My reflection at Topic 3 #ONL171

Flickr: firebrigade_group by LotteCh Creative Commons BY-NC-ND

Topic 3:
Learning in communities – networked & collaborative learning

It was 2010 and I participated a (live) course here in Sweden together with other teachers. Trainers was two British Teacher trainers; Wendy Jolliffe and Chris Holland. We were activated the whole day with diffrent small assignments. The trainers explained clearly and explicit what we should do. I was overwhelmed by the way the gave us instructions.

They not only explained the assignment itself. They told us HOW to work with the assignment and HOW to work together in small groups. Randomly they also gave the groupmembers diffrent roles. A role to take responsibility for. All this impressed me a lot.

Assessment framework

In one article in this course #ONL171, Terry Anderson (2008) give an example of assessment frameworks by Susan Levine (2002). She has developed a very clear set of instructions to describe her expectations för stundent contributions to asynchronous online learning courses. It is very simular to my experience from the course with Jolliffe and Holland.

She posts the following message to her students:

  1. The instructor will start each discussion by posting one or more questions at the beginning of each week (Sunday or Monday). The discussion will continue until the following Sunday night, at which time the discussion board will close for that week.
  2. Please focus on the questions posted. But do bring in related thoughts and material, other readings, or questions that occur to you from the ongoing discussion.
  3. You are expected to post at least two substantive messages for each discussion question. Your postings should reflect an  understanding of the course material.
  4. Your postings should advance the group’s negotiation of ideas and meanings about the material; that is, your contributions should go beyond a “ditto.” Some ways you can further the  discussion include
    • expressing opinions or observations. These should be offered in depth and supported by more than personal opinion;
    • making a connection between the current discussion and previous discussions, a personal experience, or concepts from the readings;
    • commenting on or asking for clarification of another student’s statement;
    • synthesizing other students’ responses; or
    • posing a substantive question aimed at furthering the group’s understanding. (Levine, 2002)

As we can see, she’s not only explains what the students should do. She also tell them the expectations of quantity and/or quality.

Even if the students just contribute with two messages for each discussion. It will be enough material for the group to process. 

To much scaffolding?

Is it to much scaffolding? I dont think so. Of course you need to balance. Brindley, J., Blaschke, L. M. & Walti, C. (2009) made some findings in their study and pointed out some strategies to improve the quality of group collaboration. Two of the strategies says:

  • Establish a healthy balance between structure (clarity of task) and learner autonomy (flexibility of task).  
  • Facilitate learner readiness for group work and provide scaffolding to build skills.

Instructional strategies

Capdeferro, N. & Romero, M. (2012) made a study to characterize the feelings of frustration as a negative emotion among online learners collaborating in small groups. In their analys they agree with other reserchers that the teacher/instructor should play an active role in the collaborate process. He or she should be proactive in monotoring and intervening in collaborative activities and should ensure that the group works effectivly through mechanisms för assistans, feedback, and evolution.

I think there has been a gap between the assessment intruction and the work in a small group.  We need to fill that gap. Brindley et al. (2009) use the word “instructional strategies”. The scaffollding is also traning in how to work in small groups.

Scaffoldning for the teacher/trainer

The course I attended with Jolliffe and Holland, was about Coooperative Learning strategies. These strategies can be scaffolding for the teachers/trainers. 

This Topic 3 was very interesting. From before I’m very intrested of Cooperative Learning strategies och the mindset behind. Now I’ve got some more connections and conformation about the importance of ‘instructional strategies’. 



Anderson, T. (2008). Teaching in an online learning context. In The theory and practice of online learning (pp. 343-395). Athabasca university press.

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.

Capdeferro, N. & Romero, M. (2012). Are online learners frustrated with collaborative learning experiences?. The International review of research in open and distance learning.


4 reaktioner på ”My reflection at Topic 3 #ONL171

  1. Charlotte,
    A really good reflection. You asked if what you described in your post was too much scaffolding? For me i think it was more setting the expectations clearly, and also to maintain stimulating discussions, such scaffolding becomes necessary.


  2. Exactly. It is important to clearly explain what the learners are expected to do, especially when they are new to online learning. It’s the same if you expect them to review each other’s work (peer review/assessment). Then they need a grid with the assessment criteria and explanations so that they have a clear framework. Later on the teacher maybe doesn’t need to be so explicit but it’s important to set those ground rules.


  3. Very good point of how to provide structure for the learners. I have been engaged as a teacher in an online course where we expected the students to write at least two posts with references and all in all five posts per week. Students have complained that the disussion is not honest when so much time and effort is spent on finding references. I dont know what to think.


  4. Ping: Growing our Learning communities – ONL171 PBL Group 6


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