Making collaborative learning work

Our experiences and platforms are designed to help teams practice collaboration

People learn from each other.

They learn by exchanging ideas, giving others advice, disagreeing with one another, and solving problems together. Collaboration requires a mutual give and take that builds towards a shared understanding.

Teamwork can be a place for shared learning — a space where there is an open exchange of ideas and where people feel safe enough to make mistakes and to learn from those mistakes, increasing the collective knowledge of the group.[1]

The effectiveness of collaboration depends on:

Intentional participation. In order to learn from one another team members have to engage deeply with each other. This type of participation requires that team members reflect about what they know, organize their thinking and carefully consider and react to peer ideas.[2]

Disagreement. Teams should expect to disagree. Quite often, however, team members don’t communicate what they think and drive towards a general agreement. This lack of communication can lead the team to make decisions that don’t reflect the ideas or beliefs of individual members.[3]

Planning ahead and checking in often. Ahead of any project, teams should forecast what could go wrong. Planning for alternatives if something goes wrong (called a project premortem) improves the chances that teams will be successful[iv].[4] Additionally, throughout the project, teams should check in with each other often ensuring that they are on track and can overcome any natural break-points.[5]

Working in teams can be challenging.

Team members may free ride. There may be a tendency for people working in a team to feel unaccountable to the team. Because it is hard to assess each person’s contribution to the team, some team members may not work as hard, expecting that their individual contributions will be less visible.[6] This is a phenomenon called social loafing, in which members of the team can expect that they can “free ride” or slack off and let the rest of the team do the work.[7]

The team will experience process loss. To successfully solve problems, teams have to coordinate. That coordination takes time and effort, involving what psychologists call process loss or inefficiencies that can reduce the team’s productivity and achievements.

The team may fail to share unique information. Diverse team members hold different ideas, have a variety of expertise, and come with their own sets of beliefs and frames of reference. Leveraging team talent and experience is important to the success of the team, but team members tend to only discuss shared information (information that they have in common) and not information that is uniquely held by individual group members.[8]

Our simulations and platforms are designed to help teams practice their collaborative skills

Alternate Reality Courseware, an alternate reality simulation engine that provides experiential learning through a highly realistic virtual experience, is built on teamwork. In the safe environment of the simulation, players naturally need to overcome team-related pitfalls and are required to work as a group problem-solve, communicate effectively, make decisions quickly, and share asymmetrical information. Interactive coaching helps improve team performance while providing valuable lessons for future collaboration. Additional 360 surveys provide personal learning objectives and collaborative feedback to help increase long-term achievement.


  1. [1]

    Edmondson, A. C. (2002). Managing the risk of learning: Psychological safety in work teams (pp. 255-275). Cambridge, MA: Division of Research, Harvard Business School.

  2. [2]

    Kuhn, D. (2015). Thinking together and alone. Educational researcher, 44(1), 46-53.

  3. [3]

    Harvey, J. B. (1988). The Abilene paradox: The management of agreement. Organizational Dynamics, 17(1), 17-43.

  4. [4]

    Klein, G. (2007). Performing a project premortem. Harvard business review, 85(9), 18-19

  5. [5]

    Hackman, J. R. (2002). Why teams don’t work. In Theory and research on small groups (pp. 245-267). Springer, Boston, MA.

  6. [6]

    Liden, R. C., Wayne, S. J., Jaworski, R. A., & Bennett, N. (2004). Social loafing: A field investigation. Journal of management, 30(2), 285-304.

  7. [7]

    Hackman, J. R., & Hackman, R. J. (2002). Leading teams: Setting the stage for great performances. Harvard Business Press.

  8. [8]

    Mesmer-Magnus, J. R., & DeChurch, L. A. (2009). Information sharing and team performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of applied psychology, 94(2), 535.