Eva Blondeel
Prof. dr. Patricia Everaert
Prof. dr. Evelien Opdecam


Successful implementation of cooperative learning in an online learning environment

And then there was COVID-19: Do benefits of cooperative learning disappear when switching to online education?

Blondeel, E.; Everaert, P.; Opdecam, E. (2021). And Then There Was COVID-19: Do the Benefits of Cooperative Learning Disappear When Switching to Online Education? Sustainability 13, 12168.

COVID-19 turned the world of higher education upside down. From one day to the next, a radical shift from on-campus, face-to-face education to online education had to be made. Cooperative learning has been demonstrated to surpass lecture-based learning (LBL) regarding students’ learning processes. Therefore, this study examines whether the benefits of cooperative learning, regarding good teaching, satisfaction, and performance, still hold when switching to online education.

A quasi-experiment was administered in an undergraduate advanced financial accounting course, where a non-COVID-19 affected semester is compared to a COVID-19-affected semester. In both semester, students could choose between a team-based learning (TBL) and a LBL path for the tutorial sessions. Quantitative survey data was collected to examine the students’ experiences regarding the learning paths they chose. Consequently, the differences between the learning paths in both a F2F and an online setting were explored.

Results show that good teaching was perceived as even better in the COVID-19-affected semester than in the non-COVID-19 affected semester, and even more so for students in the TBL condition. In addition, both students’ course satisfaction and performance was unaffected by the switch to online education. According to the results, students appreciated the current online course design.

The results ratify that TBL still outperforms LBL in terms of good teaching, satisfaction, and performance, even if it is organized in a blended learning environment. However, we would like to emphasize that this does not imply that online classes are a worthy substitute for all F2F classes. One can only conclude that, if unforeseen circumstances require a switch from F2F to online learning, TBL is still preferred over LBL, since TBL outperforms the traditional LBL setting. We therefore encourage every instructor to offer an active learning approach for tutorial classes, in both a F2F and blended learning environment.