1 – 14 April 2024

In this third topic, we will explore aspects of collaborative learning in relation to networked online spaces for learning. Learning can become deeper and more meaningful when learners work and learn together, this applies both in formal situations such as in universities and lifelong learning centres as well as informal contexts such as in companies and various social organisations. Humans have learned socially from their beginnings, our brains even have organs which have specific functions which support community and learning in community. We thus are born with capacities to learn together, and have trained capabilities which support such learning all our lives. When we experiment with various ways of learning with others online we can experience meaningful learning where learners meet, interact and learn together with peers in different situations and modalities. Technology offers new possibilities for such human interaction and for forming new kinds of social networks and thus for working and learning together. Technology also offers interesting challenges, such as keeping focus on the learning processes, and not tools, and on forming supportive and challenging interactions which can lead to more and deeper learning. During this module you will be encouraged to reflect on the meaning of networked collaborative learning and the development of learning communities online, and especially what you can do to create and foster, generous and supportive interactions in your online courses and other learning offerings you plan to lead.

Activities for all learners

Common course events
Hope you can join this topic’s events!

  • Webinar 1: Wednesday 03 April 12:00-13:00 (CEST)
  • Webinar 2: Wednesday 10 April 12:00-13:00 (CEST)

Individual learning reflection:

Towards the end of the topic 3,  share your reflections in your post and if possible have a look at how others have captured their stories. Suggested themes for reflection in your learning reflections:

  • An occasion when real collaborative learning took place, that moved your own thinking forward.
  • Reflect on how you can use technologies to enable and foster social in a group of participants.
  • How would you envision collaborative learning online in a course you teach? Why?

Don’t forget to read and comment on peer’s reflections!

PBL group work

For guidance on PBL group work including the FISh design please see Learning activities.
Here is this topic’s scenario to consider in your PBL group:


“So often when we ask students to collaborate, they see it as merely a way of distributing the workload, and not as an opportunity to build and consolidate their collaborative skills. They fall into old ways of working in groups where the task is divided and individuals complete their part individually, only really coming together at the end to bring it all together. I would like to design a learning opportunity that not only gets my students working and especially learning together collaboratively, but which also influences their capacity for collaboration beyond the course. How can I get participants to really recognize the value of becoming part of a learning community and experience the benefits of social learning?”

Readings and other resources

To read

Theoretical and practical basis for our discussion

Wenger, E. (2010). Communities of practice and social learning systems: the career of a concept. In Social learning systems and communities of practice (pp. 179-198). Springer London.

Wenger’s contribution lies especially in his explanations of social learning and the popularization of the concepts of situated learning and Communities of practice. The latter is a good model, which gives ideas about how to structure online learning communities. His explanations of social learning as participation are a good basis for our discussion.

Wlodkowski, R. J. (2004). Creating Motivating Learning Environments. In M. W. Galbraith (Ed.), Adult Learning Methods: A guide for Effective Instruction (3rd ed., pp. 141–164). Krieger Publishing Company. 

Wlodkowski presented a comprehensive model to explain adult’s motivation to learn, and how to foster and support participation. In this book chapter he explains his model. The ideas here are central to my argumentation about how to support collaboration in an online course.

Ringer, M., Gordon, R., & Vandenbussche, B. (2022).Igniting the collective spark: The relevance of thinking togethe Í The collective spark: Igniting thinking in groups teams and the wider world. (bls. 8–21). Grafische Cel

Here is the introduction to a new book on how people think together in groups. As thinking and learning are connected functions in our lives what the authors depict here, based on recent research on thinking, gives our thinking on collaborative learning both a theoretical basis and some practical pointers.


Further optional – Some practical examples

Creelman, A., Árnason, H., & Röthler, D. (2017). Webinars as Active Learning Arenas. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, 1–14.

Effective Webinars. (2016). Toolkit for effective and interactive webinars.

The toolkit gives practical advise while the article dives a bit deeper explaining and rationalizing the why’s and how’s of collaborative learning online.

Árnason, H., Creelman, A., Eklund, C., Grubbe, J., Kekkonen, T., Knudsen, A., Ruge, B., & Slåtto, T. (2017). Silent learners – a guide.

This guide is built on a two year project where we studied participation in online learning events, and focused especially on those who participated but did not contribute actively. This is what we learned.


These two books on teaching online cover a lot and give a good overview of many aspects of online learning and teaching.

  • Anderson, T. (2008). Teaching in an online learning context. In The theory and practice of online learning (pp. 343-395). Athabasca university press. Available here.
  • Dron, J. & Anderson, T. (2014). Teaching crowds: Learning and social media. Athabasca University Press. Available here.


By the end of this topic, you will have had the opportunity to

  • name and explain some central findings on social aspects of learning
  • compare some modalities of social learning such as collaborative learning, cooperative learning, learning communities, communities of practice, communities of inquiry, connectivism, etc
  • deliberate reasons for using collaboration as a central aspect in your course design
  • name and explain a number of methods to include and facilitate collaborative learning
  • facilitate collaborative learning online with a variety of methods and tools


webinarWebinar 1 Wednesday 03 April 12:00-13:00 (CEST)

with Hróbjartur Árnason

(check your timezone)

webinarWebinar 2 Wednesday 10 April 12:00-13:00 (CEST)

with Hróbjartur Árnason


During this topic I have:

  • Attended at least two of the PBL group online meetings
  • Read and watched the recommended resources for the topic
  • Contributed actively to the group work on the scenario
  • Contributed actively to the group discussion
  • Commented on some peer’s reflections
  • Written my individual reflection on topic 3
  • Studied the recommended resources for this topic.