Collaborative Learning Creates Stronger Academic Communities
Collaborative Learning Creates Stronger Academic Communities
In the ever-evolving landscape of education, collaborative learning has emerged as a powerful tool to enhance student engagement, critical thinking, and overall academic success. At the University of Fairfax, collaborative learning is integral to the learning experience of all of our students. Even in our distance learning format, UoF students gather to not only enhance their individual experiences, but also to build a stronger academic community.
Collaborative Learning History and Definition
Collaborative learning is used in every stage of education – beginning the earliest stages in preschool and ranging to now in university classroom settings. Johnson et al explains that collaborative learning happens “when students work together to accomplish shared learning goals” and this can only happen if all students reach their goals. This method engages students with the information rather than trying to force learning through memorization techniques.
However as popular as a tool to education that collaborative learning is, it is still relatively a recent concept for schools to implement within their curriculum. It began in college levels in 1960s England in many different small groups before the term was coined. From there, it wasn’t until the 1980’s for collaborative learning to be widely accepted – born from the ineffectiveness of individualistic education. And since then, it has been proven to be a hugely successful tool for students to reach academic goals.
Benefits to Collaborative Learning
The benefits to collaborative learning are plentiful. According to Cornell University, some benefits include boosting skills like communication, self-management, and leadership, as well as preparing students to enter the workforce and working on teams in their career. Some of the main benefits to collaborative learning are:
- Increase in knowledge and thought – Working with a group of people exposes students to diversity of thought. Students are exposed to viewpoints they might not have considered otherwise, leading to a broader and more holistic understanding of the subject matter.
- Improvement of relationships – Collaborative learning promotes teamwork, communication, and empathy as students collaborate with their peers. As they work together to overcome challenges, they develop a supportive network that extends beyond the classroom.
- Development of interpersonal skills – Effective collaboration requires strong interpersonal skills such as communication, active listening, and conflict resolution. By engaging in collaborative learning, students develop these skills, which are invaluable in academic and professional settings.
- Tailoring management skills – Through collaborative learning, students learn how to assign tasks to members, organize their work, and teach each other. This allows the students to learn not only how to manage themselves and their own tasks, but how to manage their group members as well.
- Strengthens critical thinking – Much like increasing their knowledge, collaboration enhances a student’s critical thinking skills. When students collaborate, they often encounter differing viewpoints and approaches to problem-solving. This challenges them to think critically, analyze situations from multiple angles, and defend their ideas.
How Collaborative Learning Builds a Stronger Academic Community
A community works best when all participants are working together to make it better. Students in group efforts not only are working to better themselves, but they work to better their academic community. Many of the benefits previously listed lend to strengthening the community, and subsequently the school, they are learning from.
- Fostering engagement – Collaborative learning encourages students to actively participate in the learning process, making them more engaged with the subject matter and with their peers. When students work together on projects or assignments, they develop a sense of ownership over their learning outcomes. This extends to the larger academic community, as students become more invested in contributing positively to their educational environment. When students are proud of their work, they want to extend that pride into the school they are working in.
- Diversity of thought and expression – Collaborative learning encourages the diversity of thought so that students learn a more holistic approach with different viewpoints and approaches. This celebration of diversity within collaborative learning spills over into the academic community, creating an inclusive atmosphere where everyone’s voice is valued.
- A supportive environment – Where there is collaborative learning, there are relationships and networks being created amongst students. As students interact and communicate effectively with their peers, they build connections that last beyond their academic journey. This support system enhances the overall learning experience and creates a sense of belonging within the academic community. These connections form the foundation of a robust academic community where students learn not only from the curriculum but also from each other’s experiences and insights.
- Critical thinking – As students are developing their critical thinking skills, they are adding to the academic community. A higher level of critical thinking not only improves student academic performance but also contributes to a more intellectually stimulating academic community where debates and discussions thrive.
Overall, collaborative learning is a powerful tool that goes beyond individual skill development. It empowers students to become active participants, lifelong learners, and contributors to the collective growth of their educational environment.
The University of Fairfax and Collaborative Learning
The University of Fairfax promotes an eLearning environment, where students learn from the comfort of their own home rather than reporting to a campus. And though our students do not meet in person, they do meet regularly through Zoom meetings with their classmates and professors. In these classes, students collaborate with their peers and with their instructors to enhance their education. University president, Dr. Umesh Varma, says, “there is ample opportunity for in-depth, collaborative research with our faculty. Our faculty and advisors are always available to their students and equipped to provide ideas for topics of research within their programs.”
Current Doctorate of Business Administration student, Rayfurd Thompson, describes that his classes are built not only to the satisfaction of the student, but with the student dissertations in mind. Every professor he’s had has taken time in his Sync Sessions to help every student develop their research. His professors have been “great resources, especially in the doctoral program” in assisting him in his education. His educators, like Dr. Lauren VanTalia and Dr. Paula Cherry, have created their classes so that “each course that you take is geared towards helping you develop or identify your research problem.”
UoF alumna, Dr. Cristy Cross, describes that the dissertation process was not an individual event. She was helped every step of the way with guidance from her professors. “It’s a phase program: do chapter one, you have a professor help you look over it… move to chapter two, [professors] help you, to chapter three, and so on…” She said that in her sessions with her peers, she was also able to talk through and “bounce ideas” off of them to better not only her understanding of her topic, but her writing as well. Collaborative learning was constantly in play for Dr. Cross. “It’s really hard to fail in writing the dissertation, and you’re not doing it by yourself!”
Working with our professors helps our students create professional networks they can depend on throughout their educational journey. Our students create long-lasting professional relationships even as they meet through online methods, like Zoom video conferencing. To learn more about how The University of Fairfax helps our students learn collaboratively, go to ufairfax.edu.
The University of Fairfax – Secure Your Future