Challenges to Online Collaboration

Institutions or departments may view students working in online groups (whether collaboration or peer review) as a form of "abnormal discourse" (Breuch, 2004, p. 28; also see Writing as a Social Activity) compared with face-to-face groups. Bruech points out that resistance to this "abnormal discourse" often takes the form of typified justifications: for example, cyberspace is too impersonal, or it's too costly, or it would take too much time/effort to implement online collaborative learning.

Since "[t]hese types of reactions are common among those who expect virtual environments to imitate face-to-face environments," (p. 28), perhaps one "best practice" is for instructors who have taken the plunge to educate their colleagues about ways the different or "abnormal" qualities of the online environment actually serve to benefit students and enhance collaborative learning.


Breuch, L. K. (2004). Virtual peer review: teaching and learning about writing in online environments. Albany: State University of New York, Albany.