A Systematic Review of Research on Online Learner Collaboration from 2012–21: Collaboration Technologies, Design, Facilitation, and Outcomes
Keywords:Online Learner Collaboration, Virtual Collaboration, Systematic Review, Collaboration Design, Collaboration Facilitation, Collaboration Outcomes
Online Learner Collaboration (OLC) supports the development of knowledge and skills through social construction. In this systematic review of research spanning a decade, authors examined 63 articles for publication patterns, participant and context trends, and research methodology trends using an online learner collaboration framework consisting of the following elements: collaborative technologies, design, facilitation, and outcomes. The higher education context and education discipline had the most research conducted on OLC among the studies reviewed. All three research methods (quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods) were used equally in the articles. The most commonly used technologies for OLC were learning management systems (LMS), discussion boards, writing tools, and synchronous tools. The most commonly used collaborative methods were group projects and discussions. The most common grouping size was small groups, and groups were commonly formed through random assignment, based on criteria, or student-formed. Instructors mostly assumed roles as designers, facilitators, supporters, and evaluators during OLC. Increased learning, communication and collaboration skills, and relationship building were the top three opportunities that OLC offered. Time, technical issues, and anxiety/fear/stress were challenges that appeared most frequently. Most of the research on OLC focused on cognitive and affective outcomes. The review has implications for online instructors and instructional designers who design and facilitate collaborative online courses.
*studies used in this systematic review
Abid, A., Kallel, I., & Ayed, M. B. (2016, September). Teamwork construction in E-learning
system: A systematic literature review. In 2016 15th International Conference on
Information Technology Based Higher Education and Training (ITHET) (pp. 1-7). IEEE
*Adwan, J. (2016). Dynamic online peer evaluations to improve group assignments in nursing e
learning environment. Nurse education today, 41, 67-72.
Alahmari, A. A. (2019). A mixed methods study of the implementation of collaborative technology tools for enhancing collaboration and student engagement in online learning: Faculty experiences and student perspectives. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global: Illinois State University
Altowairiki, N. (2021). Online collaborative learning: Analyzing the process through living the experience. International Journal of Technology in Education, 4(3), 413-427. http://dx.doi.org/10.46328/ijte.95
Alzain, H. A. (2019). The role of social networks in supporting collaborative e-learning based on connectivism theory among students of PNU. The Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 20(2), 46-63. http://dx.doi.org/10.17718/tojde.557736
*Arndt, S., Madrid Akpovo, S., Tesar, M., Han, T., Huang, F., & Halladay, M. (2021). Collaborative Online Learning across Borders (COLAB): Examining intercultural understandings of preservice teachers in a virtual cross-cultural university-based program. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 35(2), 281–296. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02568543.2021.1880994
*Aydin, I. E., & Gumus, S. (2016). Sense of classroom community and team development process in online learning. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 17(1), 60-77. https://doi.org/10.17718/tojde.09900
*Barra, E., Aguirre Herrera, S., Pastor Cano, J. Y., & Quemada Vives, J. (2014). Using multimedia and peer assessment to promote collaborative e-learning. New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia, 20(2), 103-121. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13614568.2013.857728
Bernard, R. M., & Rubalcava, B. R. D. (2000). Collaborative online distance learning: Issues for future practice and research. Distance Education, 21(2), 260-277. https://doi.org/10.1080/0158791000210205
Biasutti, M. (2017). A comparative analysis of forums and wikis as tools for online collaborative learning. Computers & Education, 111, 158-171. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2017.04.006
Borokhovski, E., Tamim, R., Bernard, R. M., Abrami, P. C., & Sokolovskaya, A. (2012). Are
contextual and designed student–student interaction treatments equally effective in distance education? Distance Education, 33(3), 311-329. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2012.723162
Bower, M. (2011). Synchronous collaboration competencies in web‐conferencing environments–their impact on the learning process. Distance Education, 32(1), 63-83. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2011.565502
Capdeferro, N., & Romero, M. (2012). Are online learners frustrated with collaborative learning experiences? International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 13(2), 26-44. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v13i2.1127
Chan, T., Chen, C. M., Wu, Y. L., Jong, B. S., Hsia, Y. T., & Lin, T. W. (2010). Applying the genetic encoded conceptual graph to grouping learning. Expert Systems with Applications, 37(6), 4103-4118. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eswa.2009.11.014
Cherney, M. R., Fetherston, M., & Johnsen, L. J. (2018). Online course student collaboration literature: A review and critique. Small Group Research, 49(1), 98-128. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1046496417721627
*Cheng, X., Nolan, T., & Macaulay, L. (2013). Don’t give up the community: A viewpoint of trust development in online collaboration. Information Technology & People, 26(3), 298–318. https://doi.org/10.1108/ITP-10-2012-0116
*Demosthenous, G., Panaoura, A., & Eteokleous, N. (2020). The use of collaborative assignment in online learning environments: The case of higher education. International Journal of Technology in Education and Science, 4(2), 108–117. http://dx.doi.org/10.46328/ijtes.v4i2.43
Deng, L. (2018). Exploring participatory learning through Wiki: A review of
literature. International Journal on e-Learning., 17(4), 453–478.
