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Problems in Collaborative Online Learning Environments

In online learning environments, participants can work collaboratively on the same task or assignment, giving different points of views, ideas, comments and life experiences, producing and promoting individual and group knowledge. To do so, they communicate with others through emails, instant messaging, and forums; send different data; search on the internet; read different information; among others.

Collaboration is feasible thanks to technology and the Internet. But, once you start participating, you might come across someof the following issues or problems: Information Management, Time Management, Communication Anxiety, and Technical Problems.

Information Management

You might have the feeling of information overload because of the number of messages that are produced and posted daily by participants on the forum. In addition to reading the contributions, you will also have to read articles and assignments, as well as the documents and information found on the internet. This amount of information contributes to the information burden of the online environment. Course strategies such as limiting the size of the messages, working in small groups, logging on daily to read notes, narrowing your internet searching, or instructor’s interventions to help refocus the discussion are possible solutions to this problem.

Later in the training or course, you will find your own and best way to deal with infoglut (information overload). For example, you might choose to scan the discussion threads and focus just on the notes that call your attention and that are of interest to you. The conferencing system that is being used can also affect how the information is organized. Some platforms organize the information in threads that make discussions easy to follow, while others display the messages in the order that they were posted.

Time Management

It is normal that you will spend more time in online courses than in traditional classrooms. One reason for this could be the fact that you are excited about the online world as a new way of learning, which empowers you to explore and navigate through the environment. Another reason is that discussions can take longer and be deeper in online environments than in the face-to-face classroom with its time constraints.

Once you get used to the online environment, you will organize your time and establish the hours a day that better work for you to dedicate to the course.

Communication Anxiety

This is common in new users. Since the system may be new for you, you might feel anxiety because you have not received any direct feedback. But, you should remember that while there may be no direct responses to your message, your ideas might be incorporated in other responses. Moreover, you have to consider that in asynchronous systems participants work at their own time, which means that they will probably answer your message later and not immediately.

Technical Problems

These problems depend on the platform or LMS/LCMS (Learning Management System/Learning Content Management System) that is being used. Most of the time, these are related to how to use and access the system, how to connect from different places, and other computer related problems. In most cases, you will get the technical support information to contact them when you need them. Also your instructor or staff members will be there to help you.

As an online learner, even more if you are a new user, you might confront these problems at the beginning of your collaborative online courses. After the course has started you will get used to it and will find your own way to feel comfortable with the experience of working in these collaborative learning environments.