For topic 3, we started with a given scenario as follows:

“So often when we ask students to collaborate, they see it as merely a way of distributing the workload, and not as an opportunity to build and consolidate their collaborative skills. They fall into old ways of working in groups where the task is divided and individuals complete their part individually, only really coming together at the end to bring it all together. 

I would like to design a learning opportunity that not only gets my students working together collaboratively, but which also influences their capacity for collaboration beyond the course. How can I get people to really recognize the value of becoming part of a learning community and experience the benefits of social learning?”

Brindley, Blaschke & Walti (2009) propose seven instructional strategies to improve the quality of group collaboration and to increase the likelihood of student participation. Here I relect a little bit on some of the strategies based on my own experience and understanding:

Strategy #1:Facilitate learner readiness for group work and provide scaffolding to build skills

“Students need to be taught the necessary skills for effective online collaboration, particularly those skills that will help them succeed in a group environment, such as planning and negotiation skills (Curtis & Lawson, 2001).”

I think as teachers for a course, we kind of pre assume that the students can work as a group and usually design a group work as part of our assessment. We don’t put a lot of effort into facilitating their readiness for group work. I cannot agree more on that scaffodling is very important in any type of education.

Strategy #2: Establish a healthy balance between structure (clarity of task) and learner autonomy (flexibility of task)

I think the choice of level of learner autonomy depends on the level of education (phD, master or bachelor), the type of group work and also the duration for completion of the group work. For tasks with straightforward instructions that have to be finished in a short period or even within the class, less learner autonomy is perhaps preferable. Then a predetermined group is not a bad idea. But for group work which will involve students’ engagement through a long course period, e.g. course project, essay project, analysis report, to let the students form groups with similar topic interests, ambitions is very important to smooth and enhance the collaboration.

Strategy #4: Monitor group activities actively and closely

I think this is also an important aspect for us, the teachers or supervisors, facilitators to ensure a good collaborative environment.  For example, the teacher can jump into each of the breakout rooms for monitoring and providing continuous feedback, helping ice breaking etc.

I think what the facililators did in practices in our PBL group is a very good example of how this strategy was implemented.

When it comes to our group work, our PBL group this time applied “Learning together by Doing together”. Specifically, we decided to try a new tool -Miro board- which is complete new to most of the group members to facilitate our line of thinking and prepare the final presenttaion of our group work.

During this process, I think we actually applied the collaborative learning concept and practice by providing our comments, perceptions in practice, identified problems in pratice and suggestions with regard to each of the strategy together. We all enjoyed this process and saw the great benefits of true collaborative learning. Refering back to our own experience on the PBL group work, we started by simply distributing the work load in the first topic, and then finally the leap from just cooperation to real collaboration. So the development takes time and effort from each member, and this process would not be so smooth without the co-facilitators implementing these strategies


Curtis, D. D., & Lawson, M. J. (2001). Exploring collaborative online learning. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 5(1), 21-34.

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

Reflection on Topic 3: Learning in communities – networked collaborative learning