Collaboration, participation and communication are fundamental aspects of all online courses where you have the opportunity to “speak” to your peers in an online learning environment. Working together collaboratively has the benefit of enhancing your learning skills while also teaching you about processes that are common in the workplace. Additionally, collaborating with your peers can improve your motivation and persistence, and help you avoid feelings of isolation.  

In recent years, many changes have occurred within the workplace, and subsequently, several new working methodologies and technologies have come to market, increasing the emphasis on collaborative teamwork, group cognition and collective decision-making, including the Agile Methodologies, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Trello, among many others. 

In terms of collaborative working methodologies, the Agile Methodologies have become the most popular, likely due to their emphasis on collaborative teamwork. Two of the four values in the Agile Manifesto exemplify the importance of collaboration. “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools” highlights the value of strong and respectful communication skills and “customer collaboration over contract negotiation” reminds us that it is more important to be flexible and find a collaborative solution versus sticking rigidly to a contract. 

It must be noted that collaboration is certainly not limited to those working specifically with the Agile methodologies, but there is a significant amount of value in developing an Agile mindset in the modern workplace as it focuses on collaboration, respect, improvement, learning, delivering value, and adaptability.  

In the current working environment, it is essential to keep up with the various advanced collaboration methods and technologies as today’s workplace is consistently growing and evolving, and often requires you to:

  • Work on and complete various tasks simultaneously under complex conditions and with distractions. 
  • Continually prioritise and re-prioritise competing and evolving demands.
  • Make complex decisions based on changing and sometimes contradictory information. 

Therefore, the development and training of critical thinking skills, sharing, and collaborative decision-making is an essential aspect of postgraduate study. 

What do you benefit from working collaboratively in an online course? 

  • You will learn to think through topics more thoroughly. 
  • You will be encouraged to explore alternative perspectives and solutions. 
  • Your critical thinking skills will be stimulated, helping you clarify ideas through discussion and debate. 
  • You will be likely to develop better solutions collaboratively; compared to if you were working alone, particularly in complex situations. 
  • You will learn by interacting with and/or observing team members. 

What other skills does collaboration develop?

Collaboration with your peers and course coordinators can also develop several other skills. Some of these are: 

  • High-level thinking skills 
  • Negotiation skills 
  • Feedback skills
  • Communication skills
  • Project management skills
  • Interpersonal skills 
  • Intercultural skills

Collaborating effectively with peers, colleagues and/or course coordinators, like most other skills, requires time, practice and feedback. Here are some helpful tips: 

  • Collaboration is social 

If you collaborate in your area of study and interest, the joint inquiry will lead to a greater and improved understanding for everyone involved. 

  • Collaborate actively 

Collaboration requires your active participation and the integration of what you already know with new ideas, helping you better organise, assimilate and employ new learnings. 

  • The ideas of others are beneficial 

While you collaborate with peers or colleagues, it is only natural to encounter differences. Learning to negotiate these differences will help you build important capabilities such as understanding, tolerating and/or resolving these issues. 

  • Take responsibility 

Collaborative activities require you to take responsibility for your ideas and contributions, while also being sensitive to the ideas and goals of others. 

What small steps will you take today, to master collaboration and work together with your peers in your online courses? 


This article was written by Dr June Dams – Portfolio Manager for Auckland Online.