Cooperating, collaborating, group work, teams – it all sounds like something we should be used to. We ask our students to do this daily and assume that their work process will go smooth. Why shouldn’t it? We give them clear instructions for the task, encourage them to contact us with questions and stress the importance of handling conflicts as soon as they appear.

But is it so easy? Are the instructions clear to everyone? Are we available for questions? Can they handle stress and conflict?

In my previous blog post “Loafing or Committing?”, I asked the following questions What is the purpose of the course? What do they want us to achieve? What is the learning outcome?

These were also questions me and my collaborators asked ourselves after we got the task for topic 3 from our moderators. We eagerly started working and just as fast got stuck on the questions above – what do they want from us? What is the actual purpose? Our discussions were more about unclear instructions and interpretation of definitions, than focusing on collaboration and the product and task at hand. Is this also what our students are going through at the start of collaborative projects? Most likely…

As frustrating and chaotic this project was for us in the beginning (and middle) – as clear and rewarding it was for us in the end. After realizing and collectively deciding what the purpose really was: “collaboration on a project that should be about collaboration in an ONL course which is all about collaboration” (several meta levels – my mind immediately goes to the movie Inception) – the collaboration really kicked off, which in turn brought creativity, commitment, and clarity. Our final product: Collaborative International Mentorship Programme – CIMP – is actually something that can become a reality. A learning opportunity that not only gets students and mentors working together collaboratively, but which also influences their capacity for collaboration beyond CIMP.

From Collaborative Chaos to Collaborative Clarity