Fehrman, S., & Watson, S. L. (2021). A systematic review of asynchronous online discussions in online higher education. American Journal of Distance Education, 35(3), 200-213. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08923647.2020.1858705
Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1096-7516(00)00016-6
Gilmore, D. M. (2020). A dramaturgical examination of online university student practices in a second year psychology class. Online Learning, 24(1), 264-281. http://dx.doi.org/10.24059/olj.v24i1.1988
Guo, W., Chen, Y., Lei, J., & Wen, Y. (2014). The effects of facilitating feedback on online learners’ cognitive engagement: Evidence from the asynchronous online discussion. Education Sciences, 4(2), 193-208. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci4020193
*Han, S., & Resta, P. E. (2020). Virtually authentic: Graduate students’ perspective changes toward authentic learning while collaborating in a virtual world. Online Learning, 24(4), 5–27. http://dx.doi.org/10.24059/olj.v24i4.2326
Harasim, L. (2012). Learning theory and online technology. New York, NY: Routledge.
Haythornthwaite, C. (2006). Facilitating collaboration in online learning. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 10(1), 7-24.
Hernández-Sellés, N., Muñoz-Carril, P. C., & González-Sanmamed, M. (2019). Computer-supported collaborative learning: An analysis of the relationship between interaction, emotional support and online collaborative tools. Computers & Education, 138, 1-12. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2019.04.012
Hilton, S., & Phillips, F. (2010). Instructor-assigned and student-selected groups: A view from inside. Issues in Accounting Education, 25(1), 15-33. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2019.04.012
*Huang, K. (2019). Design and investigation of cooperative, scaffolded wiki learning activities in an online graduate-level course. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 16(1). http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s41239-019-0141-6
Jara, C. A., Candelas, F. A., Torres, F., Dormido, S., & Esquembre, F. (2012). Synchronous collaboration of virtual and remote laboratories. Computer Applications in Engineering Education, 20(1), 124-136. https://doi.org/10.1002/cae.20380
Järvelä, S. & Hadwin, A. F. (2013). New frontiers: Regulating learning in CSCL. Educational Psychologist, 48(1), 25-39. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00461520.2012.748006
Jeong, H., & Hmelo-Silver, C. E. (2016). Seven affordances of computer-supported collaborative learning: How to support collaborative learning? How can technologies help? Educational Psychologist, 51(2), 247-265. https://doi.org/10.1080/00461520.2016.1158654
Jeong, H., Hmelo-Silver, C. E., & Jo, K. (2019). Ten years of computer-supported collaborative
learning: A meta-analysis of CSCL in STEM education during 2005–2014. Educational
research review, 28, 100284. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2019.100284
Johnson, D.W., Johnson, R.T., Stanne, M.B. (2000). Cooperative learning methods: A meta
analysis. Cooperative Learning Center at the University of Minnesota Press.
