My refection on topic 3. Learning in communities – networked collaborative learning

Collaborative learning has an important place in higher education. Accordingly, group work assignments are often used as a form of examination.  It is therefore not surprising that there was a strong   interest in my PBL group in increasing collaborative learning within group tasks. One of the members shared the following thoughts and many of us (including myself) expressed interest in investigating these aspects: 

Many scholars have studied collaborative learning and group works. One example is a study conducted at Utrecht University (Holland) by Le et al. (2018) which identified four main obstacles for effective collaboration; student’s lack of collaborative skills is one of them (free-riding, competence status and friendship are the others).

One can assume that we as ONL212 students have spent more time developing collaborative skills than the students that we meet as teachers. Many of us have years of experience in academia, and as such, we have experience with different kinds of collaboration.

Before further reflection I want to present a short description of collaborative skills.

The taxonomy of collaborative skills developed by Miller et al (1994) can be used as an introduction. They have divided collaborative skills to five categories of skills.

Taxonomy of collaborative skills (Miller et al, 1994)

Collaborative skills  Skills Category
Congenial, friendly, make clear statement, listening skills, positive communication (no-name calling, put-downs, and eye contact  Interpersonal Skills
Organize work, keep group on task, run a meeting, participate in group self analysis, shoe empathy Group Building/Management
Clarification, critique, probe assumptions and evidence, probe implications and consequences, elicit view points and perspectives Inquiry Skill
Prevention, resolution, and mediation Conflict
Summarize, synthesize, speaking in front of group, creating presentation materials, report writing Presentation

Below are some examples of descriptions of collaborative skills and aspects of team functioning which can be used for assessing collaborative processes from the Centre for Teaching Excellence at University of Waterloo

It can be added here that students often receive little training on specific collaborative skills. Moreover, many scholars and practitioners point out that teachers mainly focus on assessing outcome of group task, not on collaborative process. This product focus of assessment does not encourage students interest for participating in collaborative activities (Le et al, 2018).

I am very fascinating about how a group of people that never met before can develop a great atmosphere (inclusive, trustful, helpful, inspiring, and fun) during the online meetings.  Our excellent facilitators did a great job during the first meeting and continue to do so. But all of us contribute to the good feeling and good work in our PBL group. Of course, some individuals are more assertive than others (not me this time), which naturally happens during group work, but all of us are trying to contribute and to be helpful.  

However, what is my reflection about collaboration during our work with the task within topic 3, in which collaboration is central. For better understanding my reflection I present a time schedule of our work done with the task. 

What should you say? Did we really collaborate or not with this task within the task group? Within the PBL group?

My reflection about the process within the task group: 

  • We did synchronic, collaborative work during meetings. It is so that some time to collaborate have to be scheduled?
  •  A part of work has been made asynchronic by groups members individually.Not all of us contributed to the document with shared ideas. I did not know whether all of us had worked with the ppt before our meeting
  • I have edited separately the ppt, and I was unsure if my editing made an improvement. Regardless of effectiveness, it felt good to be making some contribution to the ppt. 
  • Even synchronic collaborative work does not ensure a high degree of collaboration; that is why I called our collaboration limited synchronic collaboration. For example, we could have decided that each of us needed to find and add a photo on each slide. We did not make this kind of decision.
  • Collaboration is a commonly used concept in higher education. 
    What we mean by collaborating? When does collaboration occur? – it is still unclear to me. 


Le, H., Janssen, J., & Wubbels, T. (2018). Collaborative learning practices: teacher and student perceived obstacles to effective student collaboration. Cambridge Journal of Education, 48(1), 103-122.

Methods for assessing group work. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo.

Miller, J. E., J. Trimbur & J. M. Wilkes. 1994. Group dynamics: Understanding group success and failure in collaborative learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning. 59: 33-44.

How collaborative was the process in my PBL group with the task?