Care, Communication, Support: Core for Designing Meaningful Online Collaborative Learning


  • Heather A. Robinson
  • Whitney Kilgore
  • Scott J. Warren



care theory, collaborative learning, instructional design, online learning, student support


The purpose of this study was to identify emergent themes regarding higher education instructors’ perceptions concerning the provision of collaborative learning activities and opportunities in their online classroom. Through semi-structured interviews, instructors voiced their teaching experiences and reported specifically about the online collaborative opportunities offered in their online classrooms. A multi-phase coding process was used to analyze the information, including the constant comparative coding method for theme and category development. The three main themes that emerged from this study are: online communication approaches matter, challenges and supports for online collaborative learning, and care is at the core of online learner support. In the online classroom there are additional considerations included in developing successful online collaborative learning beyond group work, including additional time and nurturing, scaffolding, instructional design, and understanding students’ comfort level working together online. The findings of this study are discussed and recommendations are provided for the development and design of meaningful online collaborative learning.


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Special Conference Issue: AERA Online Teaching and Learning SIG