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Online Collaborative Activities


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Stanley Oldfield's presentation at the Sloan International Symposium May 7-9, 2008

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Online Collaborative Activities

  1. 1. Online Collaborative Activities: The Developmental Dimension Stanley J Oldfield David R Morse The UK Open University
  2. 2. Overview <ul><li>What do we mean by collaboration? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the benefits of collaborative learning? </li></ul><ul><li>Why are students negative about collaboration? </li></ul><ul><li>How should we deliver collaborative learning experiences? </li></ul><ul><li>What models are available for designing collaborative activities? </li></ul><ul><li>What tools are appropriate for supporting collaborative activities? </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusions </li></ul>
  3. 3. What do we mean by collaboration? <ul><li>There would appear to be no commonly agreed definition for collaboration in the educational literature </li></ul><ul><li>In fact cooperation and collaboration are often used interchangeably and indistinguishably </li></ul><ul><li>We would argue for collaboration to be reserved for describing activities in which there is a significant degree of genuine interdependence, both of activities undertaken and deliverables produced </li></ul><ul><li>Collaboration is the antithesis of competition and hence not a major component of traditional higher education! </li></ul>
  4. 4. What are the benefits of collaborative learning? <ul><li>Students build their own knowledge through active personal engagement </li></ul><ul><li>Students develop interpersonal and teamwork skills needed in the workplace </li></ul><ul><li>Students develop an understanding of the multiple perspectives needed for living in a multicultural society </li></ul><ul><li>Students engage in the appropriate professional discourse for their discipline </li></ul><ul><li>Students share their skills and experience to solve more complex problems than they could handle as individuals </li></ul>
  5. 5. Why are students negative about collaboration?: Individual issues <ul><li>Our students tend not to possess or value skills in communication, reflection and collaboration </li></ul><ul><li>Waite et al (2004) provided an analysis of CS students’ resistance to collaboration, which included : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A preference for working alone </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Procrastination </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Experimentation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Disregard for process </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Combativeness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Unwillingness to support others </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Absence of passion / motivation </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Why are students negative about collaboration?: Institutional issues <ul><li>No collaborative culture in traditional education: unwillingness to give or receive (constructive ) criticism from peers </li></ul><ul><li>No sense of purpose: Too many collaborative activities delivered simply because of institutional directives – jumping on the current bandwagon </li></ul><ul><li>No sense of progression: Too many collaborative activities delivered at the same, introductory, level of sophistication </li></ul><ul><li>No recognition of how much non-class time is involved: Too many collaborative activities delivered simultaneously but independently </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>Inadequate preparation for, and progression towards, more complex activities. Insufficient emphasis on reflection about collaboration </li></ul><ul><li>Insufficient awareness of the affordances of, and the appropriate use of, collaborative software tools (by faculty as well as students!) </li></ul><ul><li>Perceived inequity of assessment procedures </li></ul>
  8. 8. How should we deliver collaborative learning experiences? <ul><li>Gradually </li></ul><ul><li>Purposefully </li></ul><ul><li>Meaningfully </li></ul><ul><li>Realistically </li></ul><ul><li>Reflectively </li></ul><ul><li>Reinforcingly </li></ul><ul><li>Progressively </li></ul><ul><li>Consistently </li></ul><ul><li>etc </li></ul><ul><li>We need a delivery model to help us in this task - </li></ul>
  9. 9. What models are available for designing collaborative activities? <ul><li>In developing and delivering our virtual teamworking course at the UK Open University we looked at a number of existing models for learning, both online and offline, individual and collaborative, including: </li></ul><ul><li> Salmon’s online learning model </li></ul><ul><li> Kolb’s experiential learning model </li></ul><ul><li> Boehm’s software process model </li></ul><ul><li> Tuckman’s small group development model </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>None of the existing models for learning adequately captures or represents the progressive nature of collaborative experiences over time, and we felt the need for a new model which explicitly represented the developmental dimension </li></ul><ul><li>We also wanted to emphasise the reflective aspect of the process, so that students learn not only through collaboration, but also about collaboration </li></ul><ul><li>We based our model on Bruner’s Spiral Curriculum which argues for education to be approached as a developmental process with structure, sequence and reinforcement [Oldfield and Morse 2007b] </li></ul>
  11. 11. 1: The teamworking cycle <ul><li>Our initial concern was to visualize the iterative sequence of activities taking place within any major collaborative experience, including an element of reflection </li></ul><ul><li>We modified Kolb’s model to represent the essential elements of collaboration </li></ul>
  12. 12. Activities in the teamworking cycle <ul><li>Define: Identify and clarify the problem, discuss the approach to be taken, and decide on the rules of operation for the team </li></ul><ul><li>Distribute: Share out the identified roles, responsibilities and tasks amongst the team members, and specify the required interactions and delivery schedules for the products of the current cycle </li></ul><ul><li>Deliver: Complete and deliver the individual products and combine these into the required team products for the current cycle </li></ul><ul><li>Debrief: Reflect, as a team and as individuals, on the process undergone and the products delivered, in preparation for progressing to the next cycle of activity </li></ul>
