Collaborative learning can be viewed as a collection of different educational approaches involving joined intellectual effort by students and teachers together (Smith and MacGregor 1992). It is worth mentioning that traditional classroom activities, e.g., lecturing, listening, or note-taking do not disappear fully in collaborative learning. However, with the change the world has undergone in the past couple of years in terms of technological advancement, collaborative learning has been taken into the virtual space which we know today as networked collaborative learning. In a broader sense, this has taken the education from within-institution to between-institution communities and the Open Networked Learning (ONL) course is an excellent example of networked collaborative learning. In addition, various research studies found this concept profoundly accepted across institutions to enhance the quality of education (Pan and Chen 2023, Prenger et al. 2019). In summary, networked collaborative learning is an effective approach to education that can benefit both students and teachers. With the technology available today to facilitate communication and collaboration, this approach can help students develop important skills and achieve their learning goals while providing teachers with new tools and resources to support their teaching.
Keeping aside the theoretical perspectives of networked collaborative learning, I must say the approaches used in the ONL course helped me as a person to sustain myself throughout the topics. As a doctoral student and teacher at the same time, it was quite hard for me to attend the online sessions regularly. Sometimes, there were pre-scheduled recurrent meetings and some lectures of mine in one of the courses I teach. However, the provision for recording the meetings and webinars, and documenting everyone’s thoughts in the FISh document in the group as a community helped me to update myself. The main aspect was that everything used to be documented whatever we do. This helped not only me but also our group members to cope with the flow of activities towards reaching a solution for each topic. Through the process for each topic, we came to know each of the persons in the group, their working principle, thought processes, motivations etc. These observations helped me at least to figure out my lapses in collaborative learning. It was also mentioned by several group members that they could figure out their shortcomings in the use of technology and they can act accordingly to enhance their digital competence. In some cases, I felt anxious about my lacking in expertise and motivation towards achieving a goal by seeing other’s enthusiasm. I think it was my “social anxiety”. However, this anxiety provoked my thought to overcome several issues like time-planning, how to motivate myself for different tasks etc.
Among my scattered thoughts regarding networked collaborative learning, my major takeaway is that this method creates provision to learn from other’s qualities through positive “social anxiety” and it’s the role of the instructor or community leader to control the effect of the anxiety on the community members in a developing manner. By the way, along with my thoughts on the selected topic, I would like to mention the outcome of this topic from our PBL group. It is a concise guideline to participate in community learning which can be found here.
Smith, B. L., & MacGregor, J. T. (1992). What is collaborative learning? [Avaliable Online]
Pan, H. L. W., & Chen, W. Y. (2023). Networked Learning Communities in Promoting Teachers’ Receptivity to Change: How Professional Learning Beliefs and Behaviors Mediate. Sustainability, 15(3), 2396. [Available Online]
Prenger, R., Poortman, C. L., & Handelzalts, A. (2019). The effects of networked professional learning communities. Journal of teacher education, 70(5), 441-452. [Available Online]
You start this reflection with emphasizing the importance of collaborative learning also in this online and networked world. Then you discuss the collaborative learning within your group and also for you personally. It sounds that you all discussed the collaborative learning journey a lot. Did you also discuss it in the teacher’s point of view? Do you use collaborative learning in your teaching design? Why or why not? You see that the instructor has to manage social anxiety amongst participants, but what more do you find important?
I always use collaborative learning in my teaching, even if it is for one particular task/assignment in a course. I see collaboration as a tool that every person needs at some point in his/her work life. So, I try to promote collaboration among my students. However, from a teacher’s point of view, he/she must create/arrange favourable space for the students to collaborate which includes removing social anxiety also. I would say it requires connecting with the students first before indulging the students with collaborative learning. Thank you.