Ingredients of a successful learning community

About collaboration, engagement and motivation

In this topic I collected a lot of ingredients for a successful learning community. I think this is a dynamic document which I will use often.

  1. Transparency of expectations

Details of the requirements to participate in a study group are posted in the course syllabus. The purpose (learning objectives) of collaboration and expectations of the learners are made very clear in the main conference. If students communicate reluctance about study group participation, instructors encourage participation and are open about discussing the purpose and process.

  1. Clear instructions

The group task, timelines, and usability of the desired product are described in detail, giving students the best opportunity to focus on collaborating to share ideas and the workload rather than leaving them to spend a great deal of time trying to clarify the task and develop a common understanding of it.

  1. Appropriateness of task for group work

Each study group works as a team of consultants to carry out an environmental scan and needs analysis of a particular educational or training provider (develop a case study) in preparation for a second task (done individually). This type of task is easier and a much more rich experience when performed by a group as opposed to an individual.

  1. Meaning-making/relevance

The group assignment is an opportunity to apply principles and knowledge gained in the course to the analysis of a real life situation, often from a student’s work context. Further, in the last week of the course, the group projects are exchanged and peer reviewed (by the groups), making full use of the learning potential of the project.

  1. Motivation for participation embedded in course design

Individual success is dependent upon group success. The group product (comprehensive case study) is needed by individual learners in order to complete their final assignment, that is, to design a learner support system for their group’s case study.

  1. Readiness of learners for group work

The group project takes place during the final third of the course after students demonstrate that they have sufficient mastery of the subject matter to reflect on how to apply their knowledge in particular contexts, including their own work settings (as demonstrated in the conference discussions), and they have had the opportunity to develop a sense of community and hone their collaborative learning skills.

  1. Timing of group formation

Although the group project is not undertaken until the third section of the course, the study groups are formed during the second unit. This allows time for a sense of collaboration and interdependence to develop among the members before the task is assigned. During the period before the task, group members discuss their shared interests and possible scenarios for the case study.

  1. Respect for the autonomy of learners

Study group participation is mandatory but learners have the freedom to form their own groups based on shared interests. Instructors provide guidelines for group formation and open a space in the virtual classroom for this purpose.  The choice of educational or training context for the case study is the decision of each group, and groups often have lively discussions and do significant research before consensus is reached, resulting in high ownership of the project.

  1. Monitoring and feedback

The study group conferences and chats are monitored closely by instructors who provide respectful and timely feedback on process and direction when necessary to prevent groups from getting stalled or going off course. Instructors also provide feedback on draft versions of the case studies, and they provide time for revisions before presentation of the final project.

  1. Sufficient time for the task

Most of the third and last unit of the course (approximately four weeks) is devoted to the study group project to provide sufficient time for the process and to accommodate varying work schedules and time zone differences of these adult learners

From: 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).

  1. 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.
  1. 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.

And more engaging & motivating tips voor collaborative Learning groups & communities collected by Francisca

  1. Working online needs great scaffolding:
  2. Being personal and informal; getting to know each other, becoming friends. Making everybody feel welcome. Feeling together. Make everyone grow. And feel heard! that your voice and opinion matters! Feel safe. Use:×10.pdf
  3. Share responsability by: changing roles, discussing , being very clear what we expected from groupmembers
  4. Have a moderator: the moderator (project manager, scrum master) could be a student or someone else. The role of the moderator could be: guarding time, making a plan what to discuss or do, asking how it is done, dividing the work, is everyone having the tools they need? Using Scrum?
  5. Divide the roles: the product owner, the designer, the tester, the customer, executives
  6. Help to focus, to structure and prioritize, ask and repeat questions to focus
  7. Help to plan, use a planner of the total course (Doodle, Google Calender..)
  8. Help to summarize;
  9. Ask someone to take notes.
  10. Focus on listening “What is the most important thing the person was saying concerning the learning objective?”
  11. Help to reflect by encouraging writing about “why it is important to you?” or “What is your opinion about …” (writing is to process)
  12. No grading for products in a working group, just for participating actively. Grades causes big stress in the group when some participants don’t have the right communication and collaboration skills already and others are dependent of this group member
  13. Common interest, passion; try to encourage the discussion about the common goal and the common purpose. Maybe the have to use their imagination by making a drawing how this goal helps them. Use icebreakers, games, technical fun(?)
  14. Check if everyone is on board
  15. Listen carefully to participants, repeat what they are saying, so you confirm it. Confirming is important for being heard.
  16. You can make a community but they can grow organically. But they all need to be fed and nurtured.
  17. Keep attention to learning styles and cultures; make group members aware of their learning style.
  18. Keep attention to group norms, class norms; are they thresholding the process?
  19. Help to develop communication an collaboration skills like:
  20. Collaborative skills: Begin a conversation, end a conversation, ask for help, give a compliment, accept a compliment, Join in, accept critics, follow directions, Say Thank you, Say no, Accept no, Encourage others, criticize idea’s not people, summarize, clarify, state feelings, express empathy, know feelings, understand others’s feelings, negotiate, express concern for another, take ownership for own feelings, listen, cool off, ignore distractions, take turns, take responsibility, remind others to use collaborative skills, apologize, convince others, Deal with another’s anger, deal with fear, stand up for your rights, respond to teasing, avoid trouble with others, deal with embarrassment, deal with persuasion, respond to failure, complete a task.
  21. Looking with different hats to a question, scenario or problem (de Bono, Scrum)
  22. Listening & thinking: Use Philosophical teaching strategies:
  23. Critical thinking

Components of an online group activity

  1. Learning objectives
  2. Models to use for instructional design of an online course. (Model Gilly Salmon
  3. Learning Manifest
  4. Problem Based-Learning, Work Based learning, Scenario Based Learning, Inquiry based learning…..
  5. what are the challenges, problems, scenario’s
  6. Who is the teacher, facilitator, educator for the Human Interventions. What is his vision, experiences, his age, skills, etc.
  7. Students; age? level of education, level of experience, motivation, are they working? What do they need? Autonomy on learning/working,
  8. Support for the online learner and the educator
  9. Content
  10. Relevant scenario’s
  11. Stories
  12. Media
  13. Learning activities
  14. peer-to-peer activities
  15. Learning on the workplace
  16. Formal and informal learning activities
  17. Online Techniques, platforms, tools
  18. LMS
  19. Distributed Learning Community
  20. Software
  21. Social media
  22. How they will use the online platforms; Instruction to use, preparation, time for rehearsal and getting confident with new techniques.
  23. Input or collaboration with of the working field; experts, labor market

Francisca Frenks



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s