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Group Leadership in Online Collaborative Learning

Group Leadership in Online Collaborative Learning
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Author(s): Agnes Kukulska-Hulme (The Open University, UK)
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 8
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.ch149


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Online collaborative learning emphasizes student activity and is associated with changes in perceptions of who is responsible for leading groups of learners. It raises questions about the roles of teachers and students as leaders. A teacher may act as the guide or as a member of the group and a co-learner. An important question is whether the success or failure of online collaborative learning depends on the role and skills of a group leader. There is reason to believe that online groups do need guidance, but there is a need to consider the extent to which instructors make students aware of their roles, and the degree to which they are tangibly present in an online environment. A related issue is the skill set of the online leader, variously known as the online moderator, facilitator, coordinator, and so on, depending on his or her role. In actual fact, there may be different ways in which group participants contribute to leadership and numerous ways in which teams of teachers share responsibility for leading online groups. Group leadership should always be considered in the context of a range of factors that impact group dynamics. It is useful to be aware of the different philosophies that underpin online discussion and group working, the tasks in which learners engage, and the skills that instructors and students have or need to develop. Self-direction is a pivotal concept for the consideration of emergent leadership in online groups. Other important issues are leadership styles, social roles, relationships and norms, as well as the tools and media that may play a role in how collaboration is experienced by learners.

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