Facilitating 21st Century Collaboration in Online Coursework

Concurrent Session 10

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Teaching collaboration is necessary for university students.  Online learning can be used to facilitate coursework collaboration.  In fact, online learning accurately simulates collaboration in today’s technologically motivated workplace.  Session attendees will have have a first-hand look at two instructors’ work to make an asynchronous course a highly collaborative endeavor.


Dr. Talya Drescher is an Assistant Professor of Special Education at California State University, Channel Islands. She has over a decade of experience as a K-12 special educator in Los Angeles area public schools. Her areas of research include co-teaching in pre-service programs and the use of mixed reality simulation in post-secondary education.

Extended Abstract

Teaching collaboration skills is necessary for university students, regardless of their field of study.  Students across disciplines need collaborative practice in university coursework because, regardless of their professional goals, collaboration with colleagues, community members and/or others will be a workplace reality.  Online learning does not need to hinder the collaborative process in coursework. In fact, online learning accurately simulates how many professionals will face collaboration in the workplace in today’s technologically motivated world.  Group work in online classes are a way to promote professional social skills, encourage a strong collaborative work ethic, and the practice can be infused in courses across disciplines.

A collaborative, fully online, collaborative task was developed to address the required standards for this course.  Due to the collaborative demands of the teaching profession, technology was considered to encourage collaboration among group members.  

The collaborative assignment consists of four phases in which students select a disability topic of interest.  They then select an interviewee who is either a person with the chosen disability or a family member, friend or educator of someone with the specified disability.  Students are placed into similar disability-type groupings. Using a Google Form, students in the class submit an annotated bibliography of a peer review research article related to the disability topic. The Google Form populates a spreadsheet including all class members’ work which is available to the class as a whole.  After reviewing the annotated bibliographies, groups develop interview questions, with questions justified by the group’s research found in the annotated bibliography spreadsheet. Groups work collaboratively in Google Docs established by the instructor to narrow down the list of questions; the question protocol is then used by all group members.  Individual group members interview one person about the disability and then share their interview transcription with their group mates. Individuals perform a qualitative analysis of the interview data and identify themes across all interviewees. Analyses are shared and based on the identified themes, groups merge similar themes for final presentation.  Based on the identified themes, each group identifies related community resources to share with the class. The assignment culminates with a group presentation in which groups present their interview questions, qualitative analysis of transcripts, the resulting themes with supporting quotes, and resource guide.

Session attendees will have an opportunity to have a first-hand look at two instructors’ work to make an asynchronous course on disability in society a highly collaborative endeavor for their students by examining the related components and a sample final student project.  Additionally, the presentation will include background to the course in terms of typically enrolled student demographics, complex required program and course standards, and a detailed look at how group work was incorporated and executed in the course. The presentation will show establishment of groups to promote collaboration, how the instructor educated students on the technology needed to successfully participate in groups, group feedback mechanisms, technology utilized in the group project and a sample of the final group project.

Upon completion of the presentation, session participants will reflect on the session content as it relates to their own teaching and learning practices.  During the reflection period, mirroring the use of collaborative documents in the project, participants will fill out a Google Form including their ideas and contact information (optional) so that session participants will have an opportunity to extend their presentation experience into their field and teaching practices with colleagues attending the session. During the question and answer session, participants will be encouraged to share their thoughts generated during the reflection period so that together, the session leaders and other participants can brainstorm questions that are specific to individual course needs.  The resulting Google spreadsheet will be shared among participants to foster continued conversation.

The intended outcomes of this session are:

  1. To discuss the importance of collaborative coursework.

  2. To demonstrate the use of various collaborative methods of integrating technology to teach collaboration in an online course.

  3. To show a sample of a collaborative group culminating project in a fully online course.

  4. To engage session participants in conversation leading to potential uses for this type of collaborative coursework across disciplines.