Approaches for Addressing Student Barriers to Collaborative Learning Success

Approaches for Addressing Student Barriers to Collaborative