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Promoting cooperation and collaboration in a web-based learning environment Fay Sudweeks School of Information Technology Murdoch University, Perth, Australia [email protected] Questions Can we do more to encourage cooperative and collaborative learning among students studying online?

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promoting cooperation and collaboration in a web based learning environment

Promoting cooperationand collaborationin a web-basedlearning environment

Fay Sudweeks

School of Information Technology

Murdoch University, Perth, Australia

[email protected]

questions
Questions
  • Can we do more to encourage cooperative and collaborative learning among students studying online?
  • How can we connect students who are studying in different modes and in different locations?
e learning
E-Learning
  • Why e-learning?
    • Rising costs of education
    • Reduced funding for universities (particularly in Australia)
    • Demand from students wanting to study off-campus (whether “internal” or “external” students)
  • Benefits of elearning
    • Attracting new “offshore” markets
    • Ability to develop “packaged” programs
    • Reducing inequalities, e.g. access for the disabled, the elderly
e learning4
E-Learning
  • Problems in e-learning:
    • Learning environment, itself, regarded as “glue” connecting separate educational elements.
    • Little thought given to specific pedagogical strategies
    • Lack of appropriate social and collaborative activities
      • Little support for students to build interdependent relationships
  • (Unintended) consequences of e-learning:
    • Feelings of social isolation in students
    • Paradox: communication technologies can separate rather than connect students with one another.
cooperation vs collaboration
Cooperation vs Collaboration
  • Cooperative learning:
      • “a protocol in which the task is, in advance, split into subtasks that the partners solve independently” (Dillenbourg and Schneider, 1995)
  • Collaborative learning:
      • “where two or more subjects build synchronously and interactively a joint solution to some problem” (Dillenbourg and Schneider, 1995)
effective cooperation collaboration
Effective cooperation/collaboration
  • Critical elements
    • learning tasks
    • learning resources
    • learning supports
  • Attributes
    • communication
    • interdependence
    • leadership
    • accountability
e learning framework
Content, information and resources with which learners interact

Activities, problems,

interactions used to engage the learners

Learning

tasks

Learning

resources

Learning

supports

Scaffolds, structures, encouragement, motivation, assistance, connections

E-learning framework

After Oliver, 2001, p. 407

case study
Case Study
  • Organisational Informatics
    • Part II undergraduate unit
    • Enrolment
      • 156 students
    • Multimodal and multi-located students
      • Modes: part-time, full-time, external
      • Locations: Murdoch, Rockingham, International
    • Topics
      • computer-mediated communication, group process, computer-supported collaborative work, virtual communities, etc.
    • WebCT learning management system
case study9
Case Study
  • Organisational Informatics
    • Assessment:
      • online tutorial presentation
      • online tutorial participation
      • weekly reflective journals
      • research essay
      • examination
e learning framework10
Content, information and resources with which learners interact

Activities, problems,

interactions used to engage the learners

Learning

tasks

Learning

resources

Learning

supports

Scaffolds, structures, encouragement, motivation, assistance, connections

E-learning framework
slide11
Activities, problems, interactions

Content, information, resources

Scaffolds,

structure, motivation

Learning tasks

Learning Resources

Learning Supports

Group

Bulletin

Boards

Private

Email

Tutorial

Transcripts

Lecture

Notes

Tutors Email

And Photo

Presenter

Guidelines

Whiteboard

Reflective

Journals

Research

Essay

Readings

Web

Portal

Team Work

Guidelines

Calendar

Team

Project

Web-based Learning Environment

Web-Based Learning Environment

team project
Team Project
  • Students assigned randomly to project teams
    • 156 students in 10 tutorial groups
    • 4 teams in each tutorial group = 39 project teams
  • Development of a proposal for a major event
    • e.g. weddings, funerals, safaris, conferences, product launches, 21st birthday parties, concerts, movie premiers, store opening
  • Aim
    • Effective team work, i.e. communication, interdependence, leadership and accountability
project objectives
Project Objectives
  • Practical skills
    • stimulate creativity and skills in project development
    • develop knowledge of distributed collaboration (practising what we are preaching)
    • experience different modes of communication among virtual team members
    • evaluate effectiveness of different modes of mediated communication
    • develop skills in presenting information to distant clients
  • Requirements for effective team work
    • communication, interdependence, leadership, accountability
  • Learning can be fun!
    • different (fun) style of assessment
communication
Communication
  • Team members (4) restricted to text-based mediated communication
    • E.g. email, private forums (bulletin boards), chat rooms, IRC, ICQ, instant messaging, SMS
  • Advantages
    • “level playing field” for multi-mode/multi-located students
    • practical application of unit’s theoretical focus
  • Communication diary
    • recorded frequency, length, topic and reflection of each communication event.
slide15
Communication Diary

A worksheet for each communication type and each group records frequency, time, topic and reflection

.

slide16
Communication Diary

The overview worksheet automatically updates frequency and time length of each communication event.

