This was my turn to co-lead and I found collaboration/learning in communities to be a really interesting topic, both in the content and how collaboration actually played out. In the ONL context there were at least two aspects of collaboration for me: working together with my co-leader and working together in the group. I also found that this topic prompted me to think in much more depth about collaboration outside of ONL in my research team, although I will explore these reflections more in my final blog. 

In our group, we began with brainstorming ideas around the scenario, using Padlet to encourage everyone to write something. In summary, the scenario presented the problem of getting students to recognise the value of collaboration and using the strengths of everyone without relying heavily on just one person doing most of the work. While there was some engagement, I found myself in a very different position as leader in dealing with silences. I wanted to help the discussion along but still make sure everyone had their say, and as a person who is usually quieter in bigger groups, I wanted to find a way to ensure ideas from similar personalities were brought to light.

I also think my previous training as a therapist and coach came into play with how I managed this topic – we are trained in questioning and interpersonal techniques in order to not lead clients towards ideas that don’t come organically from them and that they may not feel comfortable with. When we have suggestions, they need to be framed in a certain (often quite passive) way, and I found myself bringing this in but also being concerned that they sounded too flimsy. Over our second and third meetings, we seemed to find our stride a bit more as a group, resulting in a new Padlet with lots of ideas and reflections. Our resulting product (picture below) is a collection of our different ideas and searching.

I found this to be an interesting topic beyond this group work though, and I noticed that the collaboration with my co-leader just got better as we progressed. By the middle/end we were doing the online work equivalent of ‘finishing each other’s sentences’, and it was really inspiring to see that collaboration could work so well even across countries (both in the 1-1 and group collaborations). 

The resources I found extremely helpful were the personality and social understanding tests. Although I was familiar with personality tests (as Psychology is my field!), it was helpful to think of them in this context. The ‘Reading the mind in the eyes’ test (Baron-Cohen et al., 2001) was also very intriguing as a measure of social perception. I also found it interesting that research seemed to suggest that smaller groups are more effective, both in online and offline collaboration (Brindley, Blaschke & Walti, 2009). It was also useful to think about the role of leadership in collaboration, and I learned more about this topic in general. For example, a few types of people that make effective groups including the leader, monitor, notetaker/timekeeper and ‘devil’s advocate’ (McKenna & Green, 2002; Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Brewer, 1991)

Overall, this topic made me consider collaboration and group working in more depth and in different contexts. I appreciated the opportunity to reflect on my own leadership style (also considering my usual group participation in comparison), especially my way of communicating and how this is influenced by my training. I enjoyed working with different resources and research, and feel I have a much clearer understanding of collaboration, both online and offline.


Baron‐Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Hill, J., Raste, Y., & Plumb, I. (2001). The “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” test revised version: A study with normal adults, and adults with Asperger syndrome or high‐functioning autism. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry42(2), 241-251.

Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497–529. 

Brewer, M. B. (1991). The social self: On being the same and different at the same time. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 17, 475–482. 

Brindley, J., Blaschke, L. M. & Walti, C. (2009). Creating effective collaborative learning groups in an online environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3).

McKenna, K. Y. A., & Green, A. S. (2002). Virtual group dynamics. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 6(1), 116–127. 

Topic 3 – Learning in Communities