Working on group cohesion online

Yesterday we worked in our online PBL group. Four people joined, one was on holiday, one was sick and one was not there. The topic was “online collaboration”.

Last Friday I had a Skype chat with one member of the group because he didn’t succeed in joining the live sessions and to participate on our Fish document,  the collaborative document about the topic. This man was now leading the session and was back on track.  From the notes of this session: “what hindered him for participating more at the beginning was confusion, uncertainty about what it was happening. Sometimes he was afraid to ask. The Tweet chat was a turning point as well as the support from group members specially F. and S.. He now realized that he is important for the group and his contribution is his willingness to learn. ” (thx G.) He must have felt save in the group.

So his feelings were changed. He said it was “because F. had said that the group missed him”. That was so important for him. He became to realize that he was valuable for the group and wanted to be valuable for the group.


Another group member said about her participation in the group “I have trouble with explaining myself in English and other group members who are native English speakers are so much faster.” She also experienced that the group started with very high standards of technology-use (tools), comparing to the last PBL group she was joining. She felt she could not contribute. Due to these uncertainties, she played for the first time in her working live a more quit role in the group. Normally she is the initiator and talks much, she said. I think it was high level of meta-cognition that she could explain us different role in the group now and the feeling what goes with it. During the session of yesterday we discovered and make explicit her new role and value: her strength was bringing in experience from a previous ONL group and experiences  her critical feedback and her perspective from her working live and personal perspective.

Another group member G. dares to show lack of knowledge. She is aware that this feeling of hers is conditioned by just this group and this moment. In another group she may not be taking the same role, she said. She can bring to the group trust, respect and cohesion. Personally I think she has a great feeling for saying the unsaid. She makes group processes explicite and she is always so friendly, happy, curious and excited about learning.

And about me they said: “F. is the mother of this group-we all agree- 😀 her wise questions and happy spirits mean a lot. ” I am so honored, because I feel it this way. I feel a mother/sister/good friend to the rest of the group members as a facilitator. We already set some rules, but the next level is we recognize our differences, authentic values, group values and norms and we are getting involved in each other. We know now that one group member is from Cuba; she learned a lot from the elderly, someone else is originally from Bemba clan in Zambia, he tells us that collaboration is a way of living for him. Two group members from the northern hemisphere are remembering a more individually orientated culture where they were raised in.

Collaborative learning in a group can only work when the cohesion in the group is OK. Then there is a base for maximizing the synergy of the group. Working on cohesion could include

Values and norms for working on great group cohesion

This could be our MANIFESTO!

  • Everyone is valuable
  • There is no competition between group members, our goal is synergy
  • we respect different levels of experience, knowledge, skills
  • we respects different personal learning styles and communicating styles (see: human dynamics, disc)
  • we focus on the group learning and our personal learning process, not on the tools or software
  • we are responsabel for our own learning, for the next steps we will take in this course
  • we are responsabel for the group goal
  • we are interested and involved with each other, thoughts, knowledge, experiences, backgrounds, personal live.
  • we realize that personal authenticity  is part of the group process, therefore:
  • we  bring in who we are, what we think and what experiences we have, what we discovered, learned.
  • we dare to be vulnerable by asking help and being honest, to try things and take risks to fail and getting frustrated
  • we are polite, concerned and always willing to explain
  • we can talk about conquer challenges, without being judged by group members, we ask questions
  • we contribute and participate as much as possible to the group to maximize the group process during the course
  • if our motivation is decreasing we will discuss it in the group, so we can use this as a learning moment.


We already had the following ground rules for the group:

Synchronous meetings:

  • That we agree on a tool that works for all of us and a time
  • That we announce the meetings in due time and help out if someone cannot join a meeting

Asynchronous work:

  • That we meet the deadlines that are set unless we communicate otherwise
  • That we all contribute (even if the degree may vary from week to week depending on other obligations)


  • That we respect each others time zones
  • We respect each other’s cultures
  • Helping and supporting each other we have all different level of knowledge, experiences in this area
  • We have to speak slow and clear and we take care of those who don’t have English as the first language.

My questions:

  • What backgrounds do participants have concerning learning culture? Do they dare to show lack of knowledge?

See also:




6 thoughts on “Working on group cohesion online

  1. Very interesting. I do think that rules are good. They make visible things that we need to be aware of. However, the dynamics of a group also seems to be (in part) a mysterious thing. Sometimes people pull in the same direction, and sometimes they don’t…

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