What are differences between collaborative work, group work and connected learning? Why do we have to distinguish between networks and communities for learning? What are the opportunities of working consciously within the own “Personal Learning Network” and how can we avoid social loafing and other phenomens in unversity group learning settings?

A Personal Learning Network (also called PLN) goes beyond connecting each other. The power comes from interaction and sharing is very imortant in this understanding as Kay Oddone is explaining in an introductory video about the theory of PLNs (Oddone. 2019). A PLN is an online network which connects people, information and resources. You do use a variety of different social technologies like Blogs, Content Curation, Content creation & sharing, Forums, discussions, lists, Video and or picture sharing and social networks. The outstanding point for a conventional university teaching view is that the learners are operating independtly and following their interests and passion. Through basing learning on social interactions and try and error modes it may arise a new “handling” with the subjects we are learning and from it new perspectives and knowledge will be created.

In her webinar Oddone hold during our actual ONL Course 202 she defined a Community as a tidly woven fabric and a network as a fabric with a much more open weave. A Community therefore is a format where you suppose to know each other and in a network you may not know everybody personally. A network is not limited and dependent from one teacher for example. The challenges in learning through a PLN are as Oddone says: 1. the “infowhelm” – too much information!, 2. Time management, 3. Quality, credibility and authencity and 4. managing a professional digital identiy.

Connected learning occurs through connections between people, sources and the network, through seeing connections between fields, ideas and concepts, it involves cultivation and nururing the network and depends on a diversity of opionions and currencs of informaiton (cited from Siemens by Oddone, 2020).

Group and collaborative work seems to be working in a defined group and it is usually a small number of people who work together. In group work scenarios there are different ways of working together. You can split up the tasks or work in a collaborative way together. I made a funny experience exactly in the two week period about this topic in our course. I woke up early in the morning and thought I could go and contribute to our group document and there was at the same time with a time difference of seven hours in advance Mihi from Singapure working on the paper and we started a topic-related conversation together directly in the document. You see a part of it below in the screenshot.

Pericin I. 2020. Screenshot of spontaneous happend collaborative work with a PBL-Group Member in the ONL 202, CC BY-NC

Brindley et al (2009) are citing Siemens noting 2002 that learner-learner interactions in a E-Learning course can be viewed as a four stage continuum:

  1. Communication
    People ‘talking,’ discussing
  2. Collaboration
    People sharing ideas and working together (occasionally sharing resources) in a loose environment
  3. Cooperation
    People doing things together, but each with his or her own purpose
  4. Community
    People striving for a common purpose

Collaborative Learning promotes critical thinking skills and is essential for surviving in the business world. On the other hand I hear the usual sentence that students have enough from group work all the time. Thats why collaborative work needs support and engagement and the built of trust because there are a lot of hindering aspects and group phenomens influencing the quality of learning in communities.

I do not yet understand the difference between group and collaborative work because in our group discussion in the course we headed very early to the question about how to assess and grade collaborative and group work. It ignited a intense discussion about social loafing, what means that there is the possibility in getting a grade for an assessment where someone hasn’t contributed effectively. Another expression of negative group participation phenomen is free riding. And there are some more negative but also positive group phenomens.

I digged into the question about to grade-free a course. There is a teachers initiative working on the vision of going beyond grades and as I understood even beyond a curriculum: I read a blog post from Andrew Burnett about immediate feedback from teacher to students and its impact on learning. In the study he mentions there has been shown that a quick turnaround promotes learning.. At the end he postulated that students deserve immediate feedback. He gives it in the form of a video which he calls “Show Me What You Can Do” and records himself giving feedback on what they did well and what gave them difficulty. And he made the experience that it helps students to understand their mistakes. And if a student is really struggling he offers an individual meeting for extra help. I want to set up the thesis that no grades does not mean no feedback, it acutally enables it and therefor it may support learning even more effective. Further forms of grade-free assessments can be Peer-Feedback, Group or personal reflection on the process or the product.

To come to an end I really felt energized by the collaborative work in our PBL group. And I appreciate very much my own PLN and I see much more the potential of it after the inputs from this course topic. I like the idea of more individual and on students pesonal development and interests focused curriculum. In dealing with the questions about connected and collaborative learning I learnt that students have to be supported before, during and after such learning processes by clear evidence-based recommandations and enabled reflections. It is and remains a lively challenge for the students, the teacher and the institutions.

Burnett, A. 2020. Immediate Feedback. accessed 09.11.2020
Oddone, Kay. 04.11.2020. Webinar for ONL 202 in cooperation with Alastair Creelman
Oddone, Kay. 26.02.2019. PLN’s Theory and Practice. Video. accessed at 01.11.2020.
Brindley. J, Walti, Ch, Blaschke L. 2009. Creating Effective Collaborative Learning Groups in an Online Environment. at 02.11.2020
Siemens. George. 2005. Connectivism: A Learning Theory fot the Digital Age. International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Leraning (2). accessed at 05.11.2020

Learning with and from others and some challenges in the university context