31 October – 13 November

Introduction to topic 3

Is 1+1=2 or is there more to it? The coming two weeks will be all about learning in communities, networking and collaboration. Most of us have experiences from group work, that for some reason hasn’t worked all that well. It may have turned out as cooperative rather than collaborative or there may have been social loafing involved. So – when it really works well, how does this change the way we learn? And networking, in this age of social media, how can this be used for learning and how can we build Personal Learning Networks (PLN) to support this? Is there a recipe for making collaborative work a fruitful experience?

To interact and learn together with peers in different formats have become an integral part of student centered education. Technology offers new possibilities for interaction and forming new kinds of social networks, including learners as well as facilitators and experts – but also offers challenges, such as keeping focus on learning processes, and not only tools, in online environments. These two weeks are for 1) reflecting on the meaning of networked collaborative learning and the development of learning communities in relation to PBL, and 2) building personal learning networks and environments for peer support and future informal learning.

Activities for all learners

Discuss aspects of collaborative learning and communities in your professional context with peers in the ONL G+ Community –  and comment on each other’s contributions!

Twitter: As a part of this topic about collaborative learning and communities it fits well to learn more about and to try out Twitter. Have a look at Alastairs video What is Twitter? and make at least one tweet during the week. Remember to use the hashtag #ONL162 when tweeting.

Be sure to join this week’s event, a Tweetchat on Collaborative learning and communities on November 3, 7-8pm (CET)! A Tweetchat or Twitter chat is  a synchronous discussion run through Twitter – good fun and worth trying. Alastair Creelman will lead the discussion – for tips on how you participate, watch the video “How to take part in a Twitter chat” and see the event page.

Webinar: Next week, on November 9, 10-11am (CET), there will be a webinar with Martha Cleveland-Innes. See the event page!

Activity tracker: We are now halfway through the ONL course! Don’t forget to fill in and update your activity in the Activity tracker!

Learning blog – reflection: Towards the end of the topic, finalise and share your reflections in your blog and have a look around how others have captured their stories. Suggested themes for reflection in your learning blog:

  • An occasion when real collaborative learning took place, that moved your own thinking forward
  • Your own Personal Learning Networks – how have they developed and how they could be taken further
  • Reflect on how you can use technologies to enable your own networks for learning processes

Don’t forget to read and comment on peer’s blogs!

PBL group work

For guidance on PBL group work including the FISh design please see Learning activities. Here is this topic’s scenario to consider in your PBL group:

Scenario: “Most people I’ve come across have a rather weak idea of what it really means to learn collaboratively. Mostly, we fall back into the group-work mode from school – we divide tasks between us and glue them onto the same board when it comes to accounting of a group project. When digital tools is inserted into this equation, things tend to get even worse: if one person in the group happens to be familiar with the tool, then work lands in her/his lap. I would like to add an extra dimension to the course I’m leading by introducing collaborative elements, but how can I get people to really recognize the value of becoming part of a learning community and collaborate with their peers in a way that makes use of all the different competencies that group members bring into the work?”

Readings and resources

To watch

What is Twitter? Alastair Creelman (2014). Available here.

How to take part in a Twitter chat. Alastair Creelman (2015). Available here. – Please note that this short video was made for an earlier iteration of ONL and that the hashtag to use for this course is #ONL162!

To read

Brindley, J., Blaschke, L. M. & Walti, C. (2009). Creating effective collaborative learning groups in an online environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3). Available here.

Wenger, E. (2010). Communities of practice and social learning systems: the career of a concept. In Social learning systems and communities of practice (pp. 179-198). Springer London. Available here.

Capdeferro, N. & Romero, M. (2012). Are online learners frustrated with collaborative learning experiences?. The International review of research in open and distance learning, 13(2), 26-44. Available here.

Anderson, T. (2008). Teaching in an online learning context. In The theory and practice of online learning (pp. 343-395). Athabasca university press. Available here.

Dron, J. & Anderson, T. (2014). Teaching crowds: Learning and social media. Athabasca University Press. Available here.


By the end of this topic, you will have had the opportunity to

  • discuss networked and collaborative learning in the digital age
  • reflect on and take part in establishing learning communities
  • reflect on how your own Personal Learning Networks (PLN) can be developed
  • inquire into collaborative learning and community features related to a specific scenario


Tweetchat, 3 November, 7-8pm (CET), see event page

webinarWebinar, 9 November, 10-11am (CET) with Martha Cleveland-Innes, see event page