Collaborative Learning

Setting up collaborative learning will be of added value for both students and teachers. More information about the possibilities of collaborative learning can be found on the Leiden University Staff website.

Students learn not only from you, but often also from each other. Collaborative Learning is any situation where two or more students are learning together, in collaboration with each other, in an active manner. They do so through analysing each other’s texts, discussions, assessing each other’s work, or completing group assignments.

This strategy is helpful with developing higher level cognition skills such as oral communication, leadership, collaboration and self management. It promotes engagement and exposes the student to different perspectives, encouraging a deeper understanding. 

First considerations

  1. Low tech solutions available; 

  2. Small to Mid sized groups;

  3. Create group roles and agree on expectations;

  4. Set clear goals.


There are many ways you can add collaborative learning to your classroom online, just like you would in an active classroom or working group.

  • Discuss 

    • Write Together (asynchronous)
      In tools like a wiki, or a document on One Drive students can write together in one document, comment on each other and make suggestions, track changes etc. Other options include creating a blog or journal with a comment section.

    • Produce a Podcast or Video (asynchronous)
      Using their own laptop or smartphones, students can create audio or video for a presentation and post it in the learning environment, where other students can give feedback.

    • Forums (asynchronous)
      Platforms like Blackboard, Brightspace, FutureLearn and Coursera contain discussion forums. Students start a thread on a topic, to which others can reply or show their agreement through a like. One discussion forum can contain an infinite number of threads. The teacher can highlight good replies, or choose to summarize the discussion so far and offer new talking points.

    • Video conferencing (synchronous)
      This works best in small groups. As a teacher you are the host and/or the moderator and give the floor to students for their contributions.

    • Chat ((a)synchronous) 
      People can have synchronous discussions with several people at the same time. In Kaltura Live Room, or in any video conferencing tool, students can ask small questions, give a running commentary, or share links, without using voice. Some tools allow the sharing of emoticons and pictures. The teacher, or a student that is appointed in that role, can be the moderator and summarize the discussion in notes.

    • Analyse Text (asynchronous)
      Annotation tools allow students and lecturers to work together on one and the same document. Both students and lecturers can select a text excerpt and start a discussion. This leads to texts being better read and more in-depth discussions than when using a separate discussion platform.

  • Assess each other’s work (asynchronous)
    By asking students to first assess each other’s paper, essay, research proposal or case study, you raise the quality of the final result. Please consult the section on ‘peer feedback’ to review the options in the available learning management systems

  • Deliver a project (asynchronous)
    You can use an environment like One Drive to let students organize themselves in dedicated channels or folders where they can work together on documents, brainstorm on a whiteboard, plan & manage their activities and create artifacts.

Considerations & educational implementation

  • Explain the technology
    Any new technology you introduce for collaborative learning needs an explanation on how it works (providing links to manuals or explanatory video for instance) and how you are going to use it in this particular case. Be prepared to help students on their way with using the technology, and check on them.

  • Set the Climate
    Be clear in your instruction what the role of each student is, and what kind of behaviour you expect from them. Model this behaviour yourself. Make sure that the social mores of your normal classroom are written down explicitly in a place they can easily access.

  • Explain the reason behind the choice for collaborative learning
    It is important for students to know why you have selected this methodology, and what you expect they get out of it. This will increase their acceptance and appreciation. Be explicit on the exact learning objectives you want your students to achieve, not only the what, but also the how.. How can students on the way check they are on the right path?

Relevant links and information

Related tools

Tools support by Leiden University

Blackboard Discussion Forums

BrightSpace Discussion Forums


PeerMark (Turnitin) (20-40 students)

Pitch2Peer - for presentations

Other tools

Wiki systemen

Project Management Tools

Annotatie Tools