Collaboration is not an online thing…


So how can we create online collaboration between students?

First of all, I want to emphasize on an important issue when we talk about creating in student collaboration. In my view there is an important distinction between facilitating collaboration and creating collaboration.

Why is this important? I imply that creating collaboration between students will not be dependent on if it´s an online environment or a face-to-face environment. Facilitating online collaboration, yes, this will be dependent on the context and if the learning is done online or not.

Facilitating collaboration is an online thing but creating collaboration is not an online thing…

Many of the Implications for Practice in the articles are in my view about facilitating online collaboration. E.g. “…support to students with technological difficulties.”, “…ensure that the group works effectively through mechanisms for assistance, feedback, and evaluation.”, “Facilitate learner readiness for group work…”

But what is important when it comes to create student collaboration?

First of all students must see the point of collaborating. Here I want to flip back to psychology and studies that shows what makes groups collaborate together.

When groups in a state of conflict are brought into contact under conditions embodying superordinate goals, which are compelling but cannot be achieved by the efforts of one group alone, they will tend to co-operate toward the common goals. (Sherif, 1967. p. 452)

What I mean with this is that we first have to find ways of design tasks that encourage and collaborative learning. Create tasks where the students havet o collaborate to solvet h problem. Creating problems that can not be achived by the efforts of one individual or group.

I think one answer to this question can be found in Brinley, Walti & Blashke (2009) where they discuss the importance of creating tasks that are best performed by a group.

Another strategy that has shown to be effective in creating student collaboration and class integration is the The Jigsaw Strategy (Aronson & Gonzalez, 1988).
In the Jigsaw strategy students are divided into subgroups where they become expert in their own subfield. In the next step of the strategy students teach each other about their special subfield. When the task is complete all students will have both presented their own subfield and learned about other students subfields.

Read more on this strategy at:

Collaboration should of course be done online. But we don’t have to reinvent the theories on how to create collaboration. Let´s translate the theories on how to create collaboration into an online environment.



Aronson, E., & Gonzalez, A. (1988). Desegregation, jigsaw, and the Mexican-American experience. In Eliminating racism (pp. 301-314). Springer US.

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).

Sherif, M. (Ed.). (1967). Social interaction: Process and products. Transaction Publishers.






En reaktion till “Collaboration is not an online thing…

  1. Great post, Marcus! 🙂
    The distinction between facilitating and/or creating collaboration is important.
    One can always argue that collaboration can’t be actually created, assigned or imposed.
    But how do we go about activating those mechanisms that encourage students to collaborate?
    In my personal experience as a teacher, often those straightforward strategies- such as Jigsaw- failed. That’s perhaps because these very structured approaches diminish the possibility for those conflicts (see your Sherif’s quote) to arise and thus promote learning. Is there any alternative?



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