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Collaboration in Online Communications

Collaboration in Online Communications
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Author(s): Albert L. Ingram (Kent State University, USA) and Lesley G. Hathorn (Kent State University, USA)
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 5
Source title: Encyclopedia of Distance Learning, Second Edition
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Patricia L. Rogers (Bemidji State University, USA), Gary A. Berg (California State University Channel Islands (Retired), USA), Judith V. Boettcher (Designing for Learning, USA), Caroline Howard (HC Consulting, USA), Lorraine Justice (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong) and Karen D. Schenk (K. D. Schenk and Associates Consulting, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch045


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Collaboration and cooperation have become firmly established as teaching methods in face-to-face classes (e.g., Johnson, Johnson, & Smith, 1998). They are also rapidly becoming widespread in online teaching and learning in both hybrid (mixed traditional and online) course and distance courses. The methods are likely to be most effective if they are firmly grounded in how people actually work together. Some groups collaborate more successfully than others. Frequently, instructors may place students into groups in the expectation that they will collaborate without a clear idea of what collaboration is or how to recognize and encourage it. We must define what we mean by the terms, both so that we can use the techniques successfully and so that we can research them accurately. In addition, we must distinguish between groups in which people act independently from those who act collaboratively. As Surowiecki (2004) has pointed out, when all the results are aggregated, a large number of people acting independently may give a more accurate solution to a problem than an expert. Interdependent groups may often produce results inferior to the results obtained by their best-performing members or may be affected by a “groupthink” mentality.

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