Good Practice Develops Reciprocity and Cooperation Among Students
Learning is enhanced when it is more like a team effort than a solo race. Good learning, like good work, is collaborative and social, not competitive and isolated. Working with others often increases involvement in learning. Sharing one’s ideas and responding to others’ improves thinking and deepens understanding.
The increased opportunities for interaction with faculty noted above apply equally to communication with fellow students. Study groups, collaborative learning, group problem solving, and discussion of assignments can all be dramatically strengthened through communication tools that facilitate such activity.
The extent to which computer-based tools encourage spontaneous student collaboration was one of the earliest surprises about computers. A clear advantage of email for today’s busy commuting students is that it opens up communication among classmates even when they are not physically together.
For example: One of us, attempting to learn to navigate the Web, took a course taught entirely by a combination of televised class sessions (seen live or taped) and by work on a course Web page. The hundred students in the course included persons in Germany and the Washington, DC, area.
Learning teams helped themselves “learn the plumbing” and solve problems. These team members never met face-to-face. But they completed and exchanged Myers-Briggs Type Inventories, surveys of their prior experience and level of computer expertise, and brief personal introductions. This material helped teammates size one another up initially; team interactions then built working relationships and encouraged acquaintanceship. This kind of “collaborative learning” would be all but impossible without the presence of the media we were learning about and with.
Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students
Before the advent of the communication functionality provided by the Internet, communication and collaboration among distance learners was inpracticable. Today, not only is synchronous and asynchronous communication commonplace, but application sharing programs and immersive environments, make group work and group projects possible. And the group members don’t even have to be human. In the River City Project, learners interacted. not only with each other, but also with the electronic residents of a virtual city.
Challenges: There are many challenges to the effective use of the Internet for group work and group proejects. Among them are:
* Delays in communication can extend the time-frame required for typical group dynamics to occur.
* Design of effective case studies or problem solving exercises that take into account transactional distance requires creativity and a clear understanding of the technologies involved.
* Design and development of projects such as River City are expensive and technically complex.
What is your favourite communication tool/strategy for cooperation and collaboration online?