cooperative learning online

Cooperative Learning Online

One of the purposes of this site is to provide a starting point for exploring good pedagogy in the use of technology-enhanced instruction. A useful place to start such an investigation is with cooperative and collaborative methods. In general, cooperative and collaborative learning are instructional approaches in which students work together in small groups to accomplish a common learning goal.  Advocates do not suggest that they be used exclusively, but should supplement a variety of active learning approaches. 

Cooperative learning has been called one of the biggest educational innovation of our time and represents a research-based best practice for instruction.  More than 300 studies have found achievement gains attributable to cooperative methods when compared to  methods in which students work alone or competitively ( Ellis &  Fouts, 1997 ). 

Cooperative learning online differs from traditional classroom-based "group-work," in that most models adhere to the following principles:

Students work and learn together online in small (2-5 member) groups.

  • Their task is carefully designed to be suitable for online groupwork.

  • There is positive interdependence - cooperation is necessary for students to succeed.

  • Students are individually accountable for learning and participation.

  • Attention and online scaffolding activities support interpersonal/cooperative skill building.

  • The role of the online instructor shifts from being the "sage on the stage" to "the guide on the side."

For online cooperative learning to succeed, great care must be taken in structuring online learning activities. To explore cooperative and collaborative approaches in greater depth see:

Cooperative Learning online is often confused with collaborative learning. To read about the differences see:

Building Bridges between Cooperative and Collaborative Learning

References (adapted from)

Ellis, A. & Fouts, J. (1997). Research on Educational Innovations.   Eye On Education. Larchmont, New York. 


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Created by Alexandra M. Pickett Aug 19, 2010 at 11:52am. Last updated by Alexandra M. Pickett May 20, 2020.


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