IJOSpontaneous Group Decision Making in Distributed Collaborative Learning: A Quantitative Exploratory Study

IJOSpontaneous Group Decision Making in Distributed Collaborative Learning: A Quantitative Exploratory Study

Geoffrey Z. Liu (School of Library and Information Science, San Jose State University, San Jose, TX, USA)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/ijopcd.2013040103


The paper reports on an exploratory study of student spontaneous group decision making (GDM) in distributed collaborative learning environments. Recordings of group meetings were collected from graduate students working on a database design project (in a library and information science program in California), from which group decision instances were extracted and formally coded for quantitative analysis. A follow-up survey was conducted to gather more information. The study finds that students are generally in favor of an unfacilitated and semi-structured GDM process, with group decisions typically made by consensus. A rigidly structured GDM process tends to be associated with poor group performance. GDM efficiency is an important predictor of the quality of final group products, and too much brainstorming may lead to difficulties. Students relying exclusively on text chatting tend to be unsure if their opinion was given equal attention, and those in underperforming groups are more doubtful about decision quality.
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Literature Review

The following paragraphs summarize major findings from previous studies about student spontaneous GDM activities to provide a context for this study. The reader is referred to Resta and Laferriere (2007) for a comprehensive review of literature on distributed collaborative learning, and to Liu (2010) for development of theoretical concepts related to student spontaneous GDM.

Some researchers alluded to student spontaneous GDM in their discussion of group processes and reported anecdotal observations. In problem-centered collaborative learning, especially where the learning task is to complete a project or solve a problem, students participate in frequent and intensive group interactions in real time to understand the problem, negotiate changes in their perception of the “problem”, and revise solutions as their work progresses (McConnell, 2005). Their interactional activities typically involve defining the problem, identifying relevant parameters, brainstorming solutions, elaborating and evaluating suggested alternatives, selecting solutions, and negotiating a final decision (Kapur & Kinzer, 2007). Evidently, students working on collaborative learning tasks need to make all kinds of decisions as a group throughout the course of collaboration for learning, and spontaneous GDM is a prominent part of their interactive activities.

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