The Fourth Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning (PCF4)
    Home > Collaboration

Achieving Development Goals


In Education and Development

Krishna Alluri and K.Balasubramanian


Collaboration is defined as a coordinated, synchronous activity that is the result of a continued attempt to construct and maintain a shared conception of a problem. There are many forms of collaboration that assist communities, countries, and regions in pursuit of development. Among these are collaborative initiatives associated with education and community learning.


Whether it is formal or informal education, learning typically requires participation in a social process of knowledge construction. Knowledge emerges through a network of interactions, and it is distributed and mediated by the people and the tools that they use for interacting. Informal groups utilise tacit as well as explicit knowledge while learning. Both formal and informal knowledge-building can be collaborative activities, directed towards the development of collective understanding. In the field of education and knowledge management, collaboration has been defined as a process of participating in knowledge communities (Kaplan, ASTD 2002). Educational programs aimed at fostering development may draw knowledge communities together or create partnerships between educational providers, civil society, private industry and target clients or communities.


In addition to a variety of potential partnerships, there are also various approaches to collaborating in education and development.


Collaborative Learning for Development


The benefits of collaborative learning were observed by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) in addressing development issues including food security, agriculture and rural development. In targeting farmers, agricultural labourers, fishing communities, and nomadic people, the organization found the educational needs of these clients to be different from the conventional ‘student community.’ Because most of these clients lack familiarity with traditional formal education structure and systems, COL found existing methods of ODL and formal educational approaches were inadequate to meet the learners’ needs.


As a result of their programs aimed at development learning, COL identified several characteristics among learners in marginalized groups. Several of these characteristics point to the need for collaboration among individuals and groups in order to succeed in formal and informal learning environments:

  • Varying levels of literacy and learning abilities might require facilitation of shared and horizontal learning;

  • Lack of capacity to learn individually might require a focus on group and community learning needs;

  • Lack of learners’ ability to access information individually might require networking and sharing between those that have access and those that lack access;

  • Language barriers might require the need for translation.


Collaboration for Community Learning


COL initiated The Lifelong Learning (L3) for Farmers Project in India. Open and Distance Learning (ODL) as community learning, and as a base for horizontal transfer of knowledge, is one of the interesting concepts to emerge from this project. Initially, L3 focused on enhancing self-directed personal and strategic learning as an important strategy for strengthening life-long learning among farmers, agricultural labourers and poorer sectors of the non-farm sector. The project realized the importance of evolving learning community processes, and it identified benefits in shifting from classroom centricity towards local and contextual centricity.


ODL Collaborative Learning and Development


Over the years Open and Distance (ODL) learning strategies have emerged in order to address the needs of rural, urban poor, and indigenous communities, as well as minorities and other marginalized sections of the society. The Commonwealth of Learning and other organizations supporting education and development have introduced ODL programs and initiatives to facilitate greater access to learning for development.


In addition to providing learner centric approaches and self-determined learning for adults, ODL can facilitate collaboration among learners. As a model of development learning, the Farmers Project provided valuable insight into challenges and opportunities associated with the use of ODL for informal group learning.


Collaboration in Delivering Education


In addition to realizations about the need for collaborative learning for community members, the COL Farmers Project also identified the need for the collaboration of those providing education and development services. Communities require a holistic integrated package of information, knowledge and services that no single agency or institution can provide. Additionally, by collaborating, consortiums can make more effective use of shared resources.


Consortiums of universities and research institutions are emerging in order to meet the collective educational needs of communities. At the local level, associations and women’s groups are serving as learning communities that also help promote development. The groups and consortiums are introducing ODL and other formal and informal educational programs. Modern information and communications technologies (ICT) are connecting communities and enabling the groups to work collaboratively.


Technology Enabling Collaboration in ODL


Appearance of the learning community within distance courses indicates the effectiveness of distance learning courses and existence of the friendly psychological environment. It could not be reached spontaneously, but developed on the basis of the thoughtful scientific approach, collaborative methods of teaching, and active involving of all participants of the learning process into the joint activities with shared goals, interests and emotional relationship

Marina Moisseeva, Online Learning Communities and Collaborative Learning,

IIE Network, 2005


Modern ICT is a platform for building learning communities. It is enlarging the canvas of communities through vertical and horizontal linkages. As a result, ICT is becoming both the cause as well as the effect of collaboration in learning.


Modern ICT, especially in the form of computers, can enhance collaboration through four types of interactions in ODL: 1) interactions at the computers, 2) interactions around computers, 3) interactions related to computer applications, and 4) interactions through computers. Collaboration can be synchronous as well as asynchronous.


As the digital revolution extends throughout the world, it is important that the different dimensions of collaboration are addressed in expanding ODL and other educational initiatives in support of development.


Building Knowledge about Collaborative Learning


Collaboration extends to educational providers looking to improve and expand their knowledge of both content or subject matter and pedagogy. Formally and informally organized initiatives include communities of practice (CoPs), professional associations, learning communities or consortia, and networks.  ICT can facilitate these forms of collaboration, sometimes drawing people together without face-to-face interaction.


Collaboration in learning design and delivery might include collaborative and participatory methods of preparing and delivering courses of study, collaborative tutoring, and learning that responds to the learners’ development context.


It is important that the different dimensions of collaboration are understood, particularly given the new challenges and opportunities associated with the digital revolution. A clear framework for collaboration in ODL and other education approaches would guide planning and implementation of development learning.


Creating and structuring opportunities for people to network, communicate, mentor, and learn from each other can help capture, formalize, and diffuse tacit knowledge. Communities become a boundary-less container for knowledge and relationships that can be used to increase individual effectiveness and enhance community development. 

Soren Kaplan, Building Communities--Strategies for Collaborative Learning
American Society for Training and Development (ASTD),

August 2002,

If the information you require about PCF4 is not included on this website, please email:

home | overview | program | registration | call for papers | submission | papers | sponsors
accommodation | travel | social | contacts | hosts | COL Awards | exhibition | links