible online tools for collaborative learning are MERLOT expanded as Multimedia Educational Resource for Leaning Online Teaching is a resource providing links to online materials in plethora of subjects. Various other portals provide research papers of IEEE and other platforms giving accountable storehouse of information. CLOE, Cooperative Learning Object Exchange is a collaborative project taken up by universities to develop resources that are multimedia rich in nature and are available freely for use in the course teaching and learning purposes. INFOMINE is basically a portal for virtual library of resources relevant to students, faculty, and staff at the level of university. It is a storehouse of electronic journals, databases, electronic books, articles, directories, bulletin boards, online library card catalogs, research papers, mailing lists (Warschauer, 1997) etc. HorizonLive is a leading provider and platform for synchronous frameworks supporting live and web based collaboration under e learning including the features of web conferencing and interactive webcasts. Real time and web based communications can be made effective with its use.
The biggest controversies of the time is to judge the credibility of the internet or online resource present for learning and study purposes. The learners and collaborative societies must have a critical eye to filter the credible resources (Metzger, 2010) and refer them for future study purposes. Most important aspect to consider is the evidence about the authority, knowledge, qualifications and credentials of the author publishing a particular piece of information. Second stage is to authenticate the organization associated with it along with certifications and reviews (Hilligoss, 2008). The author must have peer reviews for credential information sources. The information providing links and the online collaborative portals or libraries should be up to date to avoid any kind of discrepancies in the credible data. There must be a complete list of citations along with page numbers explicitly mentioned. The perspectives of the authors must not be generally biased and must specifically clarify the goals and presenting a fair focus over the topic mentioned. Internal links are preferable in a credential and authentic resource so as to focus over the attention of the author over the potential needs of a reader or a beginner in that subject. There are certain checkpoints that need to be kept in mind in the process of evaluation of the credibility of the source such as the type of source, date of publishing, the sources cited for its reference, objectivity and clarity, the background of the author (Brown, 2007) etc.
Perceived credibility is the sum total of perceived trustworthiness along with perceived expertise (Greer, 2003). Incorporation of social validation, online trustees, and some of the profile based websites is the first step in the path of credible evaluation of online information. Online resources for a collaborative study is are escalating the level of competence and intellect among the users who can collaborate and learn together even after being thousand miles apart.
Online learning predominantly includes self learning or training but this independent work can be transformed into collaborative form to play a valuable role in the process of learning. Shared understanding for a collaborative learning platform is far better than just merely sharing information and therefore, online collaborative portals promote shared understanding by creating a virtual space. Online learning helps in providing a sense of reflection and thinking, promoting differential learning options, the ability to bring people together by connecting them over a common platform etc. There are some of the attributes of online collaborative learning like group dialog, knowledge development, presentation of acquired knowledge and computer mediated communication (Curtis, 2001). Web 2.0 have revolutionized the outlook of collaborative learning by providing unimaginable levels of framework and environment to support collaborative learning. There have been development of free and user friendly tools for promoting collaborative online learning. The portal is for co-creation of knowledge (Reeves, 2004) rather than just sharing and disseminating.
The assessment of the philosophy behind online learning was based over the degree of knowledge construction, willingness of stakeholders to invest further in planning, designing, modelling, implementing and monitoring the necessary, scope of synchronous and asynchronous forms of communication in an online community (Stacey, 2007), innovation of new tools and methodologies in the same field, development of a clear rubrics for collaborative learning model etc. The stages of computer aided collaborative learning are communication, collaboration, cooperation, and community development.
On one hand there are plethora of benefits leveraged out of online collaborative learning but on the same time there is a shady side too attached with it. Collaborative learning is one of the most economical way of leaning and sharing information in addition with provision of innovation. There is an escalated level of responsiveness as more number of resources can be used by the group as a whole. There will be an increased expertise in the group and every individual can gain something from it. With better decision making a lean learning model can be adopted with minimization of waste (Palloff, 1999) so as to get understanding of a broader picture of the changing and dynamic learning environments. In addition to access to a rich content and information storehouse, online collaborative learning groups provide an opportunity to connect and interact with the peers so as to maintain and uphold the level of intellect of the group. Instead of being passive receptors of knowledge and information, learners are active participants in the whole process of learning (Redmond, 2006). In addition to creating a positive learning outcome in the academic background there have been affective, social and ethical escalation from the process of learning. It is a tool for promoting critical thinking skills by active participation, modelling of appropriate problem solving technique, personalization of lectures and tutorials (McAlpine, 2000) and motivation of the whole group under collaborative learning. There is a comprehensive and collaborative development of social support system by building diversity and creating a positive atmosphere for participation and cooperation.in addition there are psychological benefits too that is concerned with reduction of anxiety, development of self esteem and positive attitude etc. With the virtual nature of discussion and communication boards, students tend to be more democratic and free to express their views and thoughts by sharing it with everyone who requires them.
