The past two weeks of the Open Network Learning course have focused on student collaboration, or what we might call collaborative learning (CL). To me, this topic has revolved around how to keep students motivated in their learning experience. Studies have shown that the learning environment has a large impact on motivation even in higher education (Cayubit 2022). Adding elements of collaboration can thus help to foster enthusiasm and student involvement, hence contributing to a positive learning environment. This highlights the social nature of learning, which is something that can aid in creating a more inclusive university (Abegglen et al. 2021). Gilly Salmon’s Five Stage Model of online learning provides us with some understanding of the elements needed to facilitate collaborative learning among students, so that they are more satisfied and successful in their courses. The first two stages are about making sure that the students feel comfortable with the technical platforms, that they feel encouraged and manage to establish a personal identity in the course community, while the third stage is to make sure that they exchange information meaningfully in their group work. These three stages are essential to be able to reach the two last stages, where the students are ready to engage in more complex group activities (Critical thinking, evaluating ect.) and not just consume but also contribute to knowledge (Gilly Salmon’s Five Stage Model). With her scaffolding model she emphasises that each new step needs to build on the previous or we risk that students lose motivation and engagement with the course work.
By immersing myself in this topic, I take with me a strengthened belief in the importance of the social environment we create in our classrooms, be that on campus or online. One example of a situation where I now feel strengthened in the way I did spent time on community building is a guest lecture I give on a course, which happen to be the first lecture on that course. I have held the same lecture for a few years, and as the course is given in English at a faculty where most courses are offered in Swedish it tends to attract a lot of exchange students who do not know each other previously. So, this year I ended up using quite a lot of my lecture time on socialisation. I opened the lecture with a round of presentations, starting with me, where we all stated our first name and said something about how long we had lived in this town. It turned out to be a good warm up question showing the variety of countries all in the group had arrived from and with some having moved to town just a few days earlier while others being a bit more familiar with the place. I could notice how the class relaxed and engaged with each other with this personal yet safe and a bit funny question. During the lecture we continuously had with some small group work and during the last session I could hear them talking not only about the topic but also about more personal things. Afterwards I was feeling happy, thinking it had gone really well. But, I was also feeling a bit guilty for having spent perhaps too much time and effort on socialisation. Learning more about this topic have strengthen my belief in the need for socialisation and have given me the theoretical knowledge on its importance, not only for creating an inclusive environment but also for student learning and motivation. Allowing time for students to socialise and build a course community while working together can thus help create a positive learning environment where students actually learn more.
Abegglen, S., Burns, T., & Sinfield, S. (2021). Editorial: Collaboration in higher education: Partnering with students, colleagues and external stakeholders. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 18(7), 1-6.
Five Stage Model – Gilly Salmon, webpage on https://www.gillysalmon.com/five-stage-model.html
Cayubit, R.F.O. (2022) Why learning environment matters? An analysis on how the learning environment influences the academic motivation, learning strategies and engagement of college students. Learning Environ Res 25, 581–599 . https://doi.org/10.1007/s10984-021-09382-x