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At the start of our ONL course we were flooded with information …

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The first weeks of the Open Networked Course focused on getting started and connecting. We received numerous emails, instructions, links and access to new platforms. We got acquainted with the expected learning outcomes, activities to be done in the PBL groups, lists of recommended reading and fixed events that were supposed to be incorporated into our calendars. We posted short personal descriptions of ourselves and presented our expectations about the course on the community space. Then we read introductions written by dozens of other people and left them our comments.

At the start it was hard to find your way through the crowds, identify common themes, locate all the platforms and find relevant information. Each course has its structure, communication channels, accepted ways of doing things. You need to find the paths, use them a few times to get a clearer picture of the virtual space that you are going to occupy during the next few weeks. It is like visiting somebody else’s house or another country. There are other rules, sounds and smells. But after a few days you get used to them and hopefully you feel at ease in this new environment.

Leaving your comfort zone

“Growing up in your life means constantly getting yourself out of your comfort zone” – Nitin Namdeo

When I meet my first-year students when they join my course I keep telling them that it is vital to leave their comfort zone, as this is the place where real learning takes place or where, as other people say, magic happens. It may feel uncomfortable at the start, it may even be irritating but when the dust settles and you start to see clearly there are new landscapes you never dared to see in your closed, well-known space. I knew I have to keep that open attitude myself in this new ONL community. No matter what my first thoughts or worries may be it is vital to suspend my judgement and wait for the magic to happen.

In the ONL course we were assigned to our PBL group where we found 2 facilitators and 8 teachers, like ourselves. Together we represented, 2 continents, 3 time zones, 4 countries, 7 nationalities, 9 disciplines and 10 different higher education institutions! I had a feeling that some of the participants wondered how such a random bunch of people can find common interests and needs and how they can benefit from the course. Their disbelief was painted on their faces. I believe in diversity and the power of teams. Together we are always more than one and we can achieve things we would not be able to achieve otherwise.

In a team we win

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” – Ken Blanchard

During our first group session after a round of introductions the first tests came – drafting our ground rules and finding the time slot that would be convenient for all of us to meet regularly in the course of the project. That was a real challenge! In the morning most people work, but our partners in South Asia would like to meet early (for us Europeans), as when the afternoon comes in the northern hemisphere they are fast asleep. When they are active, we go to bed. After a short negotiation we decided to meet on Wednesdays at 8:30 a.m. and alternately on Mondays or Fridays at 3:00 pm, so that the needs of all us were met. Other negotiations were not much easier (like which communication channel to use) but we managed to reach a compromise here, too.

This experience showed us that it is easy to tell our students whom we engage in COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning) “Go and meet your partners to negotiate basic forms of collaboration”, but it is much harder to implement it ourselves when our career and family lives are at stake, and when it is hard to remain emotionally neutral.


“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford

During the first collaborative meeting we obliged ourselves to work as a team, help one another and contribute regularly to our “FISH document” (Focus, Investigate and Share). We will see soon how much value is our words.

Beginnings are never easy