Topic outline

  • Collaborative and group learning

    Explore what is meant by collaborative learning.

    Theortical frameworks: Community of inquiry framework (Social presence, Teaching Presence, Cognitive Presence), Gilly Salmon's: 5-stage model and e-Moderating, Diana Laurillard's Conversational Model.

    Tools that support collaborative learning, such as discussion forums/message boards, blogs, virtual class platforms (Adobe Connect/Blackboard Collaborate/BigBlueButton).

    Communities - OLCs/Cops, creating and sustaining, online facilitation.

    Designing activities for collaborative learning.

    Exploring what collaborative learning means for your particular context.

  • Community of Inquiry (CoI) theoretical framework

    The CoI is outlined by Garrison and Cleveland-Innes as:
    An educational community of inquiry is a group of individuals who collaboratively engage in purposeful critical discourse and reflection to construct personal meaning and confirm mutual understanding."

    The Community of Inquiry theoretical framework represents a process of creating a deep and meaningful (collaborative-constructivist) learning experience through the development of three interdependent elements - social, cognitive and teaching presence.

    Social Presence is "the ability of participants to identify with the community (e.g., course of study), communicate purposefully in a trusting environment, and develop inter-personal relationships by way of projecting their individual personalities." (Garrison, 2009)

    Teaching Presence is the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes (Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer, 2001).

    Cognitive Presence is the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2001).


    Garrison, D. R. (2009). Communities of inquiry in online learning: Social, teaching and cognitive presence. In Howard C, et al. (Eds.), Encyclopedia of distance and online learning (2nd ed), pp. 352-355. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

    Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.


    Resources are attached below that expand upon these three ideas.

    Garrison and Cleveland-Innes, Online information about the Community of Inquiry model

  • Gilly Salmon: 5-stage model and e-Moderating

    For computer-mediated communication (CMC), Salmon has proposed a highly practical five-stage model based on her own research (see table below). The first two stages of Salmon's model focus on acclimatising the learner to the online environment and developing a supportive social environment. The third stage 'information exchange' is characterised by learners interacting with course materials and activities online and providing each other with further resources. In the fourth stage, 'knowledge construction', we see learners working collaboratively sharing ideas, posing problems and challenging each other in a spirit of enquiry. The final stage leads participants to take responsibility for and reflect on their own learning. The role of the tutor - the moderator - is essential to the design and implementation - supporting, encouraging, focusing to ensure all learners meet the intended outcomes.

    Stage One:Access and Motivation

    For this first stage, it is critical that the tutor ensures that the learner can easily and quickly access the online conference, often in a VLE. Usually this will be to ensure there are no technical problems, for example, with passwords. Technical support is critical at this stage as the learner can easily become frustrated.

    Simultaneously the tutor needs to ensure that the learners understand the need to put time and effort into the online activity. All the learners will need to know why they are accessing the online conference and what they can receive from it.

    Stage Two: Online Socialisation

    During this stage, learners need to become comfortable in the online environment and to socialise with each other. There are a number of barriers which may inhibit this:

    • the embarrassment of making a mistake in front of other participants;

    • the text-based nature of CMC can be daunting;

    • it is a new and strange environment for many;

    • lack of non-verbal and visual cues.

    Salmon in 'e-tivities' provides a number of online activities that can help new learners in the online environment become comfortable and ready to talk and collaborate online. It is essential to create an environment where learners feel respected and show respect to each other. Salmon states that this stage is over when learners have started to share a little about themselves online.

    Stage 3: Information Exchange

    Usually this stage of the conference is characterised by the fast and furious exchange of messages. The learner will interact with the resources in the VLE such as weblinks, databases, case studies and fellow learners. One of the issues at this stage is information overload and some learners complain about the messiness of the conference.

    The role of the tutor is to give some structure and to keep things organised. It is critical that the tutor does not respond to all messages at this stage but summarises and focuses the online discussions. Some learners at this stage may move away from the 'social' stage but it is essential that it remains for some, for example, through an online student cafe area where students can discuss without the tutor.

    Stage 4: Knowledge Construction

    The main focus is building an online community focusing on learning, at this juncture. The tutor will be relating messages back to concepts and theories and encouraging other learners to respond. The tutor will be summarising but also moving the group along to new subjects and topics when appropriate. At this stage, the tutor may also be sharing the leadership with learners.

