Social Learning

A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other.  – Simon Sinek (Source:

I have been exposed to various group work and found that it is not often that the group turns into a team.  It is intriguing to find what makes that specific group turn into a team, or rather have that magical “moment” that makes them have synergy and turn them into a unique entity where nothing can stop them.

I have found that in my PBL group, where we had our initial moment where we needed to find our feet during topic 1…but as I entered into the fray with my co-leader toward the critical moment of meeting our deadline…we clicked as a group…we had our “aha” moment.  From then on we had synergy.

So what made us different?  Why are we working and yet in other groups that I have been in has there been ‘bad blood’, or difficulties?  The obvious thought is personalities play a role, but there is also the aspect of confidence in the tools we use, the role of the facilitators (which I believe is critical)…but I think I go back to personalities.

I look at our group and we all have differing levels of confidence in technology, different levels of confidence with language used, and completely different backgrounds.  I compare this to a previous group with similar criteria, the only difference is the previous group I had more “face-to-face” contact time.  Yet in the previous group we had more “conflict” than ever could be said about our PBL group…so really what is different?  Other than the contact time being face-to-face, which could only add value to alleviate issues, the role of the facilitators has been incredibly supportive in our PBL group, which was lacking in the previous group.

This element is supported by research done by Capdeferro and Romero (2012), where online learners were showing incredible frustration in their online learning experiences.  In their research, 10% of the respondents showed frustration with the level of support from their instructors.   Although, this does not sound that high, it is still a relatively high statistic given other grievances that it could be supporting indirectly, such as miscommunication and misunderstandings, which instructors/facilitators could be helping to ‘unpack’/alleviate.

So then if we were to have this in place, then how do we ensure that the group then moves toward becoming a “team”, so that collaboration takes place?  This becomes somewhat harder when this is online, ‘face-to-face’ is via technology, language is not necessarily a common language, and the tools used are not necessarily familiar.  All this makes for “out of the comfort zone” kind of space…and now you want me to collaborate?  Kind of hard if we think about it.  Certainly more pressure for the facilitator.

Brindly, Walti, & Blashke (2009) suggest that there is focus on creating a social learning environment, by showing the value in group learning, at the same accommodating for different learning styles and cultures, whilst allowing for flexibility.  They used Siemens’ Connectivism course as their focus in their paper to highlight their points, of why these elements were critical, and if we look at how the ONL course is laid out then these elements are definitely present.

The above, and the role of our facilitators, has been the differentiator between the two groups that I have worked with; PBL being so successful, and the previous group where it was such a disaster.  Therefore, the role of the instructor/facilitator and the course design has allowed for the personalities in our group to ‘mesh’ in such a manner that we are no longer a group – but a TEAM!




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