The idea of collaborating with other people has always been quite scary to me. In general, if I have a particular goal, especially one to do with learning, I would far prefer doing my best to obtain it on my own, without bothering other people – or in fact without having them bother me.
Collaboration horror stories generally involve having to deal either with bossy group-leaders or unreliable members who make big promises and then never deliver. The profoundly negative emotions (Capdeferro & Romero, 2012)which are aroused by being forced into collaborative situations have been understood as having specific causes: the fact that some people always end up putting in more work than others (asymmetric collaboration); badly organized groups; the misalignment of team members in terms what we are here to achieve; unevenness in performance and understanding between members; the time it wastes to deal with problematic people and vague exercises; and blockages in communication, were all factors identified by Capdeferro and Romero (2012). I am sure I am not the only member of my group, nor indeed of ONL191, that has had first hand experience of this over the tiume we have spent on this course!
That being said, it would be false to claim that there were no benefits to working as a team, or in fact that my learning in general does not rely on some form of network. On reflection, I realized that I do greatly rely on discussing issues and learnings with family and friends, and feeding off other people’s learning on platforms such as Twitter. I am in fact quite profoundly reliant on a personal learning network for many of the things I know (Oddone, 2019a, 2019b).
Whereas the close kind of work required in ONL191 group work – what might be considered a community (we certainly missed people when they were not there) as opposed to a network – required the formation of some closer social bonds, my personal learning network includes both people I am very close to and some who are complete strangers to me. I would be to effectively “collaborate” with only a small subset of these people, though of course being placed in the pressurized situation of a further education course does change dynamics slightly.
Whether however any of the experiences we have referred to here constitute a community of inquiry is something I am not sure about. According to the discussions we had, any group learning experience depends on various presences those of the teacher, and our shared cognitive, social, and emotional presences. These in turn depend on what the facilitator can bvalance in terms of these various energies, to create the synergy required for an ideal learning environment.
Emotional presence needs to be acknowledged by the educator and by peers. If the group is not coping, and not in balance, the learning is impeded. The facilitator or teacher presence takes care of design, facilitation, and direct instruction (Garrison, 2019). They support emotional wellbeing of online learners. Social presence is about creating a climate that will create a community of inquiry, sustain community through expression of group cohesion. Cognitive presence means critical reflection, and encouraging the progression of inquiry through to resolution.
Collaboration in small groups has been shown in the literature to work better if a sense of community is enabled (Brindley, Walti, & Blaschke, 2009). Community is associated with the achievement of learning outcomes, and the acquisitions of skills.
Brindley, J. E., Walti, C., & Blaschke, L. M. (2009). Creating Effective Collaborative Learning Groups in an Online Environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, en-US. Retrieved April 4, 2019, from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/675/1271
Capdeferro, N., & Romero, M. (2012). Are online learners frustrated with collaborative learning experiences? The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning. Retrieved April 4, 2019, from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1127/2129
Garrison, D. R. (2019). Online collaboration principles. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks,10(1). Retrieved April 4, 2019, from https://olj.onlinelearningconsortium.org/index.php/olj/article/view/1768
Oddone, K. (2019a). PLNs Theory and Practice: Part 1. Personal Network Learning: Theory and Practice. Retrieved April 4, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8mJX5n3IEg&feature=youtu.be
Oddone, K. (2019b). PLNs Theory and Practice: Part 2. Personal Network Learning: Theory and Practice. Retrieved April 4, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqSBTr9DPH8&feature=youtu.be