Collaborative and Social Learning Tools for eLearning

Woman presenting digital social learning interactive presentation.

Authentic engagement between students and instructors is immensely important in eLearning. That being said, both collaborative and social learning are the heart behind any virtual course. Not only that, but researchers at the University of Calgary Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning describe these modes of learning as an “opportunity for students and instructors to engage in shared efforts to search for meaning, understanding, and solutions to complex problems or concepts” (Anselmo et al., n.d.). Thankfully, the rapidly-developing sector of collaborative and social learning tools allows us to provide these opportunities for authentic engagement.

Collaborative and Social Learning Tools

On Model eLearning, we’ve discussed the importance of adding tools to course design for pedagogical reasons (see How Much Is Too Much?: A Look at Tool Use in an Online Course and Digital Content Curation Tools for Education). As I designed and instructed high school English courses for 6 years, I used a variety of learning tools. However, I identified three specific tools that were consistently helpful, easy to use, and engaging for my students. Consider trying some of these social and collaborative learning tools in your own classroom!


Many SAU online and blended courses use Flip—an online learning platform where students record video responses to prompts or questions. You can create “grids” to pose a specific question for students to answer or provide a space where students discuss a general topic. In turn, students can respond to these videos with text comments or a video response (like a video social media platform).

As an instructor, I found the platform to be very user friendly for students and instructors. My former students found it to be very engaging! Flip can be used successfully in synchronous and asynchronous learning environments.


Another collaborative learning tool is EdPuzzle. It’s a Google extension used with videos (most often, YouTube videos). You can either use existing videos on platforms such as YouTube, or you can create your own videos in various file formats and download/upload the videos to your EdPuzzle account. Instructors can add “checkpoints” to any video that requires students to answer a question or series of questions before proceeding. If a multiple-choice question is required, students must answer correctly before proceeding. You can also add in answer feedback to support student understanding. For short answer questions, students generate responses. Instructors either review answers later or in real-time to discuss responses with students.

I used this learning tool in both synchronous and asynchronous learning environments, and I appreciated the quick feedback I received from students through the question “checkpoints.”


Peardeck is another Google extension. Instructors can use to modify PowerPoint or Google Slides presentations with interactive slides. Peardeck has two different options for presentations: instructor-led or student-led. In the instructor-led model, instructors choose when to switch slides and can project feedback/answers given by students directly on the slides. In the student-led version, instructors create a presentation with interactive slides. Students work through the presentation at their own pace (while still required to give feedback/answer any questions for the instructor to review later).

Peardeck offers a wide variety in the types of questions and/or student engagement—for example, short answer questions, multiple choice, drawings, and more. You can use these questions to seamlessly give “brain breaks” to students. Or, you can vary the way they interact with course material. Peardeck also allows instructors to project all students’ responses on a screen at once, so students can read and review their peers’ responses.

Thankfully, all responses are projected anonymously unless a student specifically includes their name or identifying information in their response. I found this feature to be incredibly important, especially if a student initially struggles with course material. It allows them to submit their best answer in a low-stakes environment regardless of their confidence in class material.


Social and collaborative learning tools can be beneficial to student learning in a variety of learning environments, but especially in an eLearning modality. They can provide multiple means of expression via universal design for learning (UDL), encourage authentic discussion, and much more!


Anselmo, L., Kelly, P., Yu, L., Bair, H. (n.d.). Collaborative activities for online learning. University of Calgary Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning.

Author: Audrey Foust, Assistant Instructional Designer

Audrey is an Assistant Instructional Designer at Spring Arbor University. She draws from her experience as a former High School English teacher to research best practices in curriculum and instruction. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband, reading, running, and cooking.

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