In our PBL group, we have discussed about collaboration and if there are any differences between collaboration in digital environments and collaboration face-to-face. The only actual thing that differ is the lost of body languages in some digital environments. Apart from that I can´t come up with much… or maybe also the thing with asynchronous communication. Benefits of asynchronous communication is the possibility for reflection. In digital environments collaborative interactions is made possible by discussion forums, synchronous and asynchronous chats. By comparing the two types of discussion (synchronous / asynchronous) in the digital environment Watson and Sutton (2012) argues that the asynchronous communication is to prefer thus it allows the participants to identify, examine and reflect about problem areas in peace and quiet before sharing their thoughts with others.

Another aspect of collaboration, which has nothing to do with digital environments, is the fact that you have to collaborate with others. You are support to interact with “not of your own choosing-peers” (Brindley et al., 2009). One basic idea with peer-to-peer learning is student activity. The glue of the learning activities the peers are expected to work with is the common goal the peers are sharing. However, in all group work you have to respect the autonomy and independency of the learner. I think this is delicate and a balance act to keep in mind when striving for enhanced learning outcomes. Nevertheless, collaborative learning can contribute in addition to cognitive social learning and motivation to include emotional development. Group processes such as conflict management and feedback are essential ingredients of teamwork and prepare for future cooperation (De Hei et al., 2015). As Wenger (2010) claims, learning is the product of social structure and the learner is a social participant. After all we are only humans…

Brindley, J., Blaschke, L. M., & Walti, C. (2009). Creating effective collaborative learning groups in an online environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3).

De Hei MSA, Strijbos J-W, Sjoer E, Admiraal W, (2015) Collaborative learning in higher education: lecturers´ practices and beliefs. Research Papers in Educ, 30(2), 232-247.

Watson S, Sutton JM, (2012) An examination of the effectiveness of case method teaching online: Does the technology matter? JME, 36(6), 802-821.

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.

Photo: Teamwork by Luigi Mengato (CC BY 2.0)

12 thoughts on “Collaboration

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  1. I agree, it seems collaboration and learning are not fundamentally different in digital environments. I looked at this from the perspective of learning outcomes, which are just as important in distributed groups (more so than the tools used for interactions in the course). FYI, a good reference:
    Silván, Marika. ”A model of adaptation to a distributed learning environment.” Doctoral dissertation, University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

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  2. Thank you for posting these refelctions. I agree with Watson and Sutton about preferring asynchronous communication because it let you “learn” at the time were it fits best with your personal preferences.


  3. Thanks for this perspective! I like that you bring forth the individual since a group always consists of several individuals that work together, but they are never completely social in nature. (I have issues with social learning for this reason.) I have to point out that the thesis mentioned by Fredrik is a master thesis, not doctoral. The Finnish board of education has decided to publish it on their site so it probably is a good read. 😉


    1. Hi Chilligirl! Thanks for your comment. What I have experienced, your good at this “collaboration-thing”! I guess we still can be both individuals AND group members. Common goals can be one thing that keeps the collaboration together. Also great with the information about Fredriks reference. What a masterpiece! I took a master degree last year and… I don´t think I qualify into Finnish standard. Sometimes it´s good to be Swede 😉


      1. I’m not sure if the Finnish master of arts is the same as in Sweden. It takes 5 years to complete a M.A. in Finland. Is it the same in Sweden? But not all master theses are that well done. 😉 And yes, as humans we are always part social and part individual. It’s interesting that individual learning took over at some point when most practices are more or less social.


  4. Hi Annica! This is an interesting point about finding a balance between individual autonomy of the learner and production of shared knowledge. I think it is one of the features of collaboration to respect different views and perspectives and to nourish a good discussion.


    1. Absolutely! A good discussion doea it! I´m afraid that I often “agree” in discussions (just as I am doing now). I have to train myself to be more reflective and analytic. You have to watch out for my comment in the future ;.)


  5. Thanks for your reflections, Annica. While reading your post, I remembered some of the work and research with dyslexic learners, we have done and how the asynchronous communication and collaboration is critical for them as it allows them space and time to interpret, read and work their reflection. The synchronous communication, if it is form of writing, does not provide them than reflexive space and can become a source of frustration and disengagement. Thus the importance of creating flexible learning designs that can cater individual differences. If you would like to know a little bit more there is a MOOc led by Dyslexia International and University of London


    1. Hi! Thank you for reading my blog post. So great to learn more about dyslexia. And yes, of course, it must be so much easier to participate in an asynchronous chat then for instant a tweetchat if you have dyslexia. There are so many things to keep in mind to try to satisfy ever needs.


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