Designing, Enacting & Sharing Collaborative Online Activities with CeLS Dan Kohen-Vacs, Miky Ronen, Ronen Hammer Holon Institute of Technology (HIT), IsraelIntroductionOne of the declared advantages of technology for teaching and learning is its potential to supportcollaborative learning. The actual realization of this potential depends on the tools and facilitiesavailable to teachers for designing such activities and enacting them with students in actualinstructional settings.The first generation of e-learning systems regarded learning as an individual process mainly based oncontent resources. As a result, the corresponding standards developed for Learning ManagementSystems (LMS) focused on the organization of the resources. Additional tools for conducting freecommunication with the teacher and between peers (discussion group boards, chats, groupware) wereprovided, but these elements were not integrated with the other parts of the LMS.Collaborative activities have existed and were successfully implemented by teachers well before the eraof e-learning. These activities are not just free discussions or creating group products, but instructionalstrategies that comprise of well-defined structures (scripts), consisting of distinct stages that areinterconnected and based on each other in various ways. Scripting is used to promote learning bystructuring and regulating the interaction so that learners are compelled to follow a specific predefinedsequence of activities that would have a better chance to foster the cognitive process appropriate to thelearning task (Dansereau, 1988). According to Dillenbourg (2002) the definition of a script requiresfive attributes: the task that students have to perform, the composition of the group, the way that thetask is distributed within and among groups, the mode of interaction and the timing of the phase, whilein computer supported collaborative learning (CSCL), the script is reified in the interface of thelearning environment. CSCL is part of an integrated learning approach that may contain face to faceand other activities (not performed in front of the computer) as well as individual elements, while thewhole activity is orchestrated and controlled by the teacher (Dillenbourg & Jermann, 2007). Thecognitive, computational and educational perspectives of scripting computer supported collaborativelearning are elaborated in a recently published book (Fischer et. al., 2007). Dillenbourg and Jermann(2007) identified seven aspects of added value brought up by the use of technology for collaborationscripts: Connecting participants enabling remote activity, Sharing spaces for collaborative actions,Management facilitating logistics aspects, Reification of the script in a dedicated interface, Scaffoldingas part of the activity environment, Traceability of actions for teacher analysis and students reflectionand Adaptability of the script according to dynamical data and events.New specifications for Instructional Management Systems based on the concept of Leaning Design(IMS-LD) have emerged (Hummel et. al., 2004). The IMS-LD engine (Coppercore) and editor(RELOAD) specify a template that enables creation of synchronized and personalized andcollaborative workflow through a course. New management systems were developed according to thesespecifications, such as COWS (Peter & Vantroys, 2005) and Gridcole (Bote-Lorenzo, et al., 2004). Anadvanced approach for creation, customization and reuse of collaborative sequences of a learningactivity flow is addressed by LAMS (Dalziel, 2003).The limitations of the IMS-LD specifications for the design of environments that would enable theenactment of CSCL scripts are presented and discussed by Miao et. al. (2007). These limitations arerelated to the insufficient support to the modeling of groups, artifacts, dynamic features, complicatedcontrol flow and varied forms of social interaction. More specifically, when the different environmentsand tools used to facilitate the actions involved in a pedagogical scenario are not integrated, it isdifficult to follow and to support the flow of information in order to relate to prior actions and to reuseproducts created by the participants in previous phases. The data flow problem of IMS-LD incollaborative learning is further described and addressed by Palomino-Ramírez et. al. (2008).One way to cope with these challenges is to create dedicated environments that support specific typesof scripts representing meaningful pedagogical methods (macro-scripts) (Dillenbourg & Jermann,2007). The author in such environment has some control of the scripts characteristics and can adjust
some of its parameters. This approach allows detailed exploration of the impact and efficacy of specificscripts but does not provide a solution for modeling and enacting a large variety of scripts.Since pedagogical scripts and teachers needs may be endlessly varied, a generic approach and systemsupporting complicated control flow and relating actions to various social structures is required, inorder to allow maximal flexibility for the instructional design.In order to address these challenges we have developed a new approach and system; Collaborative e-Learning Structures (CeLS), a web-based environment aimed to provide a flexible tool for designing,enacting, sharing and reusing online collaborative activities and incorporating them in existinginstructional settings (Ronen et al., 2006; Ronen & Kohen-Vacs, 2011).CeLS Approach to Activity DesignAn activity