Kauppi, S., Muukkonen, H., Suorsa, T., & Takala, M. (2020). I still miss human contact, but this
is more flexible—Paradoxes in virtual learning interaction and multidisciplinary collaboration. British Journal of Educational Technology, 51(4), 1101-1116. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12929
Kolm, A., de Nooijer, J., Vanherle, K., Werkman, A., Wewerka-Kreimel, D., Rachman-Elbaum,
S., & van Merriënboer, J. J. (2022). International online collaboration competencies in
higher education students: A systematic review. Journal of Studies in International
Education, 26(2), 183-201.
Ku, H. Y., Tseng, H. W., & Akarasriworn, C. (2013). Collaboration factors, teamwork satisfaction, and student attitudes toward online collaborative learning. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(3), 922-929. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2012.12.019
*Kumi-Yeboah, A. (2018). Designing a cross-cultural collaborative online learning framework for online instructors. Online Learning, 22(4), 181-201. http://dx.doi.org/10.24059/olj.v22i4.1520
*Kupczynski, L., Mundy, M. A., & Ruiz, A. (2013). A comparison of traditional and cooperative learning methods in online learning. Journal of Educational Technology, 10(2), 21-28. http://dx.doi.org/10.26634/jet.10.2.2411
Kurucay, M. (2015). Examining the effects of learner-learner interaction on students' perceptions of collaboration, sense of community, satisfaction, perceived learning and achievement in an online undergraduate course (Doctoral dissertation, Texas Tech University).
Lei, S. A., Kuestermeyer, B. N., & Westmeyer, K. A. (2010). Group composition affecting student interaction and achievement: instructors' perspectives. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 37(4), 317.
Li, M., Chen, Y. & Luo, H. (2020). Effects of grouping strategies on asynchronous online
discussion: Evidence from learning analytics and social network analysis," 2020
International Symposium on Educational Technology (ISET), 2020, pp. 273-276, doi:
*Liu, Y.-H., Kwon, K., & Johnson, L. P. (2018). Exploration of factors in the early collaboration phase affecting virtual groups’ overall collaborative learning experiences. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 56(4), 485–512. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0735633117715034
*Lowell, V. L., & Ashby, I. V. (2018). Supporting the development of collaboration and feedback skills in instructional designers. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 30(1), 72–92. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12528-018-9170-8
Martin, F., & Borup, J. (2022). Online learner engagement: Conceptual definitions, research themes, and supportive practices. Educational Psychologist, 57(3), 162-177. https://doi.org/10.1080/00461520.2022.2089147
Martin, F., Kumar, S., & She, L. (2021). Examining higher education instructor roles and competencies for online teaching. Online Learning, 25(4), 187-215. https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v25i4.2570
Martin, F., Polly, D., & Rithzaupt, A.D. (2020). Bichronous Online Learning: Blending Asynchronous and Synchronous Online Learning. Educause Review.
Martin, F., Wu, T., Wan, L., & Xie, K. (2022). A meta-analysis on the Community of Inquiry presences and learning outcomes in online and blended learning environments. Online Learning, 26(1). https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v26i1.2604
Marutschke, D. M., Kryssanov, V., Chaminda, H. T., & Brockmann, P. (2019). Smart education
in an interconnected world: Virtual, collaborative, project-based courses to teach global
software engineering. In Smart Education and e-Learning 2019 (pp. 39-49). Springer,
Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., Bakia, M., & Jones, K. (2010). Evaluation of evidence
based practices in online learning: A meta-analysis and review of online learning studies. U.S. Department of Education.
*Mehlenbacher, B., Kelly, A. R., Kampe, C., & Kittle Autry, M. (2018). Instructional design for
online learning environments and the problem of collaboration in the cloud. Journal of
Technical Writing and Communication, 48(2), 199–221.
