Humans are inherently social. We are accustomed to collaborating and learning from one another — to a narrower sense in small groups and to a broader sense in communities. Community of practice is formed when historical learning develops into an informal and dynamic social structure between participants who share a common interest and engage in collective learning and knowledge sharing (Wenger, 2010).

I still remember witnessing the power of collaborative learning when I was a student. Together with my friends and classmates, we worked in small groups to maximize our individual and each other’s learning. Bringing our distinct expertise together, this allowed us to save an immense amount of time and effort to learn. The multi-perspective approach deepened our learning, actively filling blind spots. Our constructive arguments balanced our biases and made the whole experience enjoyable. Considering the theory of connectivity, learning is not just about accessing information, it also incorporates ways in which we take on different perspectives and test our knowledge (Siemens, 2008). I believe this is the underlying mechanism of collaborative learning.

With the onset of digital technologies and transformations, the emphasis on the use of technological tools in teaching has been increasing while the pedagogic underpinning remains elusive. Nevertheless, digital technologies can allow for a vast network of learning communities comprising a virtual space for collaboration, exchange, and reflection on learning. This opens opportunities for connecting both pedagogic theory and practice enabling practitioners to focus on and capture the process in addition to the summative outcome.

Within the Open Networked Learning course setting, I have been experiencing the benefits of collaborative learning coupled with digital tools first-hand. Owing to our functional group dynamics and social facilitation, the challenges remain insignificant. This has been an effective approach in streamlining my learning. I can envision setting up a social media channel, e.g., Appropedia, and embedding digital tools, e.g., MIRO, within a course to connect participants and facilitate learning within and across groups.

The webinar on “Learning in communities — networked collaborative learning” (Alexandra Mihai, 2023) was informative that provided a great overview of collaborative learning in the context of  planning, managing group dynamics, role of teacher, assessment and reflection, and the use of technology. As a collective outcome for this topic, we as a group decided to step outside our comfort zone and compile our first podcast covering the scope of learning in communities. Here is our podcast (~13 min), hope you enjoy it as much as we did.



Alexandra Mihai. (2023). #ONL232 Topic 3 webinar with Alexandra Mihai – YouTube.

Siemens, G. (2008). Learning and knowing in networks: Changing roles for educators and designers. ITFORUM for Discussion, 27(1), 1–26.

Wenger, E. (2010). Communities of practice and social learning systems: the career of a concept. Social Learning Systems and Communities of Practice, 179–198.

Learning in Communities: Embracing our Social Nature