Topic 3 Collaborative learning

No man is an Island, entire of itself

(John Donne, Meditation XVII, 1572-1631)

These weeks, we have learned about collaborative learning at the ONL course.  I have truly enjoyed investigating, discussing and reflecting about this topic.

Collaborating as a scientist

I like collaborating because it is challenging, enriching and gratificating. Moreover, it is an essential part of my job as a scientist, not only because is useful (which it is), but also because it is needed. We are becoming very specialised in our competences, skills and knowledge. As a consequence,  we are very good at what we do. But this also limits the number of things that we can do and explore. Therefore, if we want to conduct groundbreaking research, we need to find partners with complementary expertise. If you look in Pubmed, it is difficult to find publications with only a single author. Collaborating is a ‘need’ in science.

Collaborating as a teacher

Collaborating is also a necessity of today’s students. Interacting, sharing and working with each other is a skill that they will need throughout their life. In my courses, I always include assignments that are challenging and require innovative and/or critical thinking and ask the students to solve them as a team. My experience so far is really positive (please note that I only teach few weeks per year). I have no doubt that a collaborative approach promotes learning and creativity. The students are active, more engaged and relaxed and learning becomes fun!

Yet, these exercises are done at a very small scale: the students meet face-to-face and interact in small groups. As usual, the ONL course is opening the door to a much broader possibility: what if we expand our learning spaces and include larger learning communities into it?

Collaborating as a learner

At the ONL course, I am experiencing collaboration as a learner.  I am discovering that  using online technologies, we can expand our learning network in an incredible way. The Google+ ONL community is a great example, with all the interesting posts, blogs and links. For instance, this week I found a very  inspirational video: ( Thanks Marcus Lithander (PBL 9) for sharing!

The core of the ONL collaborative work is at the PBL groups. At PBL4, we are sharing concepts, experiences, technology and ideas. Sure, we are facing some challenges (such as finding times that fit everyone’s schedules), but we are coping well with it. We are taking some risks, testing new ideas and experimenting with new technology (videoscribe this week, thanks Yumna :-). Thanks to my colleagues at PBL4, I am doing things that I would not be doing by myself.

Our collaboration is  based on discussing. We are working intuitively, so I was surprised to discover that our work follows the principles of online collaborative learning described by Harasim in 2012, which I just read this afternoon. Harasim describes 3 phases to construct knowledge through discussion:

  1. Idea generating (brainstorming)
  2. Idea organizing (compare, analyse and catagorise)
  3. Intellectual convergence (synthesis, understanding and consensus)

We are becoming masters of phase 1 and 2. Phase 3 requires more time and reflexion, but I think we are getting better at it :-). Sometimes  it feels like the topic just finished when we were ready to continue at a deeper level. Or maybe is just my own feeling, since the topics are so new to me and I need time to research on them…But perhaps that is learning after all, something that stays and grows with us.

 Wrapping up

In summary, it is very satisfactory to see how the concepts of connectivity, openness in education and collaborative learning in networks are converging together. This might be a turning point for me in the ONL course.



Harasim, L. (2012) Learning theory and online technologies. New York/London: Routledge

Julie Lindsay (2016)







10 thoughts on “Topic 3 Collaborative learning

  1. Great post Victoria, very insightful and well articulated. I love how you have divided your blog into the three perspectives, providing food for thought with regard to collaboration.You raise an important point, that through collaboration the possibilities of exploration, at an increased pace, are endless.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for your interesting reflections on Topic 3. As a member of ONL162 PBL7 and as a novice in the area of online education I recognized myself in all your thoughts. For me, up until now the course has been all about confusing.. the topics pass so fast and I have a constant feeling that I’m just about to grasp the core of online learning but fail to do so. But I guess that you are right when you say that, I hope that you are right about that, “that is learning after all, something that stays and grows with us”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Victoria, your enthusiasm to experiment with new ideas and new technologies has been beautifully depicted in your blog post. You are right in saying that learning is never-ending. Thanks for your invaluable contribution to the use of VideoScribe. Here’s to many more new discoveries in the ONL162 course and beyond.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post! I have also found that collaborative projects, such as team presentations etc have been very beneficial in my teaching and that it has multiplied the student’s interest in a given topic.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting blog!, Yes it is a challenge to work together. When I looked at the video “Collaboration – On the Edge of a New Paradigm?” it came to my mind Sir Ken Robinson presentation about education. I don´t know if you seen his Ted-talks before, but he is one quite interesting. He wants to see a revolution in the school system and also let us think about the young children, they are the future. He is also fun to listen at.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think that you drawn an important parallel with science. It’s important that we train our students (especially those who want to do research) in working together so that they can learn how to collaborate in groups before they start working for real.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for your post! I like that you depict collaboration as a process, where the process actually is equally important as the outcome. You are an important part of PBL4 and we seem to agree that your enthusiasm pushes all of us forward! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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