Collaborative Learning: Using AI to Make Online Learning More Human
May 30, 2020

Enabling collaborative learning is a key focus of LearnerShape. In this post, our CEO Maury Shenk and lead advisor on collaborative learning Prof. James Fleck explain why.

There is an explosion of excellent digital content that provides a strong and growing opportunity for high-quality learning online. This opportunity has become a necessity in the face of Covid-19: the pandemic has rapidly catalysed many more people to seek experience through online meetings and interactions.

There is continually more and better digital content as new providers enter the market and existing providers gain experience with what works and develop the libraries. In addition, online content has important inherent advantages. For example:

  • Video presentations by teachers can be recorded, enabling participants to review and refresh their memories, especially where they may not have fully understood. And chat and Q&A facilities enable a team approach where assistants can help resolve queries and filter crucial questions and observations for a presenter to address.
  • Asynchronous text forums even out power differentials, gender styles and levels of participation compared with face-to-face interactions, which favour confident and dominant participants. Those speaking different languages have the opportunity to more carefully consider postings and craft their responses. And people have flexibility to contribute when they are able at any time of the day or night.
  • As many of us are seeing through video meetings at work and with old friends, removing travel barriers increases opportunities for getting people together from different places.

Despite these advantages, engagement with digital content over recent decades has been mixed at best, as discussed in the LearnerShape blog Recreating the Traditional Learning Ecosystem Online. Besides the basic challenge for some people to learn to navigate the online learning environment, something human is lost when teaching moves from the classroom to a purely online environment.

Much evidence (such as that compiled by DETA) suggests that online learning can be as effective as conventional classroom learning. Careful design and structuring to facilitate collaborative engagement can radically improve effective use of the digital environment. Using technology to bring students closer to one another, closer to the teacher, closer to the ideas, and closer to the application of the ideas in their places of work provides nearness learning, rather than distance learning.

LearnerShape will enable these benefits of collaborative learning for any organisation using any digital content, by making AI-driven recommendations for collaborative learning and mentorship. We are about to begin beta testing of our platform, and engagement with customers on how collaboration should be structured to work best will be an important part of that testing. Our goal is to be at the cutting edge of using AI to make the online education experience more human.

Maury Shenk
Co-Founder & CEO, LearnerShape

James Fleck
Professor, Edinburgh Business School