Topic 3 – Many hands make light work

I was recently telling my friend about the next topic of the ONL course …collaboration. She soon indicated that collaboration, multiple people working on the same idea, is vital to the creative process and her business (She’s a fashion designer for a number of large online and Chain stores across South Africa and owns a Durban based CMT factory that promotes South African made clothes).

Time is a major factor to the success of her business and through technology such as emails, google docs saved to the cloud, and whatsapp (messages, voice notes) she is able to problem solve on the fly with fellow designers across South Africa. She indicated that without having a mind-set that her learning process is lifelong, continuous, rapidly, evolving through collaboration, her business would simply stagnate.

Having been in education for a number of years I would strongly agree with many educationalists that support the view that the current curricula in schools does not encourage innovation and does not create an environment for many children the freedom to engage with their passions, to have an area of play through creativity.

Teachers that are results driven, focusing on how many A’s their students can achieve, seem to be the order of the day. This is often to the detriment of the child as it is not a holistic approach. If so much emphasis is placed on the result does it really promote lifelong learning? Is an individuals self worth based on the result rather than the process?

I personally feel that collaboration provides this shift, placing importance on the process. It teaches us to work with other people, to be patient, understanding and tolerant of people’s differences. It also enables us to find rapid solutions to problems. Promoting many hands make rapid light work. By working with other people it helps in developing a person’s EQ as well as their IQ. But how do you determine if the process was successful? Douglas Thomas echoes these points indicating “the challenge of our time is to come up with a new system of assessment that takes collaboration seriously”.

Douglas Thomas indicates that life’s greatest problems cannot be solved by only a select few in an appropriate/needed time. That true collaboration is people being the best they can be in the context that matters the most to them rather than being what other people want them to be.

Emphasis is placed on the group succeeding not just the individual.

But how do you obtain collaboration?

By having an active goal and people coming together to achieve that goal. This involves taking risks and making mistakes to get to knowledge and this is how we learn. Technology aids this, technology should be seen as a toolbox and we share our tools with others.


“Benefits of Collaborative Learning.”  Marjan Laal and Seyed Mohammad Ghodsi

“Collaborative Learning Enhances Critical Thinking.” Anuradha A. Gokhale

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).

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.

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.


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