designed in CeLS may include any number of stages. A stage comprises of a combinationof basic building blocks, while each building block generates a certain type of interface in the studentsenvironment. The environment includes five types of building blocks (Figure 1): • Presentation objects create passive presentations of information (text, links, media). This information can be provided by the teacher or consist of learners products from previous stages. A product can be an organized collection of items contributed by individual participants (identified or anonymous) or a single item that results from a collaborative action of a group (for instance a shared document). • Input objects create interfaces that allow participants to submit new data to the system as individual or as group artifacts. Inputs may include: text, hyperlinks, media, attached files, voting on various scales, replies to questionnaires or rubrics and shared documents. • Interaction objects create interfaces that allow participants to interact with individual or group products submitted in previous stages, in various ways: by commenting, grading, ranking, and categorizing via text or graphic manipulations. • Communication objects create interfaces that allow participants to freely communicate with each other and with the teacher, by a synchronous discussion board. • Operational objects do not affect the students interface. They provide the ability to group participants according to different criteria based on their inputs and actions.An activity stage can consist of any combination of objects of various types. The functionality isdetermined by attributing properties related to groups, to the stage or to specific objects. Figure 1: Schematics of a CeLS Activity Structure.The special feature in the CeLS approach is the ability to control the data flow in order to selectivelyreuse learners inputs and products from previous stages and to relate actions on these products todifferent social requirements. The social aspects are the key for controlling the data flow within anactivity. Each building block can be assigned with particular Social Settings that determine what
information would be presented or which artifacts would be offered for interaction to each participant.The Social Settings may use predefined Social Structures (groups and roles in groups) that representthe characteristics of students grouping. Since the functionality of a script is determined by attributingsocial properties to the scripts building blocks, different participants may encounter differentinformation, perform actions on different data items, or perform different actions, during the sameactivity stage. This approach enables the design and implementation of adaptation patterns (Ronen &Kohen-Vacs, 2009).Our recent efforts focus on incorporating mobile elements in order to support the design and enactmentof learning scenarios that include outdoor activities (Milrad et. al., 2011).CeLS is an independent environment though it can be interfaced with other systems that supportaspects of learning design, such as MoCoLaDe to expand the potential offered for modeling andenacting pedagogical scenarios (Harrer et al., 2009).CeLS as a Tool for Practicing and Exploring Learning DesignCeLS was designed to encourage and support teachers to incorporate online collaborative activitiesinto their daily practice by providing them with a flexible tool and examples that they can explore,adopt and adapt. Teachers can express their pedagogical creativity and design new activitiescomposed from basic building blocks. CeLS is used by teachers at all levels (elementary school tohigher education) in variety of subject domains: education, psychology, science, technology, medicalprofessions and arts (Abrahamov & Ronen, 2008; Kali & Ronen, 2008; Hammer et al., 2010). Theearly adopters are teachers, at all levels and subjects, who are already trying to use the availabletechnology for conducting collaborative activities in their courses. CeLS enables them to design andimplement activities that were very difficult or impossible to handle before.CeLS offers a tool for conducting empirical research on the pedagogical efficacy of different types andversions of activities and for exploring how teachers design and incorporate online collaborativeactivities in their daily practice (Ronen & Kohen-Vacs, 2011).Proposed Workshop Activities (day 2):1. Hands-on experience • A sample experience as "Students". • Short introduction of the environment and the Activity Design options. • Participants will be challenged to propose and design their own activities.2. Pedagogical Aspects • Teachers as designers of collaborative activities. • The challenges of sharing, reusing and adapting activity designs.3. Technological aspects:Explore possibilities of interfacing CeLS with other tools and systems addressing various aspects ofLearning Design.ReferencesAbrahamov, S. & Ronen, M. (2008). Double blending: online theory with on-campus practice in photography instruction. Innovations in Education and Training International, 45(1), 3-14.Bote-Lorenzo, M., Vaquero-Gonzalez, L., Vega-Gorgojo, G., Dimitriadis, Y., Asensio-Perez, J., Gomez-Sanchez, E., & Hernandez-Leo, D. (2004). A tailorable collaborative learning system that combines OGSA grid services and IMS-LD scripting. In Proc. of the Tenth International Workshop on Groupware: Design,Implementation and Use (pp. 305-321). Springer-Verlag.
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