Reflections on Topic 3: Learning in communities – networked collaborative learning

Networking directly with persons can be a bit challenging, as there are always differences among members in a group. Diversity is a beautiful thing but has an infinity number of components that sometimes can make everything so complicated. For example, cultural differences is a type of diversity that can make networking among people shaky, sometimes sharply shifting from positive dynamics to negative  depending on the argument/topic that is being addressed. Another example of diversity is intellectual or personality differences which can at times make the dynamics of group members unbendable. Both of these examples can make networking, that is, a direct person-person interaction within a group a positive or negative experience. Online networking, also known as collaborative learning, on the other hand, is a newer and easier method to communicate and work together as person-person in a group. Perhaps its success is due to the fact that members of the group have less contact with one another and thus it is easier to express one’s opinion knowing that there is a physical distance and the web behind it.

According to a research article by Brindley et. al (2009) “Collaborative learning is an online classroom that can take the form of discussion among the whole class or within smaller groups” and offers a ”highly social learning environment, characterized by participation and interactivity”. Yet, in a contrary view, a research article by Kearsley (2000) showed that collaborative learning can be an intensive individual experience, although the quality and quantity of interactivity can vary dramatically from group to group. Interaction between group members, whether it is student-lecturer, colleague-colleague, etc., is important and vital for engagement and development in collaborative learning. An online learning setting warrants the acquisition of essential skills, such as analytical thinking and building-up of knowledge,  and thus offers the opportunity for interaction and connectedness. Notably, it supports students to acquire advanced understanding by collaborating and cultivating essential skills in critical thinking, self-reflection, and co-construction of knowledge – which are all important for educational development.

In this assignment, we were asked to work together in a collaborative manner. My participation on the active web meetings was limited but I followed the comments and ideas of the group members through the working document, as well as the literature. As I have mentioned above, diversity and group dynamics are major issues when it comes to collaborative learning. I also think that in every online learning setting where group of individuals are need to gather together to put ideas, there is always going to be some that work more than others do. This is not because the other person is lazy or has no interest, but because people tend to prioritize their learning by focusing on what matters most to them. From the working document, I could not help notice that some of my group members are more into learning about education and tools to learn than from the others, and therefore drove the group dynamics towards their goal and learning objectives. My reflection on this assignment, it is that everyone is different and has always something to contribute. Under any collaborative setting, whether it is direct contact person-to-person or indirect as in collaborative online learning, some people will contribute more because of their own interests and personal satisfaction. Forcing or putting pressure on someone to contribute does not help the group dynamics neither the work to be accomplished. Instead, it creates negative energy within the group and becomes difficult to collaborate and work together towards the common goal. Working together in a group is challenging but this is part of core of every successful assignment even at the personal level, for example, when it comes to family i.e., parents and children. The family does not move forward if everyone is no on the same boat. Under a family sailing event, parents and children have their own roles and interests and only working together under a common goal they will succeed and reach the finish line.


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Author: Natalia V Rivera

Hello, I am a senior postdoc at the Department of Medicine Solna, Karolinska Institutet.

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