    Stage 5: Development

    It is at this stage where we clearly see Salmon's link to constructivism. The online learners are taking responsibility for their own learning and becoming more confident and critical thinkers. The focus is on high-level learning with the tutor encouraging the learners to discuss concepts and ideas at a deeper level.


    More information

  • Diana Laurillard's Conversational Model

    Professor Diana Laurillard, Chair of Learning with Digital Technologies at The Institute of Education, University of London, and formally of the Open University in the UK, is one of the leading researchers in the application of technology to learning and teaching. Laurillard developed a conversational model, based on earlier theories of Vygotsky, in which dialogue between tutor and student is seen as central to learning. Laurillard stresses that, for higher level learning, dialogue must take place at both a theoretical and practical level. This not only enables students to link theory with practice (which is sometimes difficult to achieve in many subjects), but also allows the tutor to evaluate whether or not he or she has set appropriate tasks for the student.

    One of the major characteristics of this model is the way in which the student and tutor interacts. In face-to-face teaching, many of these interactions are so spontaneous and intuitive that they can be overlooked in the design of technology supported teaching. Therefore Laurillard made these interactions explicit. Technology can support these interactions in the following ways. It can be:

    • narrative - this involves the telling or imparting of knowledge to the learner;

    • interactive - this is based on the outcome of the learning. The tutor provides feedback to students based on the outcomes of tasks students undertake in order to help consolidate learning and improve performance;

    • In addition, the tutor uses this information to revise what learning has occurred and, if necessary, change the focus of dialogue (adaptive);

    • Communicative/discursive - the tutor supports processes where students discuss and reflect upon their learning.

    • The tutor and student agree learning goals and task goals, which can be achieved using 'productive' media, such as online presentations.

    More information

    A full account of this theory, Laurillards' Conversational Framework, is in her book, 'Rethinking University Teaching'.

    There are now two versions of the model.

    The original concentrated on the exchanges between the 'teacher' and 'learner', while the revised model also includes 'other learners'. This last addition is very significant in terms of e-learning using a social constructionist approach.

    The original (version 1)An interactive model explores various e-learning technologies in terms of the conversational model. This does a nice job of providing guidance as to the type of technology that can be applied to the achieve the desired communication outcomes or to match the teaching situation.

    Ref: The original source of this animation (in Flash and no longer available) was

    A revised model (version 2). The revised conversational model as it applies to e-learning technologies was covered in her inaugural lecture at London Knowledge Lab (26/2/2008). This extends the framework to include student to student communication as is increasingly being incorporated into contemporary online learning designs.

    conversational model
    Diana's powerpoint file is well worth looking at. There are also speech notes attached to many of the slides as well (seen when viewing with 'notes pages') but the slides have numerous animations that only make sense when viewed as a slide show. The best approach would be to have a printed copy of the notes pages and then view the powerpoint as a slideshow. The powerpoint file available from:

  • Facilitation Resources

    These two online articles provide some guide for facilitators:

    What do you think of the suggestions made in each? Will these work as-is in your teaching situation? what would you adjust/do differently?

  • Collaborative Learning Communities (course module)

  • Communities of Practice Links and References

    Resources by Etienne Wenger:
    Communities of practice - a brief introduction
    A survey of community-orientated technologies

    Smith, M. K. (2003, 2009) 'Communities of practice', the encyclopedia of informal education

    Tu, Chih-Hsiung (2004) Online Collaborative Learning Communities: Twenty-One Designs to Building an Online Collaborative Learning Community, Libraries Unlimited, Greenwood Publishing Group Inc. USA

    Brook, C. & Oliver, R. (2003) Online learning communities: Investigating a design framework, Edith Cowan University, Australian Journal of Educational Technology 2003, 19(2), 139-160. AJET 19

    Garrison, D.R. & Anderson, Terry (2003) E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Framework for Research and Practice, RoutledgeFalmer, Taylor & Francis Group

    Situational-Learning Community of Practice for Educators

    • Text-based tools for collaborative and group work

      A number of online text-based tools can be used for collaborative and group work.

