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Collaborating Over Time and Space

By choosing a fully asynchronous open access course, I have set myself up for a challenge in terms of collaboration and interaction. I imagine that most students accessing my course will do so on their own and take from it what is useful to them without necessarily completing all elements of the course. In many ways it is to be a resource as much as a course. I do, however, want to leave opportunities to open for individuals to interact and work together even if they are divided by both time and space.


My primary plan at this point for interactions amongst learners is for the collaborative development of learning objects or resources. The main area where I will be soliciting learner contributions at this point will be in the form of a padlet mapping the main philosophies of research, their main proponents, and their relationships to each other. As a grad student myself two times over I know that a map like this will be of significant value to those who are planning their research. I can also imagine them being happy to contribute to this resource as they peruse it.


By providing an opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the production of knowledge, I hope to give individuals online, who will not be motivated by the goal of course completion or good marks, a reason to engage in collaborative action. Like the altruism that motivates people to edit Wikipedia or help out a classmate without expecting credit, I am hoping that learners will engage because of the actual value and impact of their contributions. It is also well documented in research that individuals often find pleasure in contributing to knowledge intensive environments (Jemielniak, 2016) which I anticipate will be the case for some individuals here.





I hope to build on this motivation of enjoyment by potentially offering another context for playful interaction and collaboration, but I have not fully fleshed out my ideas in regards to this aspect of my course. I have a foggy notion of utilizing public domain artwork that is available all over the web, especially from the collections of museums, and allowing learners to use the art to represent different philosophical orientations. This could be in the form of having learners peruse art images and then assign certain images to particular philosophical orientations, creating an ever changing or growing collage that represents a particular philosophical perspective. I am struggling with how to set up an interaction like this to make it engaging and thought provoking but also easy for learners to take on in the context of my course site.


While all of my course content will be delivered via a Wordpress site, I am also planning on creating a YouTube channel to house the videos that make up the core of the learning content. Primarily this is so that individuals who do not access my site will have access to these videos as well for learning purposes. The embedded videos within my course site will also allow for learners to move to YouTube and therefore view related content not created by me. The YouTube platform will provide another space for interaction in the form of likes and dislikes as well as comments.


While I may have no required student-teacher or student-student interaction in my course, I am satisfied because the interactions that I am planning meet the criteria that I value in terms of strong course collaboration – learners will be asked to contribute in a manner that is motivated by interest and relevance and they will work together on tasks that are authentic and contribute to society. I am nervous about not having much control over these interactions given the cruelty and dysfunction inherent in many web-communication forums (Rösner et al, 2016). As the creator, I will be able to edit and remove contributions to the padlet, mitigating these concerns, but spaces such as YouTube comments are wide open and can be destructive rather than informative.


I want to hear from you. Do you have ideas about getting learners to engage in a wide open asynchronous course? What types of motivation do you find most engage learners in collaboration? What about when they are separated by space and time?


Jemielniak, D. 2016. Wikimedia movement governance: the limits of a-hierarchical organization. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 29. 361-378. 10.1108/JOCM-07-2013-0138.


Rösner, L., Winter, S., Krämer, N. C. 2016. Dangerous minds? Effects of uncivil online comments on aggressive cognitions, emotions, and behavior. Computers in Human Behavior, 58, 461-470. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2016.01.022.


Cover photo by Henning Westerkamp via Pixabay

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