Mitchell, A. (2021). Collaboration technology affordances from virtual collaboration in the time
of COVID-19 and post-pandemic strategies. Information Technology & People. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/ITP-01-2021-0003
Mnkandla, E., & Minnaar, A. (2017). The use of social media in e-learning: A
metasynthesis. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning: IRRODL, 18(5), 227-248. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v18i5.3014
Moher, D., Liberati, A., Tetzlaff, J., Altman, D. G., & PRISMA Group*. (2009). Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: the PRISMA statement. Annals of Internal Medicine, 151(4), 264-269. https://doi.org/10.7326/0003-4819-151-4-200908180-00135
Moore, M. G. (1989). Editorial: Three types of interaction. American Journal of Distance Education, 3(2), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1080/0892364890952665
National Center for Education Statistics. (2022). Undergraduate enrollment. Condition of
education. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved
Ng, P. M., Chan, J. K., & Lit, K. K. (2022). Student learning performance in online collaborative learning. Education and Information Technologies, 1-17. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10639-022-10923-x
Olson, P. G. (2014). An investigation into student engagement with an online collaboration platform (Edmodo) in a high school environmental science course (Doctoral dissertation, University of Delaware).
*Ornellas, A., & Muñoz Carril, P. C. (2014). A methodological approach to support collaborative media creation in an e-learning higher education context. Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 29(1), 59-71. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02680513.2014.906916
Owens, A. D., & Hite, R. L. (2022). Enhancing student communication competencies in STEM
using virtual global collaboration project based learning. Research in Science &
Technological Education, 40(1), 76-102.
*Oyarzun, B. A., & Morrison, G. R. (2013). Cooperative learning effects on achievement and community of inquiry in online education. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 14(4), 181-194, 255. https://doi.org/10.1080/02635143.2020.1778663
*Ozkara, B. O., & Cakir, H. (2020). Comparison of collaborative and individual learning in
online learning. TOJET: The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 19(4).http://www.tojet.net/articles/v19i4/1945.pdf
Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2010). Collaborating online: Learning together in community (Vol.
. John Wiley & Sons
Panitz, T. (1999). Collaborative versus cooperative learning: A comparison of the two
concepts which will help us understand the underlying nature of interactive
learning. Cooperative Learning and College Teaching, 8(2), 5-7.
*Paterson, T., & Prideaux, M. (2020). Exploring collaboration in online group based assessment
contexts: Undergraduate business program. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 17(3), 3. https://ro.uow.edu.au/jutlp/vol17/iss3/3
Peng, Y., Li, Y., Su, Y., Chen, K., & Jiang, S. (2022). Effects of group awareness tools on students' engagement, performance, and perceptions in online collaborative writing: Intergroup information matters. The Internet and Higher Education, 53, 100845. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2022.100845
Peterson, A. T., Beymer, P. N., & Putnam, R. T. (2018). Synchronous and asynchronous discussions: Effects on cooperation, belonging, and affect. Online Learning, 22(4), 7-25. http://dx.doi.org/10.24059/olj.v22i4.1517
*Prabhakar, S., & Zaiane, O. R. (2017). Learning group formation for massive open online courses (MOOCs). International Association for Development of the Information Society, 5.
Qureshi, M. A., Khaskheli, A., Qureshi, J. A., Raza, S. A., & Yousufi, S. Q. (2021). Factors affecting students’ learning performance through collaborative learning and engagement. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-21. https://doi.org/10.1080/10494820.2021.1884886
Radkowitsch, A., Vogel, F., & Fischer, F. (2020). Good for learning, bad for motivation? A meta-analysis on the effects of computer-supported collaboration scripts. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 15(1), 5-47.
*Rawlings, M. (2014). Are you an online team player? A pilot study. International Journal of
Virtual and Personal Learning Environments, 5(1), 20–33.
*Rebmann, K. R., & Clark, C. B. (2017). Open access research via collaborative educational blogging: A case study from library & information science. Open Praxis, 9(3), 345
Reisoğlu, I., Topu, B., Yılmaz, R., Yılmaz, T. K., & Göktaş, Y. (2017). 3D virtual learning
environments in education: A meta-review. Asia Pacific Education Review, 18(1), 81-100. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12564-016-9467-0
*Schaefer, T., Rahn, J., Kopp, T., Fabian, C. M., & Brown, A. (2019). Fostering online learning
at the workplace: A scheme to identify and analyse collaboration processes in
asynchronous discussions. British Journal of Educational Technology, 50(3), 1354-1367.
