Week 8 – Collaborating on Collaboration

It has been fascinating to see in the past weeks how quickly our PBL has become a well-functioning group. I think the challenges at the beginning also helped to realize that people actually need time and so much more to start forming a collaborative group rather than a random bunch of persons.

I’m quite pleased with our Coggle presentation which summarizes how groups work collaboratively. I mainly contributed to the Forming part because this was closest to the everyday challenges I face in f2f and digital learning environments. Below I summarize some main points with reflections on ONL191. I collected my experiences and did not follow any piece of literature but I think these thoughts are present in several publications and/or guidelines.

  • Appropriateness: the task should be challenging and complex enough to offer it for collaboration. – I think my main problem with Topic 1 was that I didn’t find it interesting enough to really put effort to working on it. Topic 2 was fantastic as it opened new pathways of thinking to me, and it became the basis of a future conference presentation. It has really boosted me!
  • Hanging out: people need time to get to know each other. – At the beginning, I was slightly irritated in our PBL meetings because I felt we didn’t talk about the essential things and wasted time on technical issues in quite a roundabout way. Now I realize how important it was to leave time for small talk and be patient when setting dates or deciding on which tool we’d use, etc. Using time generously made the atmosphere comfortable and inclusive.
  • Managing expectations & enhancing ownership and belonging: participants should know what they are asked for / what they signed up for, and they need to be able to influence the nature of the collaborative project to feel ownership and belonging to it. – I had some difficulties at the beginning as I didn’t really know what to expect, and it made me quite upset; I continuously kept considering that I’d leave the course. Luckily I stayed and step by step I understood what and how we work here. Further, I realized I can decide quite independently how I manage my tasks and it also comforted me.
  • Agreeing on channels of communication: in online environments, it is especially important that communication channels are known and used by all members. – It’s been interesting to follow how our communication channels changed. First we used the PBL13 site of this website quite a lot, and there were some e-mails here and there. I thought I’d prefer e-mail because I got used to control the main stream of my professional communication in e-mails. Step by step, we switched to WhatsApp totally, and now everything goes there. It’s been relieving that I don’t need to check two-three channels but get everything in one thread.
  • Scheduling: to orchestrate group work, there should be a temporal rhythm in collaboration, and participants should be aware of that beforehand. – First scheduling looked chaotic to me but now we have a good rhythm in the group. Also we are quite flexible, we even cancelled a whole meeting! 🙂
  • Roles: a clear definition of roles is necessary. – It is interesting how we switch between roles: e.g. the facilitators of PBLs remain the same, but topic leaders change continuously. It gives some diversity and excitement to work.

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