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  • Writer's pictureBianca Le Cornu

[Teaching] is easy with eyes closed ...

For those of you who have been able to get to know me a little better, you will know that I am a HUGE Beatles fan - so much so that my home is basically a shrine to all that ever was and continues to be The Beatles.

That being said, I came to the end of this ONL Journey and one line in particular slapped me headfirst as I pondered about the whole experience:

Working with such incredible and amazing people as the 6 other academics in my group (and a facilitator who just made it all happen effortlessly it seemed) made me realise just how "blind" we are to all that is out there waiting for us to find. Academia can be somewhat isolating at times - research, writing, developing tend to be lonely roads to follow, yet such incredible opportunities arise when we open ourselves up to the opportunities that collaboration and sharing have to offer.

I, myself, have always been moved and inspired by collaboration (but within predefined contexts). This ONL experience, however, opened my eyes to much bigger opportunities that had, up until now, been unknown or ill-considered to me.

All 7 of us have lived and developed and designed and struggled through Covid-19 in relation to our academic pursuits - some of us have struggled more than others, but we each have something unique to offer in all things academically-related. Not only was this eye-opening, but also heart-warming ... to know that we are not alone, to know that we can share, and be and offer something to someone and it may be useful.

As mentioned in some of my previous blogs, I have been a designer and copywriter and academic for most of my adult life, but what I love most about the educational aspect of studying (and being involved in my own education) is that I am always deeply aware of the fact that as much as I know, I know just as little. There is always something to learn and some new way to develop which is a humbling experience.

While parts of this ONL experience were not new to me, the concept of proper collaboration for the benefit of all concerned was by far the most amazing experience for me. Throwing out the ego for 3 months to share without fear of being judged was (and remains) influential to my development as a learning designer, as well as to me as an educator and designer.

I think that ego can be a silent killer in an academic environment if not handled with extreme care, and this is highlighted in a book by Ryan Holiday, "Ego is the enemy" in which he systematically talks about ego in diverse walks of life and how it can hold us back.

“Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, your worst enemy already lives inside you: your ego” – Ryan Holiday, Ego is the Enemy

In his article, "Ego is the Enemy, especially for Academics," Pai Madhukar, a microbiologist writes humorously about the topic, looking at the book as a way to reflect on his own academic career. However, these are similar concepts that our group spoke of in relation to collaboration not always working in spaces where we had individually been placed currently (or in our past). Ironically, one way that you can try and alleviate ego is actually by using collaboration (as highlighted in the article). So it appears that it could be a catch22 situation if ego outweighs the benefits of collaboration?

That being said, I did enjoy the article and the possible solutions to combat ego for the sake of everyone involved:

  1. Find ways to remain a student

  2. Find a larger purpose and work towards that

  3. Work within a large team where collaboration (not competition) is culture

  4. Locate and create a trusted group of mentors and colleagues who can critique your work as a way to keep you grounded

  5. Look for positive role models

(Pai, 2018)

Perhaps, this ONL opportunity allowed for some of these to break us free from our egos as we were once again students, looking to improve ourselves, while working together as a team who we could hopefully trust in each other. [It's just a hypothesis but it's sounding like it might just have worked out that way]

No matter the reason, it was a humbling and beautiful experience and I would like to leave by posting our tips to survive ONL in the future (as we collaborated on these as well):

ONL, PBL, WTH? (A delightful creative name provided by none other than the innovative Neil Mullholland)

  1. Don't be scared to leave your ego at the door

  2. Set your own "bar": you cannot do everything (this could save you from inevitable frustration)

  3. Don't be scared to trust in the process (and in your team)

  4. If possible, settle on a specific slot of time/ moment to read and write for this course every week

  5. Be generous in sharing what you know and don't know

  6. Do not trust that your facilitator will be the only guiding light you need - be your own guiding light

  7. Be authentic.

What I loved about our tips is that they may seem airy fairy to the seasoned academics but this is due to the fact that our group grew emotionally through our interactions with each other - and this, in itself, was a really amazing opportunity that was unexpected... to be and enjoy happiness.

This has had a direct influence on my own teaching (which I do part time still) and I am trying to find a way in which the postgrad students I work with, can develop strong alliances, and find happiness, within their postgrad group too.

In summation, learning should not only be able self development but also about finding happiness (happiness within, happiness with the people we share this with, happiness with the people we work with ... and happiness in general). When we are happy, we are better people ... when we are happy we are more invested.

Thank you:

Nina, Markus, Neil, Michela, Susanna, Marjorie and Gregor - each of you has inspired me to be more than I ever believed, but more importantly - happy :)



Pai, M., 2018. Ego is the Enemy, especially for Academics. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 1 June 2022].

1 Comment

Jun 12, 2022

Hi Bianca,

Thank you for sharing your experience with ONL. It's nice that you also have enjoyed collaborating with your PBL-group. I can only agree with you and Ryan Holiday that ego can be a silent killer in academia. As a former social worker, I'm used to working in a team where many decisions were discussed long and hard in the group before finalizing them. Unfortunately, at my university, it sometimes feels like everyone is for themselves. However, this ONL-course has shown how enjoyable teamwork can be and how much better collaboration results.

I wish you good luck in the future!

Best wishes, Johanna

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