Imagine stepping into a virtual classroom, not knowing a soul. The initial awkwardness mirrors staring down a complex Indian curry recipe, overwhelmed by the vibrant spice collection. Yet, just like those spices transform a simple dish, carefully chosen elements can cultivate a collaborative online learning environment.

The Warmth of Welcome: Building Inclusion

The first step in any Indian dish is often a base of aromatics like cumin or cardamom. Similarly, online collaboration thrives on inclusion. “Icebreaker” activities, like sharing names, locations, and course expectations, function like the welcoming “ground cumin” of the experience. Brainstorming and establishing ground rules, much like the fragrant curry leaves, add depth and structure to the learning space, ensuring everyone feels comfortable participating.

The Spice of Relevance: Fostering a Positive Attitude

A perfect curry caters to individual preferences. Similarly, fostering a positive attitude in online learning requires making the experience personally relevant. Highlighting stories of successful learners acts like the “witness people similar to self”. Seeing others like themselves thrive can be incredibly motivating in a virtual setting. Furthermore, incorporating “Know-What-Learned” activities (self-assessment) and reflection journals, empowers learners to take ownership of their progress, fostering a positive learner mindset.

The Intrigue Factor: Sparking Engagement and Challenge

A masterful Indian dish keeps you on your toes with its layers of flavour. In online learning, engagement and challenge are essential for maximizing meaning. Posing problems as intriguing scenarios, the “fennel and coriander” of intrigue, ignites curiosity and draws learners in.

Simulations, like the “star anise” of real-world application, solidify understanding by translating theory into practice. Just as a spice rack (masala dabba) offers a variety of flavours, so too should an online learning environment.

Gaming, mini-lectures, webinars, video presentations, online tools like Miro or Mural – to name a few – provide a diverse learning experience, catering to different preferences. Partnering, small group activities and discussion forums, the “saffron” of collaboration, add another layer of engagement by encouraging social interaction and deeper understanding.

The Finishing Touch: Building Competence

The final test of a good curry lies in its ability to deliver on its taste promise. Similarly, online learning should foster a sense of competence. Feedback, both constructive and positive and rewards, are essential for growth, much like the finishing touch of garam masala. Demonstrating real-world applications of learned skills serves as the “ghee” of the experience, providing authenticity and purpose, solidifying the value of the learning journey.

In Conclusion

Just as a skilled chef utilises a diverse spice palette to craft a delicious dish, we the online learning designers/facilitators/lecturers/educators can leverage a variety of strategies to create a rich and rewarding collaborative environment. By incorporating elements that build inclusion, promote personal relevance, stimulate engagement, and enhance competence, we can empower learners to thrive in the virtual world and ultimately achieve their full potential.


Synnovation.  2024.  Think & collaborate to change, improve, innovate [Online].  Available at:  [Accessed: 11 April 2024].

Wlodkowski, R.  2004.  Creating motivating Learning Environments  [Online].  Available at:  Galbraith, Michael W ( [Accessed: 8 April 2024].

Image link: My Masala Dabba | Masala dabba, Indian spice box, Homemade spices (

From a Masala Dabba to a Learning Space: A Recipe for Online Collaboration