Week 4: Overview

Site: RRU Open Educational Resources
Course: OER-Facilitating Learning Online (Fundamentals) [version retired April 2020]
Book: Week 4: Overview
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Tuesday, 19 January 2021, 12:32 PM


Week 4 Overview


Collaborative learning has the potential to greatly enrich the learning experience. Groups of learners can work more efficiently to build shared knowledge and to deepen the understanding of complex topics. 

The success of collaborative learning often hinges on employing appropriate strategies that acknowledge the stages of group development and respond to potential conflicts. Determining appropriate “instructor presence” is an ongoing challenge as the needs of online learners change as they move through the course.

As learners move through an online course, they learn and develop confidence in the course environment, understand the nature of participation expected and required, and, hopefully, take leadership roles in group activities. With appropriate facilitator support, they will also develop their skills at working together to accomplish targeted learning outcomes.

Facilitator interventions may include monitoring and responding to the direction of online debates and discussion and modelling positive ways of posing challenging, thought-provoking questions.

Weekly Activity

During this week, you'll be guided through an online learning activity by a team of your peers in FLO.

Focus for the Activity

Based on real situations that occur in collaborative learning, this week’s case study highlights some of the issues that can arise in online teams of learners. Through analysis of the conflict between team members in this example (extrapolated from email records), you’ll have an opportunity to identify the group dynamics involved and propose responses.


This activity is intended to help you recognize the potential impact of team dynamics and plan responses that will help groups learn together more effectively.

Facilitating Online Teams

Cooperative, collaborative or team-based learning is accepted as an effective learning strategy in both online and face-to-face learning environments. In the following short video, RRU faculty member, Doug Hamilton reflects on what has surprised him about students learning together in teams:

Doug Hamilton (1:01)

Glover’s article (2000) looks closely at the value of group work in online environments and applies Tuckman’s Five Stages of Community Development to online group processes.

In teaching in an online MBA program, Lam et al (2005) share their observations of virtual team dynamics, articulating in particular the patterns of collaborative behaviour that help distinguish between poor and high team performance.

Team learning or online group projects present their own set of challenges. In the online course, group dynamics, communication, and conflict can be difficult to discern. Generally, people are quite polite in online teamwork; however, there can be sub-currents that can impair the group's effectiveness to work cohesively. The two-page pamphlet from Royal Roads University, Team Based Learning (located on the Read and View page) provides some tips on how to recognize when a team is in trouble.

All the same dynamics that are at play in Tuckman's Five Stages of Group Development are still at play, but they are just more challenging to track in the online environment. Tuckman's five stages might not happen in sequence, or in every group situation, but understanding the dynamics involved in these different stages helps online instructors anticipate and plan for issues that might arise when students are engaged in team learning.

What happens when conflict occurs between online participants? How does an instructor diagnose, manage, and help to resolve the situation? The Dool, R. (2007, February) article and the short video clips from RRU faculty - all found in this Overview book - provide some solid advice on how to deal with team conflicts that may arise in online environment.

Insights from Experienced Faculty: Working With Teams

Doug Hamilton (3:02)
Jen Walinga (:34)

Advice on Working with Teams

Jen Walinga (1:58)
Alicia Wilkes (1:48)
Doug Hamilton (2:05)

Read and View

The following optional readings and videos are provided as references for the topics discussed in this week's Overview. 

  • Collaborative Online Research and Learning, "Tuckman Stages of Group Development". 
  • MIT, Human Resources, Learning & Development, "Using the Stages of Team Development".
  • Dool, R. (2007, February). Best practices: Mitigating Conflict in Online Student Teams. eLearn Magazine, 2007(2), 2.
    Note: This article directly addresses the issue of conflict in teams. It gives effective, solid strategies based on experience.
  • Lam, W., Chua, A., Williams, J.B., & Lee, C. (2005). Virtual teams: Surviving or thriving? Proceedings of the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education Annual Conference, Brisbane, Australia (pp. 357-360).
    Note: This article is written by faculty who have a strong focus on team work that contributes to as much as 50% of student grades. Some good strategy suggestions for helping teams perform well together.
  • RRU - CTET. (2008, Fall). Team Based Learning. Tools for Teaching (T4T) Tipsheet, 1(3), 1-2.
    Note: This tip sheet is a short and sweet strategy document.
  • University of New South Wales, Learning to Teach Online - From COFA.online Gateway - Learning to Teach Online project