Scheuerell, S. (2010). Virtual Warrensburg: Using cooperative learning and the internet in the social studies classroom. The Social Studies, 101(5), 194-199.
Stenbom, S. (2018). A systematic review of the Community of Inquiry survey. The Internet and
Higher Education, 39, 22-32.
Stephens, G. E., & Roberts, K. L. (2017). Facilitating collaboration in online groups. Journal of Educators Online, 14(1), n1.
*Tawfik, A., Sánchez, L., & Saparova, D. (2014). The effects of case libraries in supporting collaborative problem-solving in an online learning environment. Technology, Knowledge & Learning, 19(3), 337–358. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10758-014-9230-8
*Trespalacios, J. (2017). Exploring small group analysis of instructional design cases in online learning environments. Online Learning, 21(1), 189–200. http://dx.doi.org/10.24059/olj.v21i1.928
*Ullmann, M., Ferreira, D., & Camilo-Junior, C. (2021). An automatic group formation method to promote student interaction in distance education courses. In Research Anthology on Developing Critical Thinking Skills in Students (pp. 1064-1085). IGI Global.
*Verstegen, D., Dailey-Hebert, A., Fonteijn, H., Clarebout, G., & Spruijt, A. (2018). How do virtual teams collaborate in online learning tasks in a MOOC? International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 19(4). http://dx.doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v19i4.3528
Vygotsky, L. (1978). Interaction between learning and development. Readings on the Development of Children, 23(3), 34-41.
Wang, C. M. (2011). Instructional design for cross-cultural online collaboration: Grouping strategies and assignment design. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 27(2). https://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.968
What Works Clearinghouse. (2020). What works clearinghouse standards handbook, Version
1. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for
Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/handbooks
*Wicks, D., Craft, B. B., Lee, D., Lumpe, A., Henrikson, R., Baliram, N., ... & Wicks, K. (2015).
An evaluation of low versus high collaboration in online learning. Online Learning,
Xie, K., & Ke, F. (2011). The role of students' motivation in peer‐moderated asynchronous online discussions. British Journal of Educational Technology, 42(6), 916-930. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8535.2010.01140.x
*Yeh, S. P., & Fu, H. W. (2014). Effects of cooperative e-learning on learning outcomes. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, 10(6), 531-536. https://doi.org/10.12973/eurasia.2014.1212a
Yunus, M., Setyosari, P., Utaya, S., & Kuswandi, D. (2021). The influence of online project collaborative learning and achievement motivation on problem-solving ability. European Journal of Educational Research, 10(2), 813-823. http://dx.doi.org/10.12973/eu-jer.10.2.813
Zhao, H., Sullivan, K. P., & Mellenius, I. (2014). Participation, interaction and social presence: An exploratory study of collaboration in online peer review groups. British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(5), 807-819.
Zheng, L., Cui, P., & Zhang, X. (2020). Does collaborative learning design align with enactment? An innovative method of evaluating the alignment in the CSCL context. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 15(2), 193-226. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11412-020-09320-8
Zheng, Z., Vogelsang, T., & Pinkwart, N. (2015). The impact of small learning group composition on student engagement and success in a MOOC. In Proceedings of the 8th International Conference of Educational Data Mining (pp. 500-503).
Zheng, L., Li, X., Zhang, X., & Sun, W. (2019). The effects of group metacognitive scaffolding on group metacognitive behaviors, group performance, and cognitive load in computer-supported collaborative learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 42, 13-24. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2019.03.002
As a condition of publication, the author agrees to apply the Creative Commons – Attribution International 4.0 (CC-BY) License to OLJ articles. See: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
This licence allows anyone to reproduce OLJ articles at no cost and without further permission as long as they attribute the author and the journal. This permission includes printing, sharing and other forms of distribution.
Author(s) hold copyright in their work, and retain publishing rights without restrictions