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Promoting interaction in online distance education: designing, implementing and supporting collaborative learning

Sebastian Strauß (Faculty of Philosophy and Educational Research, Ruhr-Universität Bochum , Bochum, Germany)
Nikol Rummel (Faculty of Philosophy and Educational Research, Ruhr-Universität Bochum , Bochum, Germany)

Information and Learning Sciences

ISSN: 2398-5348

Article publication date: 29 June 2020

Issue publication date: 27 July 2020




Against the background of empirical research on computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL), the purpose of this paper is to advocate implementing collaborative learning activities into online distance education courses to engage learners in interactive knowledge construction. This study uses empirical evidence to illustrate how educators can integrate collaborative learning and designated collaboration support into their instructional design.


This study presents a general review of research literature from the field of CSCL to highlight productive interaction between learners as key learning mechanisms, summarize core features of collaborative tasks, which promote interaction between learners and present group awareness tools and collaboration scripts as two complementary approaches to support groups during collaborative learning.


Empirical research suggests that collaborative learning is an effective learning activity and that incorporating collaborative learning into online courses benefits learners in terms of learning and social aspects such as social presence. However, to leverage the potential of collaborative learning, careful instructional design that promotes productive interaction between students is necessary.


This paper provides an overview on the topic of collaborative learning and how meaningful interaction between learners can be fostered. Specifically, this study details how collaborative tasks can be designed and how collaboration support can be used to provide students with opportunities for interaction that fosters acquiring new domain-specific knowledge as well as collaboration skills. To allow educators to design and incorporate collaborative learning activities into their own online teaching, the authors provide a theoretical basis for understanding the mechanisms behind effective collaborative learning as well as examples and practical considerations.



This article is part of the special issue, “A Response to Emergency Transitions to Remote Online Education in K-12 and Higher Education,” which contains shorter, rapid-turnaround invited works, not subject to double blind peer review. The issue was called, managed and produced on short timeline in Summer 2020 toward pragmatic instructional application in the Fall 2020 semester.

Funding: This research was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (grant number: 16DHL1012).


Strauß, S. and Rummel, N. (2020), "Promoting interaction in online distance education: designing, implementing and supporting collaborative learning", Information and Learning Sciences, Vol. 121 No. 5/6, pp. 251-260.



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