Collaborative learning is a specific approach within the broader context of pedagogy. Collaborative learning encourages student participation via peer interaction in the learning process. It encompasses a set of approaches to education, sometimes also called cooperative learning or small-group learning (NISE, 1997; Collis, 1994). Collaborative learning creates an environment “that involves students in doing things and thinking about the things they are doing” (Bonwell & Eison, 1991, p.2). Collaborative learning involves communication. From the early availability of computer-mediated communication (CMC), questions of appropriate and adequate pedagogies using such technologies were put forward; in particular, when students are working together in collaborative learning (Kaye, 1992; Turoff, 1991). Collaborative learning can also be connected with other computer technologies, such as educational software (Wegerif, 1996) and intelligent collaboration learning systems (McManus & Aiken, 1996), or serve as a mechanism to integrate; for instance, computer conferencing with live lectures on the Internet (Eisenstadt, Brayshaw, Hasemer, & Issroff, 1996). Olson and Olson (1996) are among those who study the use of collaborative technologies to facilitate the work of groups. Referring to the widespread tools based on network or Internet technologies (World Wide Web, computer conferencing, groupware or tools for computer-supported collaborative work – CSCW), Dillenbourg and Schneider (1995) emphasize that often the appearance of new technologies “reactivates the belief that technology per se enhances education, which repeatedly has shown to be wrong in the history of educational technology”. In this context, Romiszowski and Ravitz (1997) state that, “one of the most important areas for tactical research at the moment is to investigate the potential applications and specific methodologies for collaborative learning” (p. 758). Therefore, the question about how to use computer and network technologies in education, and in particular in the context of collaborative learning, is still very relevant. In this chapter, the authors respond by suggesting a specific approach making use of Web-based tools and collaborative learning within a contribution-oriented pedagogy.
The traditional learning model in education has been one of knowledge acquisition via an instructivist philosophy. Pedagogies relating to an instructive philosophy emphasize what the teacher (or course-design team) will do, present, provide and assess (Gagne & Briggs, 1974). The responsibility of course-design teams for online and computer-based learning based on an instructivist philosophy is to prepare, in advance, high-quality materials, “usually in the form of a narrative, where learners are led through a learning sequence by a well-choreographed story” (Oliver & Herrington, 2003, p. 154).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Knowledge Construction: Process by which knowledge new to the individual or group is created, based on a generative process.
Re-Use: Making use of a (digital) learning resource in a situation different from that in which it was originally created or used.
Learning Activities: In a course content, learning-oriented tasks involving learner submissions, feedback and assessment.
Web-Based Systems: Software environments accessible via Web browser, containing an integrated set of tools and functionalities.
Assessment: Process by which learning gains or performance chance are measured and labelled according to a consistent scoring criterion.
Contribution-Oriented Pedagogy: Learning scenario in which learners find or create products and make these available as learning resources to others.
Collaborative Learning: Learning situation in which a group of learners work together on a task, where each learner’s input is critical to the learning of the others in the group.