This topic and the proposed idea for individual learning on an occasion, in which real collaborative learning took place made me think the time I was doing my master’s in Sweden at KTH. Collaborative learning can be defined as “a teaching method that brings together students to discuss a topic important for a given course or curriculum and solve a related problem or create a product” (Kalmar et al., 2022). I took part in this Open Lab-course, in which we had to solve real life problems in interdisciplinary groups. The work was rather facilitated, meaning that we learned to use different kinds of innovation methods along the way and then used those in practice while we were solving our challenge. Besides learning a new innovation method, design thinking, I really enjoyed the true collaborative aspect of our learning journey. We were a group of eight coming from broadly from the fields of medicine, social sciences, and engineering. The broad spectrum of fields was difficult in the beginning because we all were thinking differently and working differently. Therefore, it felt that the project takes too much time and we actually don’t move forward because we were going back and forward in our discussions and it was a bit difficult to make decisions in the group. However, when looking back, I know this is a cliché, but I truly can see that the varied group that we had and the truly collaborative nature of our working led into better results in terms of my learning as well as in terms of the end result we developed for the challenge.
My experience was not an online experience and therefore I feel that it may have been easier to work with the group. In an onsite experience it may be easier to get to know the people you are working with you see their body language and communication is more natural. In Kalmar et al (2022) article, they found that often the collaborative learning groups lack socio-emotional interactions, which seems like a natural finding in the sense that in an online environment people (me included) often seem to be very result-oriented. They want to get things done and move forward and skip the chit-chats, which would be fun and a natural part of group work in face-to-face experience. However, as these online learning and working occasions have become more common, and I have realized my tendency to become in a sense too result oriented, I have consciously tried to slow down, participate in discussions and facilitate openness and discussive environment also in online environments.
Kalmar, E., Aarts, T., Bosman, E., Ford, C., de Kluijver, L., Beets, J., … & van der Sanden, M. (2022). The COVID-19 paradox of online collaborative education: when you cannot physically meet, you need more social interactions. Heliyon, 8(1).