#ONL201- Topic 3

I had spent most of the time during Topic 3 weeks reading the given readings :

Are Online Learners Frustrated with Collaborative Learning Experiences?  [Capdeferro & Romero 2012] 
Creating Effective Collaborative Learning Groups in an Online Environment  [Brindley et al 2009]

Capdeferro & Romero (2012) addresses the topic of learners’ frustration in online collaborative experiences and, attempts to identify the sources to which the learners attribute their frustration.  Results of a survey from online learners participating in a Master course shows that perception of an asymmetric collaboration among the teammates was the most significant source of frustration.  I could totally relate this with a few instances I observed in my blended module offering this semester. 3 out of 20 teams mentioned unequal contribution by team members and the team deliverable quality as well as learning experiences marred by the unpleasantness that comes with it.

In our PBL group, we had discussed the factors evoking effective collaboration. 

I believe while student’s self-regulatory behaviour impacts on effectiveness of a collaboration, setting a group task that is challenging and complex is also important. Group tasks should provide enough opportunities for students, with diverse capabilities, to find something for themselves to create something new and original. The way ONL course is designed is one such example. The tasks are designed with sufficient  need-for-interdependence and complexity . The group task is extensive enough for the group members to really need one another’s contributions to finish in time and complex enough to require us to discuss our work and provide one another with feedback.  I believe the design of collaborative tasks we are currently engaged in are contributing towards an effective collaboration.  The design fosters a sense of responsibility and of shared ownership of both the collaborative process and the end product of the group assignment. I value a sense of achievement, of my learning processes, and of the deliverable we work on more than my individual tasks and the end point of the course. I believe, that collaborative learning tasks should be designed using measured challenge and relevance that builds shared ownership with students. I also believe that  autonomy played a crucial role. In our group tasks we were allowed to choose our own presentation tool and decide as a group our own focus and inquiry . Statements such as “it is your choice” occurred frequently from facilitator in all discussions.  Even though some of the  ideas may have been overruled by the group, everyone still felt autonomous, because decisions were made democratically.

Going forward, I intend to make collaborative tasks for my blended module with challenging and relevant tasks that allows students to build shared ownership.

The second reading [Brindley et al  2009 ] addresses whether assessment makes an impact on learner participation in small group collaborations. The paper actually proposes alternative strategies to assessing collaborative group projects.  It emphasises on scaffolding by sequencing activities that builds on previous skills and placing small group projects later in the course once students have acquired the confidence and skills to collaborate successfully.  Much like the earlier reading, it suggests  clarity of task and learner autonomy i.e. flexibility of task  It cites Juwah (2006) which suggests that allowing learners to form their own groups and select their own topics facilitates socializing within groups and positive group dynamics. In one of my blended course  project, I let students form pairs . But team formation, typical two pairs in a team, is done by tutors. This partially achieves the benefits mentioned above.  I agree that when students have autonomy i.e. content, process, intentions, goal setting, consequences, outcomes, group partners, their engagement, responsibility, and sense of the relevance of the task are heightened.  My current practice gives autonomy to students in terms of goal setting, consequences, partial group partnering, partial process and content. I believe full autonomy could be offered to students if they have developed self-regulation and an established sense to work in a community.  This paper refers to another reading Chapman, Ramondt, & Smiley (2005) that provides a list of elements viz. informality, familiarity, honesty, openness, heart, passion, dialogue, rapport, empathy, trust, authenticity, disclosure, humour, and diverse opinions, for establishing successful learning communities. I believe such elements need to be incorporated when programme level structures are to be established. These can then filter to various modules and help facilitate effective collaborative tasks.

I also came across a book review by Carver, D. of the book Learning Theory and Online Technologies, by Linda Harasim. Routledge: New York, 2012 [book review]. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(4), 324-326. doi:10.19173/irrodl.v13i4.1340.   This book is now on my reading list J


Brindley, J., Blaschke, L. & Walti, C. (2009). Creating Effective Collaborative Learning Groups in an Online Environment. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 10 (3).

Capdeferro, N. & Romero, M. (2012). Are online learners frustrated with collaborative learning experiences?. The International review of research in open and distance learning, 13(2), 26-44

Juwah, C. (2006). Interactions in online peer learning. In R.C. Sharma & C. Juwah(Eds.) Interactions in online education. Implications for theory and practice (pp. 171-190). New York: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Chapman, C., Ramondt, L., & Smiley, G. (2005). Strong community, deep learning: Exploring the link. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 47(3), 217-230.

Learning in Communities – Networked Collaborative Learning