I was reading about students’ experience on collaborative learning while marking their assignment. As expressed by them, working together is not easy, especially during with this pandemic situation where everything move to digital mode. Issues brought up were situation like unfamiliarity of content, not knowing each other, lack of leadership, no common goals, too much to share but unsure how to share, not willing to disagree or coming to a compromise, working in solo… … and many more.

The two elements that stand out most are: not knowing each other and not having shared goals. I won’t deny that it is important to establish a relationship with the group that we are collaborating. I felt the same when I joined the PBL group. As I am a late comer to the group, I missed out the connecting week which I think was crucial. Setting or discussing of goals can help with to align our goal/ aim and create commonality where we all agree upon. This also create a sense of belonging and a safe environment for sharing which is beneficial to group collaboration. I remembered I was trying to remember what the group wrote about themselves during the first meeting of Topic 1. Additionally, I was not very familiar with the topic due to limited experience and exposure in academic education. As a result, I do not remember that I was able to contribute anything constructively.

Palloff and Pratt (2005) identified elements of online collaboration:

  • People: students, faulty and staffs involved in the online programme
  • Shared purpose: coming together to take an online course, including sharing of information, interests and resources
  • Guidelines: create the structure for online course, by providing the ground rules for interaction and participation
  • Technology: serves as a vehicle for delivery of the course and a place where everyone involved can meet
  • Collaborative learning: promote student-to-student interaction and support socially constructed meaning and knowledge creation
  • Reflective practice: promotes transformative learning
Palloff and Pratt (2005)

All these elements have to work together and work well in order to have an effective collaboration. So how do we go about setting this right? Meeting virtually is often not as easy as face-to-face interaction where communication kind of just flow and seemly easier to communicate non-verbally too. I came across this sharing (Norms of Collaboration) by a groupmate which I see this working in our PBL group. Come to think it, we definitely collaborate well!!

Seven norms of collaboration:

  • promoting a culture of inquiry
  • stopping to think, turn to wonder
  • listen, reread and paraphrase to understand
  • ask questions to seek clarification
  • put your thoughts and ideas out there
  • pay attention to the tone, reactions, word choices and feelings of others (emojiis count!)
  • believe that others’ ultimately have positive intentions, turn to wonder if issues or misunderstandings occur.

However, things may not always went on smoothly. What are the possible ‘killers’ in collaboration?

Disadvantages of Collaborative Learning

  • People need to go at different speeds. 
  • Someone may try to take over the group.
  • Quiet people may not feel comfortable. 
  • Sometimes people just don’t get along. 
  • People may not pull their weight. 
  • It is not fair!
  • A concept may not be understood as well if a person doesn’t have to figure it out. 
  • The time spent talking about irrelevant topics is unbelievable. 

So let’s pick these signs and remind ourselves not to commit them or resolve them. At the same time, aim to collaborate effectively and transform our knowledge for a better us!


Brindley, J. E., Walti, C. and Blaschke, L. M. (2009) Creating Effective Collaborative Learning Groups in an Online Environment. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10 (3), 1-18.

DeWaard, H (n.d.) Critical Digital Literacy [Weblog post] Retrieved from

Palloff, R. M. and Pratt, K. (2005) Learning Together in Community: Collaboration Online. 20th Annual Conference on Distance Learning and Teaching

Collaborative Learning