Home » Collaboration » I’ve become a convert to the value of collaborative learning.

I’ve become a convert to the value of collaborative learning.


This has required a behavioural shift that I find I have carried into my every day life. I am less precious about what I do, open to critique, comment and sharing in a way that is liberating. It may be presumptuous to assume that all around me are as enlightened but I feel better able to offer comment and feedback, invited or not.

In relation to the exercise, this is our second collaborative effort within the Tutor Group and my third (or fourth) given the Supplementary Activities. I can also reflect on collaborative efforts and frustrations from H807.

The key to success is to abandon the idea, more or less, that people will behave as a group would in the real world. Not only does it matter that I am doing this at 4.00am, but I am in my PJs. This has to effect my attitude and thinking. Being asynchronous I can waffle on to my heart’s delight too, leaving it to others to extract whatever may be of worth here (if they get this far).

Here I go …

Even in a synchronous meeting might someone be in transit, on a train, another getting up, a third going to bed, a fourth trying to do this with food cooking, a child pestering them about homework, the TV on, the Radio on or off … someone at the door, the phone ringing … or as my 12 year old does his homework, while watching streamed cartoons. Not only are we ‘not there,’ how much of us/that person is with us?

What if we are all sheep, or all sheepdogs? Or all the shepherd? What if we care a lot, or not at all?

The trick is to accommodate all comers nor to care about someone else’s circumstances. i.e. set the thing in motion, contribute how and where you can to keep the thing in motion, be fluid, and contribute. Be open, ask questions, be willing to make mistakes …

We are exposing both the contents of our minds (a part of it at least) and revealing how we operate. Treat this with respect. Our differences may be extreme. Or not.

Treat the collaborative task as a raft. We’re on the Kontiki Ra crossing the Pacific together. We need to get along, anyone of us could sink the thing if circumstances don’t overwhelm us.

Accept that it won’t always work.

You may wait forever for a contribution that never comes; use this as part of the learning process rather than let it trip up the exercise. Role player a second or third person if needs – role play being something that is easily accommodated in this environment.

Don’t presume anything. Just begin, and keep going. Resist the temptation to see the output of others and redirect your group whole-scale in that direction. Each journey has its own lessons and will be different, however many times the exercise is carried out. Can tutors concur or are we like lemmings? (or sheep).

Do it for the learning experience and for the fun of it … not for the marks! The parameters of success and failure and suitably broad, accept that you’ll fall in the middle of this very broad road. To expect failure or to court brilliance are both doomed to failure in equal measure and to tip this Kontiki Raft of a collaborative exercise over.

My contribution?

Do do when you can. Try to contribute a bit regularly, as piling it at the beginning and the end can be like a Bull in a china shop … or a ghost entering a room.

The contribution of others?

Accept that it is their business. If the environment you are part of seems inviting and you each play host, however is around, then there will be an interest in ‘coming out to play,’ and even participating.

Remember what your first online collaborative exercise with a group of strangers was like, avoid the mistakes of the past … and work with behaviours/approaches you have seen are successful.

What happened?

We lined up, and made a start. We found our way and found our roles. There is no Seargeant Major telling us what we do, but someone or two needed to step forward. You can wait politely a little while, or offer your services if you feel you have the time to give and the wherewithall not to let others down.

Don’t be precious about anything. Respect all ideas as a catalyst for direction, improvement or redirection. Accept that things can shift. Accept that no one knows what you think until you express it. If you can’t touch type go get lessons!

Personally I am neither pilot nor co-pilot, if such roles exist. I may not be using this exercise to show initiative or leadership, but I can play several other roles as participant, as court jester … as an observer who will reflect on it, who will make a start and offer views, and insights, and make mistakes, and admit them, and be around (because I am and can be).

So what?

Like blogging making regular contributions probably works better than piling in at the weekend. Not a surprise that more are able to do this than not. Accept that my working day isn’t – I tend to be out evenings and weekends. Time zones mean little to extreme owls or an extreme lark … I am that lark, working best long before the dawn chorus, coming into my own as its volume increases.

Be guided. If not host, play the role of a good party guests. Acknowledge the contribution of others. Allow yourself to be cajouled by their thinking. Say it … it can be read, ignored, commented on or not. This is a process, not an end result.

Use what you or others know has worked in the past. Trying to assemble a moment when most of us can gather matters. Synchronous work acts like a milestone, a deadline … it galvanises contributions before the cut of point. It is always surprising how this joint enterprise can temporarily morph into a joint entity where instead of us each writing a paragraph, we write one paragraph together. Use the exervise to summise and find common ground.

What next?

Get some sleep. I’ll not be able to join in a proposed early afternoon Skype if I am napping.

Prepare. Understand what others have said. Identify strengths and weaknesses of our approach. Maybe take a look at what others are up to … even search the OU Blog for what H808ers made of this last year or the year before (its all out there!).

Be wise and be willing to accept guidance if my ignorance is also revealed. This is the point … you learn more from your mistakes, than from showing off.

Does this even count as reflection?

Am I doing it for myself or because the course requires it? Having not followed a template have I gone astray?

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