A collaborative painting

My best experience of collaborative learning was actually the latest PBL-group work on how to create and sustain an internet course that promotes collaborative learning. In truth, it was not the actual contents but the format of the presentation that was the best experience. We used Prezi, which I had tried before but did not continue with because it took a lot of time and did add anything substantial to a presentation, I thought. This time however we worked on a joint Prezi and none of us were an expert on it. So we figured it out together, worked on different parts, the same parts, discussed and put together the best paths in the presentation and we laughed a lot ? and finally we were quite happy with how it turned out. I think we couldn’t have done this in earlier PBL-group works, because it is now we are beginning to feel comfortable together which supports a creative and collaborative way of working. We have arrived at a sense of community (Garrison, 2006).

In my online courses I have tried to get students to learn together, i.e. to discuss and build knowledge in webinars. This has not worked out so well. Students have been hesitant to reveal their “weaknesses”, as (I think) they have perceived it. I would have liked to hear: “I did not get this – anyone else who has thoughts on this x subject/problem?” or “This is awesome! I really got it now, listen to this!”. Instead the seminars were polite and students were reading aloud what they had written in assignments and not really turning problems into interesting discussions. A big mistake was that I had not structured the course well enough so that the students got to know each other, had social interactions online and felt secure in smaller study groups. Garrison (2006) points out the importance of establishing a climate that will create a community of inquiry. He recommends e.g. a special forum for students to introduce themselves with the possibility to add some personal information and preferably with a photo. I actually did this in all courses but I think I have to take this to another level. Feeling secure and comfortable with teachers, other students and the learning environment is really important for collaborative learning! The last few years I have abandoned webinars and I let the students discuss in a discussion forum instead (where they have to make a minimum of two postings for each topic). This has made them interact in a much better way and if I detect that someone is on the wrong track in these discussions…… I wait! Because if I don’t interfere other students will soon question and discuss this issue and – voilá! – they are back on track again. So what I will do in the future is I will add webinars but not take away the discussion forums. I will also not count on a lot of participation from students during webinars but maybe in breakout rooms, when I as a teacher am not present. My expectations from this are mainly that they will get to know each other better. Further, I would like to introduce at least one collaborative task where students have to create something together to support collaborative learning (Brindley, Walti & Blaschke, 2009). Maybe a Prezi?

Jane E. Brindley, J.E., Walti, C., Blaschke, L.M. (2009) Creating
Effective Collaborative Learning Groups in an Online Environment. International Review of Research in Open and
Distance Learning
Vol. 10 (3), pp 1-18.

Garrison, D. (2006). Online collaboration principles. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks.
DOI: 10.10.24059/olj.v10i1.1768

Online collaborative learning