Assessing Collaborative Learning
Collaborative learning is the fundamental structure of online learning community. This asynchronous learning method brings together learners from diverse global community to share their knowledge and experiences. Tran et al. (2007) and Hawkrigg (2007) according to Moisey et al., in Anderson (2010) sees wide spread team building and online projects because of “Virtual teaming with members dispersed over geography, time zone, and functional roles has become common place as result of proliferating communication technology” ( p.441). The wide spread use of communication technology via public use of the internet has been around for more than twenty years. This is a lengthy period for the public to test and try various kinds of technology which today have established a comfort zone. Dr. George Siemens believes that this acquired comfort of the use of communication technology is now a positive impact on online learning. Collaborative interaction among the digital community has transformed the quality of learning that can be achieved.
Moisey et al., in Anderson (2010) sees people gravitation towards collaborative learning but also believes the distance education institution must provide support for prospective students. This is important as online learning main “promotion” was study conveniences of anytime and anyplace and to some extent affordability. But this is a “myth,” my experience has taught me as an online student that study time has to be planned, both mentally and physically with timing that is not convenience but a demand. One has to be in proper intellectual frame of mind and energized for effective collaborative learning to take place, whether it be in the chat room or responses to blogs, wikis or other digital communication online. Moisey et al. suggests for prospective students “Making an informed decision to pursue online learning is the first step to successful educational experience” (p.421).
Collaborative learning for online learners requires a new set of social skills. This is a forum where for the most part ones reading ability, comprehension and reasoning skills are required to be “geared” for a rugged intellectual driving mode for co-knowledge construct and building. There is no gesture, emotions, facial expression to see and one has to be careful that chosen vocabulary and language semantics is not brought into play, and brings the learning topic out of context. While collaborative learning is not strictly to take an agreeable position one has to be careful about how he or she states disagreement. And, therefore each community member must follow the guide lines set forth by the distance learning institution (if this was given) to stay on track to avoid conflicts and demise of the quality for collaborative learning to maintain construct and meaning. Palloff et al. (2007) thinks “One of the concerns about conflict online is that with the absence of face to face contact and cues, many people feels less socially constrained. In a face to face situation, people tend to choose a number of options for dealing with conflict. I believe community members should use credible researched arguments to make a point but not to get personal in defense or support.
I find that the learning theory that allows for strong co-construct of knowledge resonates with constructivism learning. My belief is that cognitive development accelerates when there is clearly defined problems and solution path resonating with constructivist views. And, this co-construct of knowledge development is acted upon by cognitive refinement for accuracy and application to a particular situation, and then brought back to the “constructivist table” for redefining within the context of dynamic changes of society. Again “lonely boy” takes up the clarity and pursue cognitive development. And the learning cycle of knowledge and co-construct of knowledge continues with a spiral which engulfs evolutionary changes in society. Collaborative learning is a vital link in that learning cycle and spiral. This acceleration and momentum to exponential goggle values is possible with communication technology, learning theories and learning technology. This collaborative learning experience of distance education compliments face to face learning. Palloff et al. (2005) tells us “Collaboration has often been defined as the ‘heart and soul’ of an online course or, for that matter, any course that basses its theoretical foundation in constructivism” (p.6). With the onset of digital learning and the proliferating of the constructivist learning style; collaborative linking has fond its proxy with the connectivists learning theory. Mohamed Ally in Anderson (2010) says “According to Siemens (2004), connectivist theory is for the digital age, where individuals learn and work in a network environment” (p.34). For people from the “old school” like me, it must be an overwhelming ecstasy to see how predominant learning theories that have built face to face learning are drafted into digital learning with 21st century learning theory; that is holding its place with communication technology. I understand the evolution of technology which introduces distance learning as a viable option for learners, but the rapid construct of learning theories to blend with the reality of digital learning, surely the field of learning is dynamic in all aspects.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2008a). Future of Distance Education. [Dr. George Siemens’ Video Presentation]. Available from: http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5260641&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=4769372&ClientNodeID=984645&coursenav=0&bhcp=1.
Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building Online Learning Communities: Effective Strategies for the Virtual Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2005). Collaborating Online: Learning Together in Community. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Anderson, T. (Ed.). (2008). The Theory and Practice of Online learning. (2nd ed.). Edmonton, AB: Athabasca University Press. Chapter 17, “Supporting the Online Learner.” Susan D. Moisey & Judith A. Hughes.
Anderson, T. (Ed.). (2008). The Theory and Practice of Online learning. (2nd ed.). Edmonton, AB: Athabasca University Press. Chapter 18, “Developing team skills and Accomplishing Team Projects Online.” Susan D. Moisey & Judith A. Hughes
Anderson, T. (Ed.). (2008). The Theory and Practice of Online learning. (2nd ed.). Edmonton, AB: Athabasca University Press. Chapter 1, “Foundations of Educational Theory for Online Learning Developing.” Mohamed Ally.