Collaborative Learning in an Online Classroom

Learning in an online classroom is much different from a traditional classroom. The lack of face-to-face contact in an online learning environment can make it difficult to for learners to get to know one another and work together. The learners will more than likely never meet one another during their time together during the course. Due to the lack of face-to-face interaction, it is extremely important for the instructor to promote and create opportunities for the learners to work together and learn from each other.

There are several strategies that an instructor can use in order to ensure collaboration exists in the online learning environment. The key is to provide opportunities for the learners to become engaged with one another so that a learning community exists. Think about ways in which you, as the instructor, can create a learning environment in which the learners get to know each other and work together, just as they would in a traditional classroom setting.

For this week’s discussion question think about ways in which you, as the instructor, can create a learning environment in which collaboration is encouraged and exists. Think about experiences you have had in an online learning environment in which collaboration was implemented by your instructor. Discuss three-five different strategies and/or activities that an instructor can implement in an online learning course in order to promote collaborative learning. The learning resource for this week is provided below in order to help guide you. You will also need to find one outside resource to support your answer with this discussion question. Use the link to the provided rubric to ensure you are meeting all of the requirements.

Click on the “comment” link at the bottom of this post to complete your discussion posting for this week. Your posting is due by Friday of this week.

Required Resource:

Book Excerpt: Palloff, R., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
(Palloff, R., & Pratt, K., Promoting Collaborative Learning, Building Online Communities). Copyright 2007 John Wiley & Sons Inc. Used with permission from John Wiley & Sons Inc. via the Copyright Clearance Center.

•Chapter 8, “Promoting Collaborative Learning”




Preventing Plagiarism in the Online Classroom

Plagiarism in the online classroom has become an extreme problem due to the endless amount of information available on the internet as well as the fact that most students do not have any face-to-face interaction with the instructor or classmates. Instructors have to be aware and prepared for preventing plagiarism from occurring as well as detecting it when it does. “Watson and Sottile (2010) have reported that cheating online can manifest in a number of ways including students who: (1) submit others’ work as their own, (2) receive/send answers from/to other students (by texting, using instant messaging, talking on a phone) while taking a test or quiz, (3) receive answers from a student who has already taken a test or quiz, (4) copy other students’ work without permission, (5) knowingly plagiarize from an article or book, or (6) use a term paper writing service” (Cabrera, 2013).

What plagiarism detection software is available to online instructors?

There are several different types of software available for instructors to utilize in order to detect and prevent plagiarism in the online classroom. Anti-Plagiarism, DupliChecker, PaperRater and Plagiarismchecker are a few of the plagiarism software detectors available to instructors to ensure that the students are not copying information from the internet. “As it is shown by the growing educational concerns, plagiarism has now become an integral part of our digital lives as technology, with the billions of information it gives us access to, led to the exacerbation of this phenomenon” (Pappas, 2013). Unfortunately due to the fact that it is so easy to copy information, from the internet, it is important for online instructors to have the resources to detect it and prevent it from happening.

How can the design of assessments help prevent academic dishonesty?

There are many steps that instructors can take to limit plagiarism from occurring through the design of the assessments. One way that can help reduce the problem is by assigning group assignments. “For a project to be truly collaborative, each group member should be familiar with everyone else’s work, and be able to describe how every group members’ contribution supports the whole group assignment. Students who are using the work of others may not be able to adequately describe the significance of their ‘own’ work, or how it integrates with the group’s overall project” (Cabrera, 2013). A student would have a much more difficult time explaining someone else’s work opposed to his or her own work as it applies to the group assignment. Instructors can also provide a mix of subjective and objective questions on assessments so that the student is not just answering multiple choice questions but is having to explain his or her thinking. Using objective assessments makes it much easier for students to cheat opposed to subjective questions where they are having to explain the reason and show their understanding of the goals and objectives.

What facilitation strategies do you propose to use as a current or future online instructor?

The facilitation strategies I propose to use as a future online instructor to decrease plagiarism are objective questioning, group projects, assigning projects that require presentations, discussion questions as well as having students submit a plagiarism form.  Presentations encourage students to go deeper than answering objective questions and can also provide hands on experience that would not be applicable in multiple choice or true and false questioning. “To further scrutinize work on the presentation, students may be asked to include time for questions and answers. Students who have developed the presentation should be comfortable answering a range of topic-related questions” (Cabrera, 2013).

