Online CoLAB Networking

Organizers: TOPkit and UCF Center for Distributed Learning

Cost:  Free

About: This networking event connects instructional designers and technology professionals for a fun blast of conversational exchanges! The goals of this event are to:

  • Create a safe and engaging online environment in which participants can meet each other, exchange ideas and build foundations to start conversations and collaborations;
  • Spark collaborations, creativity, innovation and partnerships;
  • Support the participants’ engagement in the TOPkit Community.

Point of contact: Please contact for questions or more information.

Quotes from Online CoLAB Networking Participants:

“Liked the opportunity to hear about what other institutions are doing related to online learning, course quality, and faculty development.”

“I loved getting to meet new people and learned about a few more resources.”

“Expanding my network outside of my institution, without the time commitment of a conference.”


Online CoLABs create a safe space to begin conversations, spark ideas, facilitate innovation, foster collaborative opportunities, and partnerships. The purpose of the Online CoLAB is to bring together individuals who are geographically dispersed to spark creativity around best practices and trending topics related to faculty development programs.

CoLAB short for Collaborating with Strangers describes what participants might actually do during an Online CoLAB event: collaborate with strangers during this online networking event. As odd as that may sound, these events create a collaborative, safe environment that allows participants to quickly engage with each other in conversation. Collaborative, safe spaces are fabulous places where ideas can be connected and hunches can be verified (Johnson, 2010). Participants complete profile signs prior to the event so that they may meet online to quickly begin a conversation, with the intent to  identify possible commonalities with each other and exchange ideas. This process enables participants to reap the benefits of their interactions, similar to what might occur around a water cooler at a physical workspace or at a coffee house.

The Office of Faculty Development & Teaching Excellence at the University of Florida initiated the Online CoLABs. Administrators and staff developed an online version based on the face-to-face CoLAB Planning Series® Workshops.

CoLAB© Planning Series

The CoLAB Planning Series® Workshops include facilitated open-space sessions, with speed-meetings as the centerpiece. Similar to the Online CoLABs, the purpose is to spark innovation and partnerships, to share or uncover hidden resources, or to develop strategies for future planning activities.

Bess de Farber created the CoLAB Planning Series® and implements Workshops with her team at the University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries. For more information about these Workshops, navigate to The CoLAB Planning Series® Process web page.

The Workshops provide a method for a multitude of results, depending on the purpose for initiating the process and the topic selected. Instead of focusing on weaknesses or areas for improvement, the process facilitates the discovery of strengths among participants or organizations or communities. This process incorporates principles from John P. Kretzmann and John L. McKnight’s “asset-based community development” (Farber, Hines, & Hood, 2017), based on the appreciative inquiry method of organizational or community development (B. de Farber, personal communication, August 2018), as coined by Cooperrider and Srivastva (1987) and fully explored by Whitney and Trosten-Bloom (2010). Essentially, the CoLAB environment creates a space for uncovering untapped potentials by building on current best practices.

Who should participate?

Our Online CoLABs are generally open to anyone interested in establishing a network. If the CoLAB focuses on a particular topic, then anyone interested in the topic is welcomed. Many professionals could benefit from participating in an Online CoLAB, their roles may be very different from each other. Job titles have included: directors, assistant directors, instructional designers, project managers, web developers, trainers, instructional technologists, and faculty development coordinators. There is no single profile that is a best fit for the networking event.


Online CoLABs facilitate networking to spark creativity for improving one’s professional endeavors. Online CoLABs hosted by TOPkit typically focus on enhancing practices related to faculty development and building the TOPkit community.

Depending on the topic, Online CoLABs can be initiated for the purpose of sparking innovation and partnerships, uncovering hidden resources, or developing strategies for future planning activities. Upon request, the TOPkit team members can initiate an Online CoLAB for these purposes or focused topic.


Johnson, S. (July 2010). Steven Johnson: Where good ideas come from [Video file]. Retrieved from

University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries (2011). The CoLAB Planning Series® Process. Retrieved from

de Farber, B., Hines, A., & Hood, B. (2017). Collaborating with strangers: Facilitating workshops in libraries, classes, and nonprofits. Chicago: American Library Association Neal Schuman.

Cooperrider, D. L., & Srivastva, S. (1987). Appreciative inquiry in organizational life. In R. W. Woodman & W. A. Pasmore (Eds.), Research in organizational change and development (Vol. 1, pp. 129-169). Greenwich, CT: Jai Press Inc. Retrieved from

Whitney, D.K., & Trosten-Bloom, A. (2010). Power of appreciative inquiry: A practical guide to positive change (2nd ed.) [Net Library version]. San Francisco, CA: Berrett Koehler.