Creating the container of collaborative learning
Collaboration in online learning can open extensive possibilities in knowledge creation, surpassing individual learners’ efforts. Achieving collaboration, however, can be a challenge. Chiriac and Granström (2012), Hämäläinen and Vähäsantanen (2011). Janssen and Wubbels (2018) found four main obstacles to the effectiveness of collaborative learning, namely students’ lack of collaborative skills, free-riding, competence status, and friendship. Group creation is the first step, where the instructor should focus on creating groups of learning with similar levels of commitments (Capdeferro and Romero 2012).
An instructor can facilitate collaboration in online learning by targeting the psychological safety of collaborating learners. Building trust between learns can be achieved by creating a set of group rules together with its members and fostering a spirit of group identity. According to Walti and Blaschke (2009) expectations should be transparently portrayed and instructions as clear as possible so that deviations can be properly identified. Once basic requirements are met, the instructor can motivate students by highlighting the real life relevance of network learning, highlighting the its dual purpose of cognitive and collaborative aspects. At the same time Capdeferro and Romero (2012) suggest timely intervention is necessary to avoid negative experiences and bad outcomes.
Successful collaboration can be supported from the technical perspective by providing diagnostic tools that allow both instructors as well as learners to identify dysfunctional groups. These could take the shape of regular peer-evaluation surveys. For this to be successful, a rubric should be phrased as clearly as possible. In addition to a punitive function, technology can also enable effective collaboration through tools and platforms such as padlet, todaysmeet, socrativem twilda etc.
So while collaboration is essential for effective network learning, it needs careful crafting of a ‘container’ where learning can take place effectively.