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Cooperative tasks are ones where each person contributes their own part of the project through division of labor. Collaborate MEANS THAT each person’s thinking is required to clarify reasoning and construct common meaning (Moore, 2007, p. 144).

Collaborative vs. Cooperative

Collaborative learning can support learners to elaborate, explain and evaluate information in order to re- and co-construct (new) knowledge or to solve the problems (Veerman & Cesareni, 2005). “The essence of collaboration is the construction of shared meanings for conversations, concepts, and experiences” (Roschelle, 1992, p. 239).Communities of practice are characterized by: 1) Meaning:life experience 2) Practice: mutual engagement in action. 3) Community: participation in social settings 4) Identity: how learning changes us (Wenger, 1998, p. 5). “The sum of community knowledge is greater than the sum of individual participant knowledge (Gherardi & Nicolini, 2000).

When exploring important issues, collaborative teams will benefit from Planning a clear direction and purpose for learning. Selecting relevant material. Connecting personal histories to a broader community (Corno & Mandinach, 1983). Cognitive development in any domain is activated in a cultural context (Gardner, 1987). One way that instructors can encourage collaborative learning is to include activities centered around issues of social importance where learners are encouraged to formulate their own point of view (supported by evidence), examine the points of view of others, identify weaknesses in their own thinking and reach consensus that the entire group can support.

Murphy (2004) shares six stages of interaction and collaboration in groups:

  1. create social presence as real people,
  2. articulate individual perspectives,
  3. accommodate and reflect back other’s perspectives,
  4. co-construct new perspectives and meanings,
  5. build shared goals and purposes and
  6. produce shared products (Murphy, 2004, in Moore page 141).

Collaborative learning provides peer support which in turn allows the learner to “internalize knowledge and critical thinking skills and to connect them into tools for intellectual functioning” (Gokhale, 1995, p. 6). Through collaboration enabled by digital technologies, learners can research, reflect, revise and resolve in powerful and meaningful ways. Collaboration between teacher and students or groups of students as well as collaboration between students with each other facilitates the development of social and cognitive presence.

The internet is a point of information and an environment that fosters a collaborative learning environment because of the interactive capabilities it now provide due to technological advances. Internet technologies allow storing, retrieving and organizing vast amounts of information but also allow a level of collaboration between learners and domain experts never before seen (Hazari, 2004).


  • Corno, L. & Mandinach, E.B. (1983). The role of cognitive engagement in classroom learning and motivation.Educational Psychologist, 18, 88-108.
  • Gardner, H. (1987). The mind’s new science. New York, Basic Books.
  • Gokhale, A. A. (1995). Collaborative learning enhances critical thinking. Journal of Technology Education, 7(1). Retrieved July 17, 2009 from http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JTE/jte-v7n1/gokhale.jte-v7n1.html
  • Hazari, S. (2004). Strategy for assessment of online course discussions. Journal of Information Systems Education, 15(4), 349-355.
  • Moore, M. G. (2007). Handbook of distance education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
  • Murphy (2004) In M. G. Moore, M. G. Handbook of distance education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
  • Roschelle, J. (1992). Learning by collaborating: Converging conceptual change. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 2, 235-276.
  • Veermans, M., & Cesareni, D. (2005). The Nature of the Discourse in Web-Based Collaborative Learning Environments: Case Studies from Four Different Countries.Computers and Education, 45(3), 316-336. Retrieved from ERIC database.


  • The "marshmallow problem" is a simple team-building task that uses dry spaghetti, one yard of tape and a marshmallow. The goal is to build the tallest tower: view here
  • Structured Controversy (PDF)