Community, sharing and collaboration are all inter-related terms. But how do they fit together — and how are they different?
Community is a noun. It is a group of people with a common interest. Community requires that individuals work together and share. In terms of open education, eCampusOntario defines the purpose of open communities as those helping to advance open educational resources and practices (eCampusOntario, 2021).
Sharing is an action (or verb). It can be defined simply as giving something to another. Sharing can be a one-way transaction, and it happens when the item or resource is complete.
Collaboration is another verb. It is the act of working with others towards a shared goal or purpose. Collaboration means that individuals work together to create something — and there is reciprocal giving.
For open education initiatives to be sustainable, we must collaborate. Collaboration may include a group of faculty members working together to write an open textbook that will be shared in the open community; it may also describe faculty working with students to produce new resources. Successful collaboration is built on mutual understanding and trust.We will explore different ways in which collaboration can occur later in the module, but first we’ll examine the skills required to do it effectively.
“When we collaborate, we invite stakeholders into the process early as a partner — not late as a judge”
— Amanda Coolidge (2019)
Collaboration and Vulnerability
What makes a good collaborator? Watch the following video on cultivating collaboration to find out.
This talk suggests that we have a lot to learn about collaboration from chickens. More collaborative environments produce greater results — be that egg production or more meaningful learning environments. Jim Tamm (2015) states that people do not lack interest in collaboration, they lack the skills. Vulnerability and defensiveness breed quickly in a group and can undermine the trust that is key to successful collaboration. In order to combat our own defensiveness, we, as educators, need to understand what drives this behaviour. Educators can be open, collaborative and willing to take risks for the benefit of the team.
However, educators can also experience fear. What’s more, we often notice our mistakes more when we work with others. We may fear feedback — or be reluctant to share our ideas for fear of judgement. We may see knowledge as a valuable commodity that should not be shared freely — which leads to “knowledge hoarding.” Sometimes we may hesitate to ask for contributions from others because we simply don’t want to bother them. What’s more, our colleagues may not work in the same way we do — and it can be difficult for us to come to a consensus. All this to say that we have our differences. But that’s OK — for part of working in the open is learning how to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.
It is important for us to recognize our differences, and to understand that bringing together diverse perspectives, experiences, knowledge and skills ultimately leads to better outcomes. Collaboration is not always the faster — or even easier — approach to doing the work, but it is almost always the better one. Being open and vulnerable helps build trust in a group — which often leads to more successful collaborations.
“The greatest collaborations are based on shared vulnerability. Opening your mind and heart to others enables you to match your challenges and ambitions with theirs — and find the common ground needed to do great things together. Keep yourself guarded, and others will respond in kind — which hinders all but superficial success”
— David Peck (2007)
Barriers to Collaboration
Educators often work independently — which makes collaboration less common. Barriers to collaboration can be categorized as individual, organizational and technological. Earlier we discussed the lack of skills as a barrier, but lack of time is often cited as a deterrent from open work too. Collaborative work can save time when it means being able to adapt work done by others, but it can take time to build networks that allow such sharing to happen. As institutions begin to recognize and compensate educators for open work, the ability to share improves. See a sample of common barriers based on category below (Alhawary & Alshamaileh, 2017).
|Individual||Lack of skills|
|Individual attitude and willingness|
|Lack of time and trust|
|Organizational||Lack of support|
|Lack of infrastructure and resources|
|Culture and environment|
|Technological||Unwillingness to use technology applications (lack of digital literacy and reluctance to ask for help)|
|Unrealistic expectations of technology systems|
|Difficulty in building, integrating and modifying technology based systems.|
An individual’s willingness to share, along with organizational supports will be explored in the next section.
In the Padlet below, share a metaphor or analogy that explains when you are working at your best. How does collaboration fit into your metaphor? Be sure to comment or respond to other participant’s posts.
To add your comment, double click anywhere on the Padlet below or select the plus (+) icon in the lower right-hand corner of the board. For a more accessible version of this activity, please visit the web version of the “Collaboration Metaphor” Padlet [new tab].
Alhawary, Faleh & Alshamaileh, Maher. (2017). Determinant Factors of Knowledge Sharing among Academic Staff in the Jordanian Universities. European Journal of Social Sciences. Volume 55. 415-426. https://www.europeanjournalofsocialsciences.com/issues/PDF/EJSS_55_4_04.pdf↵
Coolidge, A.(2019, October 28).From lost to belonging-Keynote address for the Open Education 2019 Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, 2019. BCcampus. https://bccampus.ca/2019/10/28/from-lost-to-belonging-by-amanda-coolidge-opened-2019-keynote/. ↵
Peck, D. (2007, March). Monday’s leader tip: power in vulnerability. Recovering Leader. https://leadershipunleashed.typepad.com/leadership/2007/03/mondays_leadert_2.html ↵
Making Sense of Open Education- Open Collaboration by Jenni Hayman is licensed under CC BY 4.0 International