Modern learning theories stress the importance of student-centered and self-directed learning. Problem-Based Learning (PBL) supports this by focusing on small group learning centered around authentic problems. PBL, however, usually relies heavily on face-to-face team collaboration and tutor guidance. Yet, when applied in online/blended environments, such elements may not be feasible or even desirable. This study explores how virtual teams collaborate in online learning tasks in the context of a nine-week Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) where international, virtual teams worked on PBL-like tasks. Twenty-one self-formed teams were observed. An inductive thematic analysis resulted in five themes: 1) team formation and team composition, 2) team process (organization and leadership), 3) approach to task work (task division and interaction), 4) use of tools, and 5) external factors (MOOC design and interaction with others). Overall findings revealed that online, virtual teams can collaborate on learning tasks without extensive guidance, but this requires additional communication and technological skills and support. Explicit discussion about group organization and task work, a positive atmosphere, and acceptance of unequal contributions seem to be positive factors. Additional support is required to prepare participants for virtual team work, develop digital literacy, and stimulate more elaborate brainstorming and discussion.
- problem-based learning,
- open educational resources,
- online learning,
- virtual teams,
- team collaboration,
- design-based research
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