This blog post is a reflection on the Topic 3: Collaborative Learning of ONL162 course. It has stirred more questions than answers for me. More questions mean more discovery to I will like others to think about these aspects as well.
Is group-work or cooperative learning same as collaborative learning?
For me, collaboration needs to be more than just being a group. You need to capitalize on the synergy of ideas, knowledge and skills. Each member should have a particular role based on their strength or interest. You need to be inter-dependent in a collaborative task where the final product is only possible with everyone’s input and there is no free-loading.
Brindley, Walti and Blaschke (2009) also provide some characteristics/strategies that help to take forward group work beyond cooperation to collaboration such as a clear purpose of collaboration and expectations of roles, the balance between structure and learner autonomy, relevance for the collaboration and monitoring.
With so many roles and equally many contributors, how can you keep track of the work?
In the real, you are required to work with others and not alone (Shaw, 2006), so it is an important skill to remain connected or structured even in a non-linear task/way of working. It is important to set up group rules, make sure the purpose of the collaboration and expectations are clearly explained and understood by all contributors from the outset. The group should capitalize technology to collaborate more efficiently and also monitor each other’s contribution (e.g. using Google Drive).
Is collaborative learning only about a project or long-lasting relationships?
Long-lasting relationship is first litmus test of effective collaborative learning (unfortunately, you can only know about it in a subsequent project) because you try to work on common purpose and create a community of practice. Both the product/project and the process of group work should be meaningful (Swan, Shen, & Hiltz, 2006).
If it is based on long-lasting relationships then does it create stagnation and homogeneity in terms of community membership?
Yes, it can. It should always be a community than a lobby. Therefore, an addition of new members and creating an open environment and power balancing is really important.