Students need the opportunity to collaborate and work together, and in the online environment this interaction takes place using synchronous and asynchronous tools. Learning can be enhanced by allowing for students to work together in collaborative groups or teams. Effective learning is collaborative and social, not competitive and isolated.
Working with others increases the students' involvement in their own learning, and collaboration with peers can permit a student to share ideas and learning in small or large-group settings. Students can participate in study groups, collaborative learning teams, group problem solving and focused discussions. With direction and focus, online collaboration can be a valuable part to any students' education.
Just as students need the chance to work together, so do educations. Collaborating with other educators can be some of the most meaningful and personal Professional Development teachers can engage in. Social media tools and other communication technologies have permitted teachers to collaborate and network together in ways never before possible.



Students Collaborating With Each Other


  • Discussions
    • Message boards where students and teachers can communicate and collaborate
    • Open to all users, or to a select group

  • Study Buddies / Virtual Teams
    • Students can work in pairs or teams to enhance their learning
    • Time-on-task is encouraged by students having specific tasks to perform
    • Harvard Business School has an online module that explains how to manage Virtual Teams

  • e-Portfolios
    • e-Portfolios can be used for presentations, collaborations or as showcases of students' work
    • e-Portfolios can also be used as an assessment piece
    • Reflection and peer feedback are critical for the creation of e-Portfolios
    • Dr. Helen Barrett's site has a wealth of information about students and teachers using e-portfolios, including a variety of tools to choose from

Networking with Other Educators

  • Twitter
    • Micro-blogging tool that permits users to post mini-messages of 140 characters
    • Can be used to share links, sites, articles
    • Ability to connect with other educators internationally
    • The Twitter handle for Teaching and Learning Online is @TALO_K12
  • Ning
    • A social networking site with a specific focus
    • Many educational sites were set up on this site
    • Formerly Free, now $19.95/year
  • Yammer
    • A social networking site with a corporate focus
    • Participants require an authorized email account to join
    • Basic (Free) / Premium ($5/person)




Research


Friesen, N. (2012). “Defining Blended Learning.” Learning Spaces, August. http://learningspaces.org/papers/Defining_Blended_Learning_NF.pdf
A review of the technical definitions of a blended program, including examples of what blended is, and is not. Through this definition, there must be some face-to-face interaction interspersed with technically-mediated instruction.
Through this definition, Blended learning is "To combine or mix modes of web‐based technology (e.g., live virtual classroom, self‐paced instruction, collaborative learning, streaming video, audio, and text) to accomplish an educational goal."

Lips, D. (2010). How online learning is revolutionizing K-12 education and benefiting students. Washington, DC: The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved from: http://s3.amazonaws.com/thf_media/2010/pdf/bg_2356.pdf
According to this article, online learning has the potential to revolutionize American K-12 education. Online learning in the USA is becoming pervasive, with 45 States having either State-wide online schools or full-time online schools. This article suggests that each state should either create, or expand their state-wide virtual school to allow students to study online full-time. Using the Florida Virtual School as a model, the author points out the intrinsic benefits to online learning: increased access to high-quality teachers, increased flexibility for teachers and students, improved productivity and efficiency and focus on innovation. The author suggests that State Educational Departments should be permitted to collaborate with other states or learning providers to develop and provided online learning programs, rationalizing that through collaboration the best learning environments could be created. He also suggests that relaxed regulations that govern the creation of charter schools (independently managed public schools) would permit more learning options and opportunities. Online charter schools are not permitted in a handful of states, and the author suggests changing the specific legislation to allow these environments to come into being. Even though this article is focused on an American setting, with American legislation, the educational leader could use this resource to better understand the specific realities of online learning, and take to heart some of the suggestions made by the author.