The New Collaboration

How new technologies are shattering the barriers to studying in a group.

GUEST COLUMN | by Becky Splitt

CREDIT StudyBlueCollaboration has been a hot topic in recent years and it still remains an important concept in education, especially as millions of kids settle into a new school year. Teachers have known for years that students often learn best when trying to teach each other, often working in small study groups. A recent study by Harvard Professor Light, and published in his book, “How to Succeed in College,” states “…those students who study outside of class in small groups of four to six students, even just once a week, benefit enormously.”

In these small groups, a highly successful teaching technique is having to explain something to someone else and proving if you really know the material. And on the flip side, people who understand the information best are often learning from people like themselves. People who share similar backgrounds and experiences, who are within the same age group and the same geography are likely to relate to something in the same way that you will, which, if you think about it is so much different than learning from a teacher, or parent, a typical text book, or even in a huge lecture hall.

Everyone knows that a lecture is a great way to impart the information to the masses, but for most of us we actually need to do something more with that information to get it into long-term memory. We need to put it into a context that makes sense to us, and an effective way to do that is to talk to other people, your peers, to share your understanding of it with them.

Yet most students across the U.S. do most of their studying alone. Why aren’t study groups a more common practice?

When you are in a group study situation you have to put yourself out there in real time and that can cause all kinds of friction. For some, intimidation stops them cold with thoughts like ‘do I look dumb, what about the cute guy/girl in the study group, I don’t feel attractive, am I wearing the right clothes, I might not sound right, I missed one week of class and now I am behind so I may not be pulling my weight in the group’. These thoughts can be devastating and in the end can hold a student back from meeting with his or her peers to share information.

There are all of these inhibitions on the personal side that hold students back from reaching out and then there is the practical nature of physical presence. For instance, you have to physically get together and coordinate times and schedules and meeting locations and that can be a big barrier. If your child is in middle school or high school they will have to get you, the parents involved and that takes time and effort and may not work out in time for the big test or that project that may be due.

We have this proven learning technique that students who learn in groups, from each other are able to do exponentially better in school and retain the knowledge far better than their counterparts but in reality are facing a brick wall due to the typical behavior of a student.

Until the advent of wide spread adoption of connected devices the social and logistical barriers have been too hard for most to overcome.

But now, introduce the Internet. Introduce connected devices, smartphones and tablets with digital learning services such as StudyBlue — and you shatter the barrier to group study and clear the path for a new sort of collaboration. Students are able to share their thoughts and ideas asynchronously without the inhibitions and logistical issues associated with meeting in person. Students can now study together, on any device, at any time, any place, for any class when it suits them; share and compare their understanding of concepts their trying to learn; and master the material much more effectively as a result.

As mobile has already infiltrated the educational system, these digital learning platforms are helping millions of students across the nation, share and compare information to learn from each other, often allowing them to learn in ways that suit them best. We expect to see more and more students start learning and sharing notes on their mobile devices. The classic teacher and classroom structure is adapting to a more mobile, technically literate, and agile class of students than ever before.

Becky Splitt is the CEO of StudyBlue, a suite of mobile study tools used by over 3.5 million students. Contact her through StudyBlue

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  • joebeckmann


    Probably the greatest impact of social media has been how it subverted faculty – and some student – perceptions that collaboration was “cheating.” Collaboration really means, as one of my students once noted, “I never realized I actually learned something until I taught it to somebody else.”

    Ah, would that systems could recognize that kind of collaboration in assessments, in self-assessments, and in other means of subverting the highly competitive, and proportionally dysfunctional, culture of most colleges!

  • studentforce


    Reblogged this on hireED4HigherEd.

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