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Encouraging student collaboration

A module that introduces concepts and strategies around facilitating with strong collaboration skills with students using Zoom.

Global: UNE Moodle
Site: Teaching Online at UNE
Book: Encouraging student collaboration
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Monday, 18 November 2019, 10:45 AM


Some of this content is presented with embedded images. You can download a text only version of this content here.

Collaboration in online environment can be messy, students might not know how to communicate together let alone work as a team, and once technical issues (which can be most prevalent) are added into the mix, it can feel like too much, too hard and not worth the effort.

So why do it?

Haythornwaite (2006) identifies collaborative learning as beneficial as it gives the opportunity for students to build knowledge together and share a variety of perspectives on content related issues and problems. This can add depth and richness to the learning experience. From a social perspective, it can build community online as student engage in peer-to-peer learning. This is often helpful for students studying off campus, providing connection and a sense of belonging. Collaboration also provides the opportunity to build professional skills for students, such as communication, teamwork and critical thinking - all relevant for the workplace today (Kinash, McGillivray & Crane, 2017).

Planning for Collaboration

Planning a good structure including to how you envisage the collaboration will work in the Zoom session is important as it will make the session flow. This includes technical and instructional components. As a online facilitator in the Zoom environment, this also includes the little things like planning how you will give instructions to students for collaboration, as being clear and succinct will signal to students exactly what is expected of them. See the topic ‘Purpose, intent & planning’ and the ‘lesson plan template’ for more information.

Moore's Interaction Types

Moore’s interaction types provides a model for how you can think about planning for collaboration and interaction for your Zoom sessions. The model consider 3 aspects of the learner experience can shape how a learning experience can be structured (Moore, 1989). The three interaction types are:

  1. Learner - Content
  2. Learner - Teaching staff
  3. Learner - Learner.

Please note, this model can also be applied to holistically to the unit you are teaching, or even your face to face tutorials. You don’t need to use all aspects of the model to achieve a collaborative and engaging Zoom session, and you may find that you only cover 1 aspect and still achieve a dynamic and interesting learning experience.

Learner to Content

Some of this content is presented with embedded images. You can download a text only version of this content here.

Learner to content by lking2600

Learner to Teaching Staff

Some of this content is presented with embedded images. You can download a text only version of this content here.

Learner to teaching staff by lking2600


Learner to Learner

Some of this content is presented with embedded images. You can download a text only version of this content here.

Learner to learner by lking2600

This exemplar video explains how ‘learner to learner’ activity can be explained in a webinar.

Please note, this exemplar features break out rooms - which are not recorded.

The importance of a Debrief

The last piece of the puzzle for any learning activity you plan with student is the role of the  ‘debrief’. This is language often used with simulated learning, or problem based learning. The ‘debrief’ can be described as guided questioning aimed to prompt critical reflection or evaluation following a learning experience (Dufrene & Young, 2014). Studies have found debriefing extremely effective for student learning, and the method you use to debrief does not matter (Dufrene & Young, 2014).  

In the Zoom context, this is an opportunity for you to solidify the learning of students through the activity, by discussing what they have learnt, and how it relates to unit content, assessment etc. Your role in this process, is as the facilitator. It is important to give students time to think, reflect and communicate appropriately for debriefs to occur organically.

Start by setting your expectations of how the ‘debrief’ will look following any activity, and have some open ended questions prepared that will foster discussion between yourself and students.

Examples of questions you could ask students to debrief an activity are (depending on of course context):

  • Why do you think that activity was important?
  • How did it help reframe your thinking?
  • What connections does this build from you previously knew on this topic, to now?

This exemplar showcases a debrief a learning activity where students were in breakout rooms. The debrief includes:

  • Getting one team member to report on what the group discussed.
  • Getting a member from the other team to type up discussion notes on the whiteboard.

UNE Teaching Staff Exemplars

The following video showcases strategies UNE Teaching staff use to build interaction and collaboration within the Zoom sessions:

Reflection Questions

The following questions are aimed to help you consider how you could apply these concepts of collaboration into your current teaching practice:

  • How could you apply Moore's interaction types into your next Zoom session?
  • What Zoom tools could you use to encourage collaboration?
  • How will you plan your session to create a collaborative learning experience for students?


Dufrene, C. & Young, A. (2014) Successful Debriefing - Best methods to achieve positive learning outcomes: A literature review, Nurse Education Today, 34 (3), 373-376, doi:

Haythornwaite, C. (2006). Facilitating collaboration in online learning, Journal of asynchronous Learning Networks, 10 (1), 7-24.

Hillman, D. C., Willis, D. J. & Gunawardena, C. H. (2009). Learner-interface interaction in Distance Education: An extension of contemporary models and strategies for practitioners, American Journal of Distance Education, 8 (2), doi:

Kinash, S., McGillivray, L. & Crane, L. (2017). Do university students, alumni, educators and employers link assessment and graduate employability? Higher Education Research & Development, 37(2), 301-315. doi: 10.1080/07294360.2017.1370439

Moore, Michael, G. (1989). Editorial: Three types of interaction, American Journal of Distance Education, 3 (2), p 1-7.