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Expectations for Collaboration at WISR


Most WISR courses require that students make 10 posts in WISR’s online forum, and 10 replies to posts made by others (students, faculty or WISR alumni). Students are also generally required to engage in an additional 10 hours of collaboration with others at WISR. Courses which are for fewer than 5 semester units of credit will have less extensive requirements (consult the section on “Course Assignments” for the course in which you are studying).

Purpose of Collaboration

Collaboration at WISR is one the main themes among our learning goals and objectives. Collaboration is important in many ways in the world we live in. Indeed, the quality of life, the sustainability of our planet, improvements in our community, efforts for greater social and racial justice, scientific knowledge, the operation of our organizations, and much more, can be enhanced by collaboration. Partly, the value of collaboration can be seen in the old adage, “two heads are better than one.” However, collaboration has many other potential value. It can be a source of emotional support. When one person is working on a project (a job in an agency, a social change effort, studying for a course, trying to solve a problem in one’s life), they can often gain, not only deeper insights, but energy and inspiration from a colleague. When one person is down or frustrated or feeling immobilized, the other person may give them some energy to “get them going again.” Sometimes, we do a better job of completing the next step in a project (e.g., a rough draft of a paper) if we have a friend or colleague who is looking forward to reading what we’ve written, and ready to do that supportively and with constructive criticism and suggestions. Sometimes, we are better able to “think out of the box” if we can brainstorm with a colleague. By asking questions, or engaging together in a lively and purposeful discussion, we can elicit ideas from one another. Sometimes we may bring out a completely new idea that we have not yet considered. Other times, one person may be able to “hear themselves” say something more clearly and with greater depth of insight. All of us “know more” than we can easily put into words, but sometimes in conversation with inquisitive and supportive colleagues, we may find ourselves saying something better than we have previously been able to put into words. Sometimes having an interested “audience” with whom we can “try out” our ideas is very, very valuable as well.

At WISR we consider collaboration to be a good thing, not “cheating.” However, we do expect that, as a matter of honesty and integrity that students divulge the extent to which they “got their ideas” from others. There is a difference between gaining insights from someone else in the midst of a process in which both (or all) parties are engaged, and from simply “copying” another person’s ideas and presenting them as your own. For this reason, we expect that in your papers, and in your self-assessments, that you communicate some of the details of how you benefited in your collaborations with others.

Online Forums

All WISR students, as well as faculty and interested alumni, gain access to WISR’s Online Forum through WISR’s Google Education Suite.

Oftentimes the expectations for participating in the online forum is as follows: For each module, you will write a critically reflective, brief analysis of the two to three main sources (readings and/or videos) that you considered to be most valuable, and also write a deeply reflective paragraph or two about what you consider to be the main insights and questions growing out of your learning in this module. You will post this on the WISR Online Forum for others to read and respond to, and you will include in the post a statement of some issue(s) or question(s) you would like others to think about in responding to your post. In addition, you will reply to at least one other student’s post (even if related to a different course).


First of all, when posting any content for others to respond to, write a couple of sentences about why the content of the post is important to you, and/or why it might matter to others, and/or suggestions some particular questions or issues on which you would especially appreciate to receive some feedback or stimulation for further thought and discussion.

The prompts listed below are optional, and are meant to be of assistance if you are having trouble deciding what to write.

    • In reflecting on the material from the course module you are studying, discuss–any insights, questions for further study, possible implications for action, or especially, topics for further discussion with others—that came to mind.
    • Discuss how studying and reflecting on the material in the course module is making a contribution to your learning with regard to any of the course learning objectives, degree program learning objectives, or WISR meta-competencies (consult course syllabus where these are listed).
    • Discuss how reflection on this course module may contribute to your internship or action-inquiry lab (project and paper) for this course.
    • Discuss how reflection on this course module may contribute to your thoughts about your long-term plans—either for your future studies at WISR, or beyond, after graduation.
    • Discuss any connections you see between this content and current events and issues.
    • Discuss connections between this content and one or more theoretical perspectives in your field of study.
    • Discuss connections between this content and issues and challenges you are facing on your job and/or in your community.
    • Discuss how reflection on this content may contribute to your own personal growth and/or methods of learning.

Posts that are part of the extra, required hours of peer-to-peer collaboration and not one of the 10 posts required for a course module should still follow the same general criteria and guidelines, but the content needs not be related to a particular course module, or even to the specific course, and may relate to anything relevant to the student’s entire degree program.


    • You may reply to any posts made by others–your post needs to apply to your particular course, nor even to your degree program.
    • The purpose of the replies is to contribute to the learning of others, and to enrich your own learning by considering ideas, issues and questions from many perspectives and with regard to a range of topics. The content of all of WISR’s multidisciplinary degree programs overlaps–to some extent at least. Posts without replies do not stimulate engaged, productive dialogue and learning. WISR is very small, and so it’s important to reach out to others, with different interests, in different courses, and even in different degree programs–in order to develop WISR further as a vital community of learners.


You may write anything you wish, so long as the following criteria are met:

  • For posts that are put of your course requirements for the various modules:
    1. The post is relevant to the course material from this module—show how it is relevant or how the course material elicited your ideas/comments.
    2. The post is substantive and demonstrates your efforts to think deeply and be engaged in the course material and your learning.
    3. The post makes some effort to stimulate discussion or thought for others (e.g., what you write is “food for thought”)
    • If the post is part of your “extra” hours of collaboration, the content of the post needs only to be relevant to areas of learning and practice relevant to any of WISR’s degree programs.
    • Replies should be respond, in part at least, to the purposes and questions articulated by the person making the post.


The writing you post need not be polished, nor need it make a “convincing” argument, and may very well be “thinking out loud”—but you should try to write in a way that is understandable to others, and that suggests that your post or reply is important to you rather than simply writing something done “to meet the requirement.” Try to write in your own voice rather than impersonally. You need not cite other sources, but if you do, provide a reference or link.

It is intended that the posts will help you to a) get in the regular practice and habit of producing short “chunks” of writing, b) that these chunks of writing will help you to think more deeply about what they are reading, thinking about, or projects and papers that they are working on, and c) the chunks may eventually be used, and further developed, in many cases as content for the paper the student is writing for that course. Several students have already indicated that they believe that having to write and submit these regular posts is likely to encourage them, and other students, to stay more regularly engaged in moving forward with their WISR work. It may give students the “structure” they need to not let time pass without their being actively engaged in their studies.


For most WISR courses, you will be expected to do an additional 10 hours of collaboration with other students (or WISR alumni), beyond the 10 posts and replies to the online forum, and to keep, and then submit, a log of these hours of collaboration. 

Options: obtain the added, required collaborative hours through any combination of the following:

    • additional posts and responses (one hour credit for each post and response);
    • participation in WISR seminars (one hour for each hour of seminar on site or by phone or video conference);
    • one hour for each hour of student-initiated collaboration with other students (e.g., study groups, peer to peer discussions, etc.). Some students have already started using WISR’s Zoom video conference system to have discussions–and then they later listen to the recording to write down some of the more valuable ideas and things that they said during the conversation–for possible use in writing a paper. WISR students obtain instructions on how to use and access WISR’s video conference system through  www.zoom.us
    • also, there is also the option of listening to/watching a previous WISR seminar that you missed–many are available online in WISR’s Google Suite However, students will only obtain hours for the entire length of the seminar if you write (and post online) two paragraphs of comments and thoughts about the seminar presentation/discussion. Since you missed the seminar originally, you may only get credit for the collaboration of participating in the seminar by posting substantive comments about it in the Online Forum.
    • Finally, we encourage students to share drafts (or final versions) of entire papers with other students.