Topic 3 was “Learning in communities – networked collaborative learning” and the topic’s scenario dealt with the questions of how to become part of a learning community and collaborate with your peers identifying and making use of the individual competences available in the respective group. For me personally, as we are currently developing several online courses, is the question of collaboration the biggest challenge to work with. On the one hand, choose many students online courses in order to study individually in their own pace, on the other hand see we as teachers collaboration as an integral part from an educational perspective (Hrastinski, 2013).  In fact, following the model of community inquiry by Garrison et al. (2000) is educational experience based on teaching, cognitive and social presence.

Elements of an Educational Experience (Garrison et al. 2000)

The expectations of online education and teaching activities are under these conditions consequently a paradox and learners might be informed about how courses are conducted too late when they are already enrolled. Hence, clear information on institutional level to match expectations and preferences of the students is the first step to prevent frustration with collaborative learning experiences (Capdeferro and Romero, 2012).

The challenge for the teacher is further to create a social framework that enables and facilitates the establishment of a learning group or community and encourages collaboration. Also, since group work has been shown to be beneficial in the development of students in various key areas such as knowledge, thinking skills, social skills and course satisfaction (Davidson and Major, 2014). The article by Davidson and Major also provides an extensive overview about features of different active learning approaches, namely cooperative, collaborative and problem-based learning, and from where they originated.  

From my own experience is it important to offer both heterogeneous communication and examination in order to reflect the heterogeneity of student groups. These can include implicit and explicit, synchronous and asynchronous and informal and formal communication as well as formative and summative assessment. Also here are clear instructions important to reduce student frustration caused by technological difficulties that can hamper communication and collaboration (Capdeferro and Romero, 2012).

To summarize, learning
in communities has many advantages and benefits for the students’ development,
but at the same time it brings along different challenges that can lead to
frustration and even drop out. Heterogeneous communication and assessment along
with clear instructions are from my point of view important factors to prevent
frustration and ensure beneficial collaborative work. What factors do you think
are most important?   

Learning in communities – networked collaborative learning