interdependence
Interdependence
  • Interdependent roles:
    • Client
    • Consultant
    • Researcher
    • Presenter
  • Advantages of roles:
    • Facilitated structure of interdependent subtasks (cooperation) and interactivity in problem solving (collaboration)
interdependence18
Interdependence
  • Client
    • Proposes initial ideas for the event, which need to be creative and innovative.
    • Provides requirements of what components are to be included.
    • Provides a budget.
    • Evaluates consultant's two alternative plans for the event, chooses one, and provides a rationale for the selection.
    • Evaluates and approves detailed budget.
interdependence19
Interdependence
  • Consultant
    • Develops two alternative plans for the event.
    • Advises the client to choose the better plan, giving clear reasons why it is superior. Both plans, though, are within the guidelines provided by the client.
    • Provides a detailed costing for the selected plan.
    • Provides steps for implementation.
interdependence20
Interdependence
  • Researcher
    • Keeps a diary of the communication among team members including:
      • Time spent on different communication channels
      • Frequency of messages on each channel
      • Main topic of communication
      • Reflection on the effectiveness of each communication channel
    • Prepares a graphical representation of this information to be included in the presentation.
interdependence21
Interdependence
  • Presenter
    • Organises material into a PowerPoint presentation.
      • Includes information from the researcher for the firm’s billing purposes and for improving the quality of the firm's service for future clients.
    • Demonstrates creative and innovative ideas appropriately to “sell” the plan to the client.
    • Presents the project online to the tutorial group in the last week of semester.
leadership
Leadership
  • Team member
    • Suggested that the team member who was the Researcher be responsible for keeping the project moving forward
      • Practical since researcher was monitoring all communication
  • Tutor and unit coordinator
    • More of a monitoring role
    • Access to most communication and able to resolve any potential conflicts
accountability
Accountability
  • Communication archives
    • Available to all team members (bulletin boards, private forums, chat rooms)
  • Peer-assessment of individual team member contribution
    • Default assessment was equal distribution of marks among team members
    • Option for the team to request unequal distribution (communication archives provided partial evidence of unequal participation)
communication24
Communication
  • Frequency of communication media
    • Asynchronous media used most frequently
      • Email (41%), private forums (bulletin board) (20%)
    • Some notable exceptions:
      • One team used instant messaging almost exclusively (95% of all communication compared with average of 5% across all teams)
      • One team used SMS extensively (64% of all communication compared with average of 5% across all teams)
communication25
Communication

Average across 39 teams

communication26
Communication
  • Duration of communication media
    • Average time: 460 minutes (~7½ hours)
    • Shortest time: 41 minutes
    • Longest time: 1,978 minutes (~33 hours)
communication summary
Communication Summary

Average across 39 teams

survey
Survey
  • Students surveyed at end of semester.
  • Asked for a rating on 20 questions related to:
    • Team communication
    • Team dynamics
    • Perceptions of the team project
    • Perceptions of e-learning
  • Plus comments
slide29
Team communication

The degree of interaction was very high (49%)

Getting in touch with team members was easy (35%)

I learned more about other team members than I would have in a ftf team (47%)

slide30
Team dynamics

Reaching consensus was easy (56%)

I enjoyed working with this team (61%)

I appreciated the cultural diversity of the student population more (47%)

(12 different cultures reported by teams)

slide31
Project

Project guidelines were clear (76%)

Able to work independently on own tasks (70%)

Project was a positive experience (61%)

slide32
E-Learning

Effective learning experience (78%)

Comfortable with communication being monitored (51%)

WebCT encourages active learning (74%)

comments
Comments
  • Positive
    • “I think that the online team is a great idea for university courses. Why: Its so easy to see who is at meetings, record minutes, have tasks pinpointed. You have time to think before answering via email and the ability to get good written feedback. Maybe I was lucky in that the team I was part of was excellent. So far it has been one of the best group experiences.”
    • “No fights only good discussions, everyone has done their bit excellently, it has been a pleasure to work in this team.”
comments34
Comments
  • Negative
    • “Communication was difficult because not all group members could access all channels.”
    • “One of the team members was a bit difficult to get in touch with – took several days before he answered email and he did not show up in the chat room.”
evaluation
Evaluation
  • Student self-reports
    • Overall satisfaction with the project
  • Project grades
    • More than two-thirds (69%) of the teams attained a higher grade (D or HD)
  • Conflicts
    • 7 of the 39 teams requested variation in grading
      • 2 teams requested 1 member receive a grade less
      • 2 teams requested 1 member receive a pass grade
      • 3 teams requested 1 member receive a fail
example project event homer s funeral marilyn ranford timothy geldard kelwin chan veronica malmoe
Example Project EventHomer’s FuneralMarilyn Ranford, Timothy Geldard, Kelwin Chan, Veronica Malmoe
conclusions
Conclusions
  • Cooperation
    • Students felt a sense of autonomy in working on subtasks as well as working interdependently with team members. Most students found the teamwork a positive experience despite some members not working as well as the rest of the team.
  • Collaboration
    • The majority of teams were congenial. More than half of the teams found it easy to reach consensus in problem solving, enjoyed working together and expressed interest in meeting face-to-face.
conclusions38
Conclusions
  • Design of web-based learning environment
    • Include elements of tasks, resources and supports.
  • Teamwork attributes
    • Integrate key attributes of communication, interdependence, leadership and accountability
further considerations
Further considerations
  • So … perfect? No, not quite …
  • Team composition
    • Consider incorporating an initial skills matrix to match students of similar work habits (e.g. JIT), preferences (different streams) and grade expectations.
  • Comparison
    • Compare results with different student cohort (in 2003).
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