Exploring the downside to student online collaborations


  • Anneke Venter University of South Africa




collaborative learning, learning design, online learning, social capital, student collaborations


Online learning proponents report that collaboration in online groups has positive effects on the student learning experience, but the literature also refers to a contrasting side, indicating the often overlooked non-productive or undesirable consequences of student online collaborations. To gain a more nuanced and contextual understanding of student online collaborations, a qualitative study was conducted. In-depth interviews and focus groups were used to gather primary data from students at an Open Distance Learning (ODL) university in South Africa. The results revealed a complex range of learning-related outcomes embedded in student online collaborations, including some drawbacks to these liaisons. Relevant literature about online collaborations supports the notion of looking at the potential for non-beneficial student collaborations and directs a call for a differentiated view of student online collaborations. The paper offers design guidelines from a social theory perspective to assist online learning practitioners in finding ways to mitigate negative online collaborations and facilitate constructive forms of student online collaborations in an optimal learning experience. This paper offers directions for future research regarding the complexity of student online collaborations.

Author Biography

Anneke Venter, University of South Africa

Anneke Venter (PhD) is currently serving as the Acting Deputy Director in the Directorate of Curriculum Development and Transformation (DCDT) at Unisa. In this capacity, she assumes responsibility for driving curriculum transformation and enhancing the quality of online module development. She monitors and reports on the progress of curriculum transformation initiatives, ensuring alignment with institutional goals. Moreover, she provides support to academics and colleagues through targeted training interventions, assisting them to excel in their online learning endeavours. As an advocate for quality standards in online learning, Dr Venter oversees the maintenance and enhancement of educational practices, ensuring that online learning experiences meet rigorous quality benchmarks. Dr Venter's scholarly pursuits are guided by her deep interest in understanding how social forces influence the quality and outcomes of student learning. She is passionate about contextualizing the student learning experience to address the unique needs of diverse Open Distance Learning (ODL) students. Drawing from her sociological insights, Dr Venter guides online learning developers and facilitators, promoting constructive online engagements and effective learning experiences. 


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How to Cite

Venter, A. (2024). Exploring the downside to student online collaborations. The Independent Journal of Teaching and Learning, 19(1), 64–78. https://doi.org/10.17159/ijtl.v19i1.18853

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