SystemThinking | Unit 2 Summary Blog

Improving the atmosphere of online student’s collaboration

A few weeks ago during an assignment in the course, I discovered a problem of students when it comes to collaborating.

The main sentence of the problem is “Students felt the atmosphere of team working is not efficient as offline learning(learning in one building) before, many teammates start to rely on others while they do not contribute.”

Below is the CLDs I’ve been drawing and revising:

First draft with only loops
Final draft with loop, delays, and leverage points

The first need that comes out from the diagram is the “Need for Collaboration” it is the source of the problem, it came from group home-works, but remember although it causes problems, it itself is not a problem.

We assume the “Average Group Working Skill” of students were low, and that causes us to distinguish the “Reliable Teammate” from the unreliable teammates. And when people with low group working skills knows who can they rely on in their group, they wont be making much contributions to the group but rather leave the works to the reliable student, which is usually their team leader.

With that effect, the productivity is no longer stable. Because the efficiency of the whole team depends on the leader, and sometimes they don’t even know what to do without their leader.

Also, more people start to rely on their leaders might cause the lost of their group working skills. And the online learning atmosphere will be more isolate and cold.

Action&Leverage point

The first idea comes to my mind is to replace the phenomenon of “needing other reliable teammates” with “increasing personal team-working skills”. Because the goal is to make every responsible for themselves and not relying on others while finishing an assignment

So the first solution to the CLD is the “Training and Chances of Practicing”, it represents the chances of improving our personal ability. If that point grows, it can influence the productivity and decrease the need for more “Reliable Teammates”. Therefore ideally the productivity will be relatively increase and the atmosphere will be better.

The two leverage points

So then I found the two leverage points where I can put into action: “Personal Ability” and “Reliable Teammates” there are two actions we can took from:

  1. We can increase everyone’s group working skill, so that nobody is relying on anybody.
  2. We can change certain amount of group assignments into personal assignments. So that we don’t have the needs for teammates to have collaborations.

The first reason requires certain delays, for example the delay of sensing the problem and applying the training is an important one. But the second reason can solve the problem for good.

This is my Behavior-over-Time graph in an ideal view:

The Behavior/Time graph for the first solution.

This is the result we can see using the first solution

The graph for the first solution, effect1
The graph for the second solution, effect2

The effect2 is for the “Personal assignment managing skill” over time, it’s another view from the first effect.

Process Tracking

During the process, the element I will be using to track the result and changes will be:

1.People’s group working skills

The reason for that is simple, because in the future everyone will face the fact that collaboration is one of the unavoidable things we should work on, and if the tracking of collaboration skill’s trend is going upward(slope=1), that means the action is worth to be continue. But if it is going downward of staying the same(slopes=-1/0), I might need to check if the need of collaboration for them is enough, and if nobody is requiring them to collaborate with others, I will find if they will be needing any collaborations in school, if the course is designed to be proceed individually, it is normal. Otherwise, we might need to change the policy.


The word “Atmosphere” here is a little bit more complex than the previous one, an atmosphere includes people’s feedback to the environment, how active people are, and last but not least, how can the atmosphere help people if they need.

For an example, if there’s a great amount of people that share one atmosphere, but they don’t seek to find any benefit to their individual work, I will see that as an entertaining atmosphere, it is not about gaining, but about sharing. Oppositely, if people need other people in this atmosphere to help, but the result is not ideal, there is a problem.

Expected Consequences

The consequences are under different requirements

  • Focusing on group working
    • Everyone get better scores
    • Nobody no longer needs others to rely on
    • The atmosphere of learning is active and alive than before
  • Focusing on personal learning
    • [Positive effect]
      • Personal assignment managing skill develops better
      • More efficient when solving individual works than group works
    • [Negative effects]
      • Lost some of their group working skills

As a summary, the solution is depending on the need of the course, although efficiency is something a lot of people seek to pursue, I would focus on a long-term effect which includes the need of future-collaboration. 加油⛽️

Published by roy-gao

My name is Roy and I am the assassin of the world of philosophy. You can always find me in my old wooden house next to the secret lake.

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