Topic 3 – How ONL changed my views on collaborative work – finding the missing piece

Previous to ONL171  if someone would ask me to define collaborative work I would probably say “Well, it´s group work, people working together to complete a task”. I probably wouldn´t consider what that really meant, the form, the design or the journey that collaborative work will take you on.

What ONL have taught me is that there is a difference between working together in a group and doing collaborative work. I stumbled upon a blog post by Adam Kirk Smith which touched up on this subject. His post is about leadership however I find them applicable to education as well.  One sentence from his post really stuck with me. A perfect collaboration happens when one person needs their missing piece of the puzzle from another person to push their work forward.”

That, for me, sums up what collaborative work is about. And in regard to ONL171 also the purpose of being part of a PBL group during this journey.

We are solving a puzzle together. Each and every one of us has different but crucial pieces needed to solve the puzzle. If we would divide the work between us we wouldn´t come very far.  We would all see parts of the picture but it wouldn´t be sufficient to see the whole picture.  The only way to do it, to succeed, is by sharing the pieces with each other, twisting and turning them to find the one that fits.  It is in that little routine that the magic in collaborative working have given me the best experiences. When you’re battling with your own irregular little piece and suddenly find the right context for it with the assistance of other members of the group. To succeed on a personal level the best you can do is to listen and be open to what other people say.  From what I´ve experienced so far, it´s in the meeting with others that my  personal development prospers.

What I´ve learned from the PBL work is that collaborative group work is not only about finishing a task together. It´s about learning together and testing your knowledge and experience against someone else’s ideas.  It´s truly hard work, the collaborative process, but at the same time greatly rewarding if you just give it a chance. Topic 3 was a challenge for our PBL group. We walked right into the topic, doors slammed open and full of confidence. At the same time as we worked and learned about the COI and read the article by Capdefferro, N. & Romero,M. (2012) and Cleveland-Innes and Campbell (2012) we actually experienced the emotions, change in directions, lack of time and heavy workload. However in the end we really pulled it off by working together, determined to succeed. And in the end we left the topic with tons of experience from working as students.

Capdeferro, N. & Romero, M. (2012). Are online learners frustrated with collaborative learning experiences?. The International review of research in open and distance learning, 13(2), 26-44.

Martha Cleveland-Innes and Prisca Campbell (2012) Emotional Presence, Learning, and the Online Learning Environment


4 thoughts on “Topic 3 – How ONL changed my views on collaborative work – finding the missing piece

  1. Great Post Viktoria! I don’t think many of our students or even teachers realise what collaboration really means, neither on-site nor online.It’s a literacy that needs time to develop, much longer than just the 10 weeks we have on ONL. But this is a good place to start.


  2. Thanks Viktoria,
    I really enjoyed reading your post and your hands on definition of collaboration. Particularly the balancing between doing the job needed and allowing for a more non-instrumental edge to learning along the way really pictures how we proceeded in Topic 3. It was a tough one, but it did without doubt lead us to some great aspects of how to take on facilitation (thus learn how to give it).


  3. I fully agree with your slamming the door open-metaphor! It maybe also illustrates the important lesson never to assume/take for granted the strenght of the group – collaboration and exchange is needed at all levels and moments in time in order to keep the functioning of it. And if we do not focus from time to time on the elements that build cohesiveness: similarities above all, ”what can we agree on” (which builds on knowing and liking others), it makes it much harder to discuss and disagree and thus enrich each other! Will you btw join as a co-facilitator next itineration?

    Liked by 1 person


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