Cooperation vs Collaboration: Spot the difference

It has been whirlwind of activities for me on the professional, and personal front over the past month or so, making it a lot more challenging for me to keep up with my ONL work. But with the support of my group members and facilitators, I kept at it and I am where I am now, thankfully. Huge thanks to Elaine and David for the support!

For Topic 3, we discussed collaborative learning – something that proved to be really challenging for our group, as some of our members had to drop out due to personal reasons, and our conflicting schedules.

However in that very challenging situation, we all learnt a very valuable lesson – that as facilitators, we may sometimes need to be creative and flexible in order to support our learners. Given the changes to the make-up of our group, and inevitably the group dynamics, we had to re-state some of the ground rules and re-state our expectations of each other. It was a necessary step in the right direction. We worked through our presentation and submitted our work, ready to face Topic 4.

While looking over the material for Topic 4, I also took a step back and revisited some of the reference material. The notion that “Teaching presence is an essential unifying element in online learning due to its asynchronous and text-based form of communication.” (Garrison, 2006) resonates with me, especially as I help my colleagues develop digital assets (specially designed online lessons that go beyond recorded lectures) for their blended programmes. As I work with the various stakeholders, the challenge that I sometimes face is the misguided notion that creating these digital assets is a simple process of converting Powerpoint slides into an animated presentation, and slapping the lecturer’s voice over that animated presentation. If only life were so simple.

The decision to offer blended learning courses isn’t to be taken lightly. A quick review of the literature attests to the fact that is challenging, and it is hard work. So why do it? My short answer is this – we cannot afford not to, especially since creating sustained learning communities is one of the main goals for higher education. The technology is there to support communities that transcends boundaries, why not utilise that same technology to create and nurture communities of inquiry?

It will require a change in mind set. It will take you out of your comfort zone, it will challenge the traditional notion of teaching and learning, and yes it will leave you frustrated, but really, we cannot afford not to take the plunge.

For those of us doing the ONL course, we are already part of the CoI that seeks to learn collaboratively. We seek best practices, we share success stories, as much as we share our frustrations. We then take what we’ve collaboratively learnt here, to our own corners of the world and try to spread the word. There is still much to be done in this respect, and the battle will be an uphill one, but I think it’s a battle worth fighting. As we fight the good fight, we must always remind ourselves to elevate cooperation to collaboration.

For me personally, I shall always have the CoI framework in mind as I create more learning networks among my esteemed colleagues and the people I have met doing the ONL course. There is still very much to learn and that learning can never stop. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to beat some people over the head so they can distinguish between cooperation and collaboration!


PLNs Theory and Practice by Kay Oddone: Part 1 & Part 2

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).

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.

Garrison, D. (2006). Online collaboration principles. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks. DOI: 10. 10.24059/olj.v10i1.1768.

2 thoughts on “Cooperation vs Collaboration: Spot the difference

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and reminding us of the important distinction between collaboration and cooperation. I would have liked to read more about how you explained it to those who don’t yet know the difference as per your last sentence :)! It was also good to read your views about the COI – did you find the readings to be helpful in this regard? Looking forward to your next blog.


    1. Thank you for the comments. To me, one of the hallmarks of collaborative learning is the ability to synthesise our collective experiences and seek meaningful solutions to problems faced. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s