What additional considerations for online teaching should be made to help detect or prevent cheating and plagiarism?

An instructor should take the stand point that plagiarism and cheating will occur and take measures to prevent it before is does. In the event that it does, a plagiarism software detector should be in place so that the instructor can stop it right away. Often times, allowing the students to choose his or her topic for an assignment or project will help decrease the chances of cheating and/or plagiarism from occurring. In this respect, the student has a level of interest and will more than likely take the time to produce his or her own work. ”



Top 10 Free Plagiarism Detection Tools For Teachers

Tips to Reduce the Impact of Cheating in Online Assessment



Impact of Technology and Multimedia

What impact does technology and multimedia have on online learning environments?

Technology and multimedia, if used correctly, can turn a learning environment into an authentic way for students to get real world applications. “Research literature throughout the past decade has shown that technology can enhance literacy development, impact language acquisition, provide greater access to information, support learning, motivate students, and enhance their self-esteem.Indeed, researchers have affirmed that computer technology provides abundant opportunities for students to build or modify their personal knowledge through the rich experiences that technology affords” (O’hara &  Pritchard, 2014).  Technology and multimedia in a learning environment offers ways to meet the needs of different learning styles while creating hands learning opportunities.

What are the most important considerations an online instructor should make before implementing technology?

One of the biggest concerns to take into consideration prior to implementing technology in an online learning environment is the comfort level of the instructor. “The effect of technology on students’ access to knowledge is determined by the pedagogical knowledge and skill of teachers. Technology enables teachers with well-developed working theories of student learning to extend the reach and power of those theories; in the absence of these powerful theories, technology enables mediocrity” (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, 2005).  It is extremely important for the instructor to be comfortable and knowledgable using the technology that is being provided to the learners. It is also important for the instructor to know the level of comfort amongst the learners as well as their background knowledge. Technology should also be value added in terms of meeting goals and objectives in the learning environment. There should be a reason that it is being used other than to just use it. The technology and multimedia should add to learning environment opposed to just being there because it is available or fun.

What implications do usability and accessibility of technology tools have for online teaching?

As I mentioned in my previous comments, the instructor needs to ensure that every learner has access and knowledge of the technology tools that are part of the learning environment. A survey at the beginning of a course or class should be sent out in order to determine that every student has access to the technology that is needed to take part in the activities and assignments as well as the knowledge and experience needed in order to use the technology.

What technology tools are most appealing to you for online teaching as you move forward in your career in instructional design?

There are so many options for instructional designers in terms of technology and multimedia. A few of my favorites are dreamweaver, moodle, filemaker and voice thread. As an instructional designer, it is important to consider the instructional models to determine the best fit.

I found a five step model that helps to ensure the best technology and multimedia is being used in order to meet the needs of the learners and the goals and objectives of the learning environment.


  1. “Consider – will this application/tool enhance, improve instruction or motivate learners? What similar applications/tools are there to consider?
  2. Review/revisit the learning objectives for the course or lesson
  3. Identify the content student needs to learn – review, augment and/or update content with web site, text-book, video lecture, PDF articles or other
  4. Assess the ed-tech application/tool – will it encourage students to apply the content and learn the material, construct knowledge and promote critical thinking?
  5. Select and implement the best application. Create concise instructions of how-to use tool. Allow time for learning of tool and learning of course content” (The Twenty Eleven Theme, 2012).




Setting Up an Online Learning Experience

What is the significance of knowing the technology available to you?

It is extremely important for the instructor to know the available technology so that he or she is able to utilize and enhance the learning environment by using what is available. It is also important for the instructor to know what technology is available for the learners so that assignments and projects can be catered around the availability. Prior to setting up the online classroom, the instructor must have first hand knowledge of the available technology as well as how to use the technology to maximize the learning environment. It is important for a new instructor to keep the technology tools to a minimum in the beginning so as not to become overwhelmed. “But it is vital that you only add tools only as you are ready. If a tip suggests a tool that is not available to you are not quite ready for, simply adapt the tip as makes sense to you and come back to it for further consideration the next time you are teaching the course” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).

Why is it essential to communicate clear expectations to learners?

Clear expectations are extremely important in any educational situation. I teach third grade and spend the first month of school going over the expectations so that my students eventually become natural in meeting the goals. Clear expectations are an essential success factor for both the instructor and the learner. The expectations for discussion posts and assignment deadlines should be provided to students prior to the first day of class as most students have access a day or two before the class begins. Due to the lack of face to face interaction, the instructor should make sure he or she provides answers to questions that may arise so that the students know exactly what is expected of them throughout the course. Organization and communication are key for both the success of the learner and the instructor.

