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Roles of Instructors and Students in Collaborative Online Learning Environments

In Collaborative Online Learning environments, instructors and students have different roles compared with the ones that they have in traditional classrooms. In online settings, instructors become guides and facilitators of learning experiences for their students and students have more flexibility and control in their learning process.

Instructor’s Role

The main role of online learning facilitators is to create an effective teaching and learning environment, accepting responsibilities such as contributing with special knowledge and insights that promotes discussions between participants, keeping track of the discussions, and maintaining harmony in the group.

When facilitating online courses, instructors have to:

  • Facilitate the understanding of content and promote critical thinking and discussions among students.
  • Create a friendly environment that encourages human relationships, group cohesiveness and unity, and promote collaborative learning among the members.
  • Set the agenda for the course, considering objectives, timetable, procedural rules and norms.
  • Make participants feel secure and comfortable with the platform or software that is being used for the course. This can be achieved by offering tutorials at the beginning or before the course starts.

Additionally, facilitators should demonstrate honesty, flexibility, empathy and accessibility to the students’ group to make them feel comfortable and compensate for the lack of physical and face-to-face interaction among them.

Student’s Role

Generally speaking, online students are adults with busy schedules that cannot attend universities or educational institutions to receive classes at a specific time and space. Therefore, they find online learning the solution for continuing with their education as they can study at their own pace, anywhere and any time.

Online learners have to assume active roles to succeed in their learning process. Some of the qualities they should have are:

  • Be open-minded with sharing educational, work and life experiences, with the participants of the course as part of the learning process.
  • Be able to communicate and express through writing as dialogues and discussions in online courses are written communication.
  • Be self-motivated and self-disciplined with the online process. Students must be responsible and committed to their learning to get the best from the experience.
  • Be prepared to tell to the facilitator if there is any problem, either technical, personal or with the content of the course.
  • Be able to commit time (four to fifteen hours) during the week to achieve learning.
  • Be able to accept critical thinking and decision-making based on facts and experiences as part of the learning process.
  • Be prepared to test and challenge their own and other’s ideas that have been posted in the computer conferencing.
  • Be able to work with others collaboratively, as there might be group assignments.

In addition to the characteristics mentioned above, online students should keep in mind that they have the responsibility to find their own way in the learning process and this is only possible if they have confidence in themselves as independent and self-directed learners.

To conclude, instructors and students share the responsibility for successful online learning environments. There must be a commitment from both to work collaboratively and to get the most from the learning experience.

Therefore, to have successful online learning environments, instructors and students should share responsibilities. They must be committed to work collaboratively and to get the most out of the learning experience.