      Discussion Forum: for asynchronous communication where participants post text based messages (sometimes with attachments) at different times and reply some time later. Messages are arranged in 'threads' of the conversation. Multiple users can contribute to the discussion forum at one time, each with their own 'message'. These can be used for near real-time exchanges or over a longer period of time. Depending on the system, posts to a discussion forum will become un-editable after a given period of time (e.g. 30 minutes). Discussion forums are frequently built into LMS such as Blackboard and Moodle. A vast number of forums are available on the internet on a plethora of topics that are based on standalone systems such as phpBB or on large providers like that of Yahoo Groups.

      Text Chat: for synchronous communication, where students can talk to each other in real-time by typing. Many users can speak at almost the same time but individual contributions appear as they are submitted in sequential order (they do not follow threads). Logs of the chat room activity can normally be kept. These logs are not editable.

      Some examples of text chat tools include Internet Relay Chat services, Moodle chat, MSN/Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo messenger, the text chat feature in Skype, the Facebook chat module and the chat pod inside Adobe Connect.

      Wiki: participants (students and teachers) can write and contribute to a document together. This can occur quickly or over an extend period of time, however more then one user cannot edit a document at once. The document(s) remain editable for all time, but a permanent record of changes is available from the 'History' tab. Depending upon the system different versions of the document can be compared, often with changed elements of text highlighted.

      The best known example of a wiki is Wikipedia which runs on a platform called MediaWiki. Other wiki systems also exist and have been integrated into LMS such as Moodle and Blackboard, however these are less fully featured than the likes of MediaWiki.

      Blogs: a blog is intended for individuals to write extended articles (for example a reflection or opinion piece or a response to an issue). Other students can then comment on this work creating a two-way flow of asynchronous communication.

      Basic blog features are included in Blackboard and Moodle with more comprehensively featured blogging platforms such as well known WordPress available as standalone systems. A large number of blogging platforms and services exist on the internet including,,, and the micoblogging service

      Depending upon the system features these these can be attached to user profiles (i.e. in Moodle) set up for individual users as assessment items (i.e in Blackboard) or attached to groups (i.e. in Blackboard). In Moodle a plug-in module written by Open University, UK that will provide a course level shared Blog - see ).


    • Multimedia collaboration tools

      Multimedia collaboration tools

      Video/Audio Conferencing - These primarily use a video and audio connection between two sites (sometimes more) to transmit moving images and sound between groups or individual participants. The earlier specialised video conferencing facilities and systems were often expensive to set-up and run. These days specialised systems are still available but attempt to offer high-definition video and high quality audio to cater for groups of people at either end over dedicated connections. The Internet can be used to deliver largely the same functionality using commodity hardware and software at a much reduced cost. Examples of low-cost internet based video conferencing can now be done with formally text-based real time chat software that now include video and audio chat capabilities. Examples include MSN, Yahoo messenger and Skype (which started as a telephone-over-the-internet system. Such Internet based telephone services are becoming increasingly popular).

      Screen-sharing/remote access applications - These allow a user to share their computer screen with others over the internet. This can involve the receivers passively watching the action on their own screen or include the capability for them to take control of transmitter's computer. This may require software to be installed on both computers or be connected to a particular online service that acts as an intermediary, in both cases the consent/permission of the target computer user(s) needs to be given. Screen sharing can be used to help others with a computer problem, show or demonstrate a series of tasks, edit a document together or to perform operations on a remote server. Examples of remote control/screen share software includes pcAnywhere, RealVNC and TeamViewer, with software such as Skype also including the capability to share screens. Online services also exist such as, and

      Virtual classrooms - These can facilitate many to many interaction using a range of media channels (voice, text, images). While other software such as Skype and MSN chat have many to many functionality virtual classrooms are designed with a classroom teaching situation in mind. These systems have a number of additional features including the ability to upload powerpoint slides, share and edit a virtual whiteboard, share a webpage or application on a users 'desktop' (own computer screen) to the group, chat using text, voice and webcam, allow participants to vote, take surveys and express moods and other status indicators. The virtual classroom system also has facilities to manage exchanges such as 'put up your hand' cues and the ability for the teacher to assign 'speaker' status to participants. Some also have 'break-out rooms' that participants can move into for small group activities before re-joining the main group.

      Some examples of virtual classroom systems are below which you can try yourself.

    • Example Learning activities

    • e-Learning Guides at UQ