Overview of this week's topic

Designing collaborative online activities and supporting online groups

You spent quite a lot of time in Weeks 1 and 2 activities telling us about yourselves, learning about the others in the course, and starting to think about how to design activities. These activities correspond to Gilly Salmon's (2011) stages 1 and 2 (refer to her  model). This week the focus shifts to actively working with others. We are working at Salmon's stages 3 & 4. 

Online communication is about people interacting with each other and ultimately working with each other to construct knowledge. But this does not happen all by itself. We've looked at how academic online environments may be inhibiting to newcomers. The nature and tempo of interactions may be unfamiliar and disorienting, people are put together by an external agency rather than by their own choice, to do things that they do not choose or even necessarily want to do, for purposes that involve judgment and measurement of their capabilities in new domains.

This week we start exploring how to manage these issues. This is a very big area, and there is not much time. Be warned: getting started in small group work can be time consuming, which is why we gave you the opportunity to get started in week two, to get a run-up on this week. We are asking you to do this so that you can reflect on your experience and identify tools and techniques for supporting your students when you ask them to do this. So our approach is experiential and collaborative. You are going to work in small groups to prepare an artefact, share ideas and experiences and reflect on that process. We will start by focusing on team roles and organisation. The following precepts underpin this:

  • online learning is enhanced by interactions with others
  • learning designs need to take account of social comfort
  • online learning should promote collaboration
  • collaborative online learning is best when process is explicitly defined, negotiated and agreed

In this short video, Greg Benfield talks about setting up an online group task with the Business School at Oxford Brookes, and about some of the key learning design principles involved:

(The video transcript is available here.)

Further relevant concepts

As well as the activity there is quite a bit of reading this week. Start with Anderson and Garrison’s Community of Inquiry model of online learning. This offers the concept of social presence, which you may find useful in the week's activities. Social presence is ’the ability of participants to identify with the community (e.g. course of study), communicate purposefully in a trusting environment, and develop interpersonal relationships by way of projecting their individual personalities’ (Garrison, 2009). There are three elements to social presence:

  • Emotional expression
  • Open communication
  • Group cohesion

Follow the link above to further information about each of these.

Salmon's (2011) five stage model of online learning has been highly influential and some of you may prefer this to the Community of Inquiry model.

As always, there are Readings for the week. But, if you only read one thing this week, then it should be the Community of Inquiry model of online learning. key reading icon

Last modified: Tuesday, 31 March 2015, 10:52 AM