Learning in collaborative groups and networks

Learning in collaborative groups and networks

Scenario 3 draws attention to lacking collaboration among students while working in groups. Capdeferro and Romero (2012) have identified in their research that students often feel frustrated in collaborative learning activities in online courses, particularly due to asymmetric collaboration, a lack of shared values and clear communication, and due to an imbalance regarding individual contributions in terms of quality and time. Therefore, it is highly important that students are made aware of the relevance and benefits of constructive collaboration and social learning. As discussed during the ONL course with focus on Topic 3, one solution to draw greater attention to the value of balanced collaboration is the concept of personal learning network (PLN). According to Oddone (2019, 2022), the concept of a personal learning network (PLN) may be unclear, particularly for younger learners. Therefore, this approach will require time to allow students getting used to genuine collaboration and fully understand the value of being a member of a PLN. In addition to online socialization (Lee et al., 2001), which is essential to build a sense of community at the beginning of a course, the concept of PLN requires sufficient explanation and guidance by the teacher.

Collaborative opportunities can materialize through different ways. Ideally, members of a PLN experience a genuine belonging to a community, which is further fostered by shared intrinsic interests in the subject matter. Mutual support, and an informed exchange of relevant ideas provide meaningful learning experiences, which further strengthen the quality of collaborative work in a PLN. As White (2022) states, belonging demands individual commitment and might be perceived as inconvenient. In addition, merely being together in a group does not equal a deeper sense of belonging to a community (White, 2022). Similar to building friendships, the development of a meaningful sense of belonging is a process which requires time. Therefore, pedagogical strategies that foster online socialization (Lee et al., 2001) are particularly important at the beginning of an online course. Furthermore, it is important to remember that technology is merely the enabler but does not as such necessarily add pedagogical value. The teacher, or rather online facilitator, ideally chooses the most suitable online tools which help students to connect, to build a strong sense of group identity, and eventually to meet the desired learning outcomes and goals. Considering the vast variety of new online tools, and fast development of digital learning and pedagogy, teachers ideally stay up to date with digital trends, yet manage to inspire and guide students in their learning.

In conclusion, to foster a genuine sense of belonging and constructive collaboration among learners, teachers ideally emphasize the importance of communal learning from the start and consider this important aspect in the design of online courses. Furthermore, fueled by learners’ intrinsic motivation, successful self-organized study groups manage to build trust, share values, and respect each other. In addition to good and timely guidance provided by teachers and online facilitators, constructive online collaboration particularly requires time, balanced sharing of duties, and transparency regarding the learning path, goals, and objectives.



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. Retrieved November 7, 2022 from https://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1127/2129

Lee, A.; Danis C.; Miller, T.; Jung, Y. (2001). Fostering Social Interaction in Online Spaces. Retrieved Nov 10, 2022 from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/238689987_Fostering_Social_Interaction_in_Online_Spaces

Oddone, K. (November 7, 2022) Learning in Communities and Networks. [Webinar]. Open Networked Learning. https://www.opennetworkedlearning.se/onl222-course-overview/onl222-topic-3-learning-in-communities-networked-collaborative-learning/

Oddone, K. (February 27, 2019). Personal Learning Networks: Theory and Practice. [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved November 6, 2022 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8mJX5n3IEg

White, D. (March 24, 2022). Belonging is Inconvenient. Retrieved Nov 8, 2022 from https://daveowhite.com/inconvenient/

Topic 3: Constructive online collaboration requires intrinsic learner motivation, time, trust, shared values, and a balanced sharing of duties

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