Topic 3 is by far the most interesting topic for me as I could relate to it when I was a student, and I can relate to being on the educator’s end now.

  • An occasion when real collaborative learning took place, that moved your own thinking forward

An occasion where real learning took place was during my undergraduate studies where I had a module on Positive Psychology. I fondly remember how everyone was very invested in the 40% project, and that we encouraged collaboration even without a facilitator. While it also had elements of division of workload, I felt that the division was necessary in the interest of time. However, this not only did not hinder the learning process, we collaborated even more as we all came together to evaluate each other’s parts to produce the best outcome.

However, there is a certain recipe for such a successful collaborative learning process and outcome.

First, the learners have to all be aligned in terms of interest and investment in the work. If there were any discrepancies in commitment levels, the group project might not have been delivered smoothly. Some people might think, “Why do we need to put in so much time and effort for this?” while others might think, “Why are you not willing to put in effort for a 40% project?” This could have caused friction and the results would not be as positive as in the situation where everyone is fully committed, or if everyone is not-as-fully committed.

Second, the learners have to contribute actively and evenly. I found that knowledge construction was highly dependent on each other’s contribution and effort in the discussions. We had to do prior research and come to meetings prepared, so as to value-add meaningfully to the discussions. Only then, will we build on each other’s ideas and develop higher order thinking skills, richer idea generation and ultimately achieve the most optimal outcome.

Third, learners have to be able to facilitators themselves, or at least have one of two “regulator” of sorts in the group. Having dialogues is important. Even if you have amazing team members who are resourceful and able to understand and deliver information on paper, it does not help if they are unable to speak up or share their knowledge. If they are soft-spoken, or if the conversations are always dominated by the outspoken ones, then their inability to share would also cripple the collaborative efforts as well. My group had a mediator who ensured that every single person had a chance to speak up, and that nobody’s comments/suggestions are overwritten without rhyme or reason. This echoes the paper where Connectivism (Siemens, 2005) is cited, “in the online learning environment, seeking and constructing knowledge is most often accomplished through interaction and dialogue”.

Finally, I agree with the article by Brindley, Walti and Blaschke ( that grading might not be the best way to foster collaborative learning. Even though I was graded for that project along with my teammates, it had little to no impact on the way we worked. If this were a project where no grading was involved, we would be happy and excited to embark on it. In some contexts, interest might be more important than other factors in fostering collaborative learning.

Topic 3: Learning in Communities – Networked Collaborative Learning