What additional considerations should the instructor take into account when setting up an online learning experience?

The instructor should get to know the learners as soon as possible.  He or she should reach out to them through email or phone calls prior to the start of the course. Once the course has started the instructor should begin getting to know each of the students and establishing expectations and communication while implementing a community of learners. Determining where each student is from as well as their background knowledge will help aid the instructor towards tweaking his or her delivery to meet their needs.  While the online syllabus should consist of a framework of expectations,  welcoming the students, as people who you are interested in getting to know and mentor, is vital.  There is nothing worse than taking an online course in which you feel like you are not an important part of the learning environment.
Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Online Learning Communities

How do online learning communities significantly impact both student learning and satisfaction within online courses?

Online learning communities are essential for student success and satisfaction. Students need to opportunities to engage with other learners in the environment in order to understand the importance and impact of team building as well as learning from each other. The facilitator plays an important role in creating a positive learning community and must plan ahead to ensure that this is achieved. “The students need to be informed that others in the community will be just as important as the instructor, if not more so at times” (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011).

 What are the essential elements of online community building?

The essential elements of online community building begin with the instructor setting the tone right from the start and letting the students know that the course will consist of student engagement amongst instructor and classmates. “This tone can be sent by an initial email from the instructor or by having the first activity of the course by and icebreaker introduction that requires learners to learn about and interact with one another in a unthreatening manner” (Conrad & Donalson, 2011). The six basic elements of online community building consist of “value, transparency, metrics, engagement, conversations and culture” (Peacock, 2013).

 How can online learning communities be sustained?

An online learning community is essential to the success and satisfaction of each learner. Once the instructor has implemented a learning community, it is imperative to ensure that it continues throughout the course. There are four phases of engagement that an instructor should take into consideration to ensure that a positive learning community is in place throughout the course. An instructor should provide opportunities in which learners are placed in groups to perform tasks that require participation from each learner in the group. “After establishing an appropriate climate for engagement to occur in Phase 1, the instructor becomes a structural engineer who is responsible for organizing and facilitating the growth of the student as a cooperative participant” (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011).

What is the relationship between community building and effective online instruction?

Effective online instruction is required in order to establish a positive community within the online learning environment. The instructor is the key to this happening. “The most important role of the instructor in online classes is to ensure a high degree of interactivity and participation. This means designing and conducting learning activities that result in engagement with the subject matter and with fellow students” (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011).



 Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction (Updated ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


Project Management and Scope Creep

A project manager must be prepared and anticipate changes or last minute unexpectancies.  Even an excellent project manager, however, will be dealt with unlikely events or changes during the course of the project design that will often times cause scope creep.  “Project managers have been plagued by scope creep since the dawn of project management. Managing scope creep in project management is a challenging job that needs clearly defined, documented and controlled specifications.Scope creep – also known as feature creep, focus creep, creeping functionality and kitchen-sink syndrome – can sneak up, morph and destroy a project” (University Alliance, N.D.).

I was faced with a challenging project when I coached a Odyessey of the Mind team. The members of the team were seven boys, ages 10 through 12. The boys had chosen their problem for the competition and we had all agreed upon meeting times and commitments. I had factored in costs for the supplies to build the structure in order to practice the problem. Each member of the team had a different responsibility that was important towards solving the problem for the competition. A few weeks before our regional competition, I had a team member who found out he was moving. Due to the rules and regulations of Odyssey of the Mind, if a team member drops out of the team, they are not able to be replaced. This meant we had to go to competition with one less team member and basically restructure our problem. The scope of the problem the team was solving would change and jobs would have to be modified in order for it to work. We had been working together on this problem for almost eight months. I began to scramble for ideas on modifications and realized I would have to spend more money on the project than anticipated and we would need to meet as a team at least three times a week in order to complete the changes to prepare for competition.

I honestly had not anticipated this and was not prepared for the changes that occurred due to losing a team member. I should have been more prepared and anticipated changes such as these in the beginning. “Even when there’s a clearly defined project scope, you still have to beware of scope creep. This phenomenon generally tends to occur when new features are added to product designs that have already been approved, without providing equivalent increases in budget, time and/or resources” (University Alliance, N.D.).