12 Questions to Ask Before Using Collaborative Learning
Instructional Design

12 Questions to Ask Before Using Collaborative Learning

eLearning course collaboration is one of the hardest things to achieve. Without course collaboration, learning is incomplete, as eLearning is an inherently social process. Trainers become overwhelmed at the prospect of engaging course participants. With each batch of learners being more unique, challenging and intellectually advanced than the previous one, trainers and online facilitators soon run out of strategies to engage and collaborate with learners.

In this article, we’ll share the top 12 questions trainers need to ask while revising the course before delivery to boost collaboration.

The best eLearning courses are usually the ones that have been improved in iterations. The answer to these questions are one of the fastest methods to achieve higher quality courses. Also included are a few more questions for learners, to further aid in the eLearning course improvement. Use the following exercise for note taking and final tweaking of the course towards establishing eLearning collaboration:

1. What is the content of this course?

What areas of this content encourage collaborative learning? What areas are surplus? Some pieces of content may need to go, no matter how important they seem. There is a place for the surplus (and seemingly worthwhile) content, and that is the “Resources and Extra Reading” section. Have learners review this section by providing direct links from the main content. But try not to clutter the main content.

2. What are the goals of the small group activities already established for this course?

Do they lead to rich collaboration environments? The best way to ensure that collaboration will be successful is to merge the course goals with your current registered learners’ goals.

3. What are the team sizes for these activities for efficient eLearning collaboration?

Based on the age groups of your learners and their competency level, create appropriate team sizes and composition to ensure that collaboration actually happens in the desired manner and is an improvement.

4. How are groups or teams formed?

Are they formed by the trainer or by the learners themselves? Are they formed based on interests or strengths? Responding to these questions will yield better and satisfying learning experiences.

5. Should teams be homogeneous or heterogeneous?

Research indicates a JIGSAW-style group formation in which high capability individuals are mixed with lower capability ones. This creates a culture of helping, caring and inspiration, and helps all learners learn better.

6. Do the groups remain the same throughout the course?

Or does each activity require different groups? If the course is short, try maintaining the teams throughout the course. Longer courses can benefit from team member shifts. It will help instill better team spirit and leadership skills.

7. How will activities be structured to ensure participation?

Everyone needs a chance to express themselves. When learners submit their resume/introductory email, try to analyze the strengths of each. Create activities that everybody can relate to, identify with and contribute towards.

8. Do the group dynamics lend themselves to labeling groups or individuals with roles?

Identify strong characteristics of your learners and provide roles to them. This way, the peers are more likely to benefit from each other and actually learn more efficiently.

9. Are there any rewards and motivations built into the course?

Think of adding gamification techniques, like points or badges awarded to all members of a group that succeed in a given task.

10. Is there accountability built into the course?

Have learners contribute towards rule-making activities. Give them choices and responsibilities. This will engage them even more into the course, and facilitate active learning.

11. How will evaluation of individuals and groups take place?

Is the evaluation completed by the trainer or by the learners?

12. How will feedback to performance be provided?

Will it be completed by peers or by the trainer? Or perhaps by both? The importance of feedback in eLearning is indisputable, as it helps the learners improve their performance, whether provided by their peers or the instructor.

Trainers and eLearning course facilitators need distinct answers to these 12 questions in order to establish collaboration from day one. Having answers to these questions creates strong leadership and mentoring capabilities in the trainer. In addition, you should also have the learners answer the following questions (in the middle or towards the end of the course) to ensure collaboration:

1. How do I rate myself as a participant in group activities on a scale of 1 to 5(5 being a great team player)
2. Did I make a worthwhile contribution to the group?
3. Did I share my chores in the team?
4. How comfortable was I with the group process on a scale of 1 to 5? (5 being at ease)
5. Did I feel comfortable in expressing my problems and concerns openly?
6. Did I provide reasonable feedback to my peers?
7. How did the collaborative process contribute to my learning goals for this course?

Trainers need to further improve the course for eLearning collaboration, based on the responses by the learners.


Establishing collaboration is an explicit and a deliberate effort. It needs prior planning. Sometimes, collaboration plans need to change according to the group responses. Have a meeting with the eLearning development team to discuss your answers and those of your learners to these questions. You will be surprised at how much easier it becomes to have learners engage and communicate with each other on a regular basis.

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