  13. 13. 2: The developmental helix <ul><li>Our other major concern was to visualize the essentially incremental, developmental nature of students’ collaborative experiences over time and over a succession of activities / courses </li></ul><ul><li>For this purpose we used a helix to represent the development dimension </li></ul>
  14. 14. 3: The helical teamworking model <ul><li>Combining these two concepts - of an iterative cycle and incremental development - gave us a new helical model for (online) collaboration </li></ul><ul><li>The knowledge, skills and behaviours acquired in one cycle need to be explicitly applied and developed in subsequent cycles </li></ul>
  15. 15. Levels of interaction <ul><li>We also need to incorporate increasing levels of interaction into the successive cycles of activity, in terms of the complexity of the tasks undertaken, the decisions made, the tools used, the artefacts delivered… [Oldfield & Morse 2008] </li></ul>Level 1: Connectedness Level 2: Communication Level 3: Cooperation Level 4: Collaboration Level 5: Collectiveness
  16. 16. What tools are appropriate for supporting collaborative activities? <ul><li>Computer Mediated Interaction (CMI) is probably the most radical innovative aspect of technology enhanced learning </li></ul><ul><li>Experience of online collaboration is as important for students in a campus-based environment as it is for distance learners [Oldfield and Morse 2007a] </li></ul><ul><li>CMI can be motivational and vocational – reflecting current usage in both social and business contexts </li></ul><ul><li>CMI can be extensional – providing a platform for interaction to take place over longer time periods and across wider geographical areas </li></ul>
  17. 17. <ul><li>CMI can be functional – providing facilities for extended discussion, decision-making, archiving interactions, sharing information, co-creation of shared artefacts, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Good tools make interaction easier, and a single point of access is recommended both for students and tutors </li></ul><ul><li>However, too many tools can distract the team, distort the task, and disrupt the process </li></ul><ul><li>And we need to remember Lipnack and Stamp’s comment that successful online collaboration is only 10% about the technology and 90% about people </li></ul>
  18. 18. <ul><li>Our initial experience was using a simple conferencing environment (because that was all we could assume was available to everyone on the course) which students found adequate for task but very time-consuming </li></ul><ul><li>Over time we were able to run trials using a team-based Wiki environment and an associated team-based Forum and this proved much more effective and efficient for important activities such as the centralised making and recording of team decisions and the centralised creation and presentation of team artefacts </li></ul>
  19. 19. <ul><li>The asynchronous and persistent nature of the Wiki and the Forum had many advantages for students in terms of: ongoing discussion; development of team documents; recording agreed team rules, roles and responsibilities; displaying individual contact details and availabilities; etc. However, student teams found that for purposes of planning, task allocation, and coordination of individual activities it was beneficial to use a more transient, synchronous, meeting tool to speed up the decision making process and to achieve consensus </li></ul>
  20. 20. Conclusions: What do institutions need to do? <ul><li>Ensure that they provide coherent development of online collaborative experiences over a degree programme </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure that they provide an online environment flexible enough to incorporate all the relevant tools to support student collaboration and tutor observation </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure that all staff are kept up-to-date with the technological and pedagogical implications of introducing new communication technologies and tools into the teaching and learning process </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure that they engage in routine evaluative trials of new technologies and tools prior to wholesale adoption, rather than simply following the latest fashion </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure that they recognise and reward faculty for the extra workload involved in developing and running online collaborative courses </li></ul>
  21. 21. Acknowledgement <ul><li>The work presented in this paper arose from a period of secondment of Stanley Oldfield to a Teaching Fellowship with one of the UK Open University’s HEFCE funded Centres of Excellence in Teaching and Learning, on a project entitled ‘Building Effctive Student Teams’ </li></ul>
  22. 22. References <ul><li>Haythornthwaite C. (2006) Facilitating Collaboration in Online Learning, Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks , 10(1) pp 7-24 </li></ul><ul><li>Kozlowski W.J. & Ilgen D.R. (2006) Enhancing the Effectiveness of Work Groups and Teams, Psychological Science in the Public Interest , 7(3) pp 77-123 </li></ul><ul><li>Oldfield S.J. & Morse D.R. (2007a) Exploiting Connectedness in the Informatics Curriculum, ITALICS, Vol. 6 No. 3, pp 27-45. </li></ul><ul><li>Oldfield S.J. & Morse D.R. (2007b) Designing Courses to Develop Online Teamworking Skills: A Helical Model, Proceedings of the Informatics Education Europe II Conference (IEEII2007), Thessaloniki, Greece, pp 276-285. </li></ul><ul><li>Oldfield S.J. and Morse D.R. (2008) C is for Collaboration: A Developmental Perspective , Proceedings IADIS e-society Conference , Algarve, Portugal </li></ul><ul><li>Powell A. et al (2004) Virtual Teams: A Review of Current Literature and Directions for Future Research, The DATA BASE for Advances in Information Systems , Vol. 35 No. 1, pp 6-36 </li></ul><ul><li>Waite M.W. et al. (2004) Student Culture vs. Group Work in Computer Science, Proceedings SIGCSE 2004, Norfolk, Virginia, USA, March 3-7, 2004, pp 12-16. </li></ul>