Many a times there is a lack of flexible implementation strategy that kills the uniqueness of every individual and their level of understanding, grasping or learning. There are some point of times in the whole process of collaborative online learning where the decision making can become protracted or complex and a coherent decision (Thorpe, 2002) is far from the sight. This can happen because of lack of a direct form of communication which is taking place just in the virtual space. The quantity and quality of interactivity can vary to a greater limit from one environment to another. One of the great disadvantage is to rely on any individual for information sharing as there is no such proof for the authenticity and credibility of the sources. Therefore, special care should be taken towards verifying the credibility of the sources of shared information. There is a possibility of escalation of faux leaders (Oliver, 1999) within the group to create more tension and complexity in the group. Computer aided collaborative learning should be considered as the panacea of every situation and condition of learning environment. Another aspect is the difficulty in evaluation of the online learning or collaborative group learning as it rises problems for the tutors and the instructors. There can be sometimes uneven distribution of workload and some individuals may get stressed with this form of implementation. Self centered and individual research is abandoned in this model and framework of study as it more likely generalize the diversity of interests (So, 2009) and the ability to produce uniqueness in the knowledge sharing. Artificial discussions are unable to create a holistic impact every time and hence the influential nature of the online learning may be suppressed (Fung*, 2004) by the overpowering nature of the knowledge and the bulk of information having various links to the other websites which may prove to be cumbersome.
Therefore, online collaborative learning portals are the future for the 21st century and computer aided learning is becoming the buzzword for today’s generation. E learning environments are on a hike and critical thinking is enhanced and refined with fast paced transparent learning frameworks. Modelling of such techniques will lead to a bright future and global competitive environments. There will be social, cognitive, psychological, intellectual and every form of growth and development by overcoming all the challenges.
1. Macdonald, J. (2003). Assessing online collaborative learning: process and product. Computers & Education, 40(4), 377-391.
2. Smith, B. L., & MacGregor, J. T. (1992). What is collaborative learning?.
3. Warschauer, M. (1997). Computerâ€mediated collaborative learning: Theory and practice. The Modern Language Journal, 81(4), 470-481.
4. Metzger, M. J., Flanagin, A. J., & Medders, R. B. (2010). Social and heuristic approaches to credibility evaluation online. Journal of Communication, 60(3), 413-439.
5. Metzger, M. J. (2007). Making sense of credibility on the Web: Models for evaluating online information and recommendations for future research. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 58(13), 2078-2091.
6. Hilligoss, B., & Rieh, S. Y. (2008). Developing a unifying framework of credibility assessment: Construct, heuristics, and interaction in context.Information Processing & Management, 44(4), 1467-1484.
7. Brown, J., Broderick, A. J., & Lee, N. (2007). Word of mouth communication within online communities: Conceptualizing the online social network. Journal of interactive marketing, 21(3), 2-20.
8. Greer, J. D. (2003). Evaluating the credibility of online information: A test of source and advertising influence. Mass Communication and Society, 6(1), 11-28.
9. Curtis, D. D., & Lawson, M. J. (2001). Exploring collaborative online learning.Journal of Asynchronous learning networks, 5(1), 21-34.
10. Reeves, T. C., Herrington, J., & Oliver, R. (2004). A development research agenda for online collaborative learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 52(4), 53-65.
11. Stacey, E. (2007). Collaborative learning in an online environment. International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education, 14(2), 14-33.
12. Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (1999). Building learning communities in cyberspace(Vol. 99). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
13. Redmond, P., & Lock, J. V. (2006). A flexible framework for online collaborative learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 9(4), 267-276.
14. McAlpine, I. (2000). Collaborative learning online. Distance Education, 21(1), 66-80.
15. Thorpe, M. (2002). Rethinking learner support: The challenge of collaborative online learning. Open learning, 17(2), 105-119.
16. Oliver, R. (1999). Exploring strategies for online teaching and learning. Distance Education, 20(2), 240-254.
17. So, H. J. (2009). When groups decide to use asynchronous online discussions: collaborative learning and social presence under a voluntary participation structure. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 25(2), 143-160.
18. Fung*, Y. Y. (2004). Collaborative online learning: Interaction patterns and limiting factors. Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning,19(2), 135-149.
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