It is generally agreed, that collaborative learning has a lot of advantages for the participants: exchange of ideas, confrontation with different views, construction of new knowledge etc. Traditional collaboration requires that the participants can meet regularly, i.e. be present at the same time at the same place. This greatly limits the choice of potential partners. With the dynamic development of new technologies, however, we might be able to go further: to collaborate regardless of time and space. At our chair, we have been experimenting with such virtual collaboration since 2001. The result of our effort is a concept we call „Virtual Collaborative Learning“ – VCL for short. Under this name, we have already carried out more than 30 sessions, most of them international with participants all over the world.
What is a VCL session like? It is …
- collaborative: we put our participants into small groups of 4-6 people. In an international VCL, we take care to mix the participants to create international teams. This way, our participants can get to know different cultures and profit from the diverse backgrounds.
- problem oriented: each group is assigned a problem to solve. In most cases, we use a case study company as a foundation and we try to make the tasks as real as possible.
- like a project: you have limited time, limited resources and a problem to solve. Our sessions run generally 3-4 weeks. During this time, the teams have to get organised, divide tasks and solve the problem. This is an excellent exercise for your future job, because this is precisely what you will have to do.
- interactive: the problems can only be solved, if the participants work together. Communication is the key.
- virtual: if you have a team, where no more than 2 members come from the same university, you have to meet online. This means that you get a chance to try out different tools like forums, wikis, instant messaging, online conferencing etc.
- tutored: we don’t leave you alone. Each group has a tutor to talk to, if problems arise. VCL sessions are demanding, so we are always there to help you out. On the other hand, we will not interfere, if everything runs smoothly.
- fun: just imagine working along with international students, comparing your experiences and learning from each other. Often, our participants come out of a VCL in a mood for an exchange stay abroad.