Collaboration over competition

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Dr Peri O'Shea

Collaborative Mental Health Studies

“At HETI Higher Education, we view students as partners. With this subtle shift - from student to partner - the learning experience is fundamentally changed to support collaboration over competition.” Dr. Peri O’Shea shares her experience of such collaboration, to explain how it serves a much bigger purpose.

As an academic, teacher and consumer advocate, it is very exciting when a traditional learning environment is challenged for the better. Being online, HETI’s Higher Education courses do just this, by attracting students from a range of workplaces and locations.

A layered learning experience

These different perspectives add layers to our students’ learning experience, with students who would never normally cross paths now sharing information in forums and web discussions - even visiting each other’s workplaces after online connections are first sparked.

At HETI Higher Education we want to spark these deeper connections through collaboration, so that we can support positive clinical change, and the power of shared experience consolidates this in practice alongside our teachings.

With this bigger picture in mind, there is no space left to think small. This purpose demands a collaborative - not competitive - mindset. One that thinks beyond ourselves and towards a community-led approach that defies clinical differences and geographical boundaries.

Diversity in collaboration

For example, we teach a student in outback Australia who regularly swaps knowledge with fellow students, such as GPs in suburban clinical settings. Likewise, students based overseas lend a global perspective that can help to consolidate evidence-based learning closer to home. There is no doubt in my mind that all of this collaboration has a positive impact on the way our students reflect on their practice.

Reflection that leads to respect

Such self-reflection is critical; since collaboration is only as useful as the diversity of thought it invites. In fact, whenever I run an online forum, I am always impressed by how much the students will take the time and care to back up their opinion with some sort of evidence; given evidence-based learning lies at the heart of HETI Higher Education’s approach.

However, something else happens in this often more considered online space. The ‘quieter’ students - who may not be heard in a traditional classroom environment - now have a place at the table, so to speak. Through this platform, all students are seen and more importantly, heard by their peers. As a teacher, this is tremendously exciting to witness, because of the benefits it brings to everyone’s learning experience.

Shared values in action

Something else I have witnessed time and again through collaboration is kindness. One student may access on a forum because perhaps they can't find some information and often within minutes, someone else who is also on the forum will help them out. This type of exchange is not unusual among our students; it is embedded in our online culture. This once again comes down to collaborating - not competing - so that we can serve a much bigger purpose.

Yet even more than this perhaps, a deep honesty can come from this surprisingly intimate online space. Students’ lived experiences and clinical challenges are shared more thoughtfully - and I would arguably say more openly - compared to a traditional classroom environment.

In this shared and very honest space, this is where real change can take place. I see this happen daily within our students, and in the workplaces they go onto benefit. Above all, it is exciting to see such human values emerge through an online teaching platform because through collaboration - not competition - we can get lasting transformation for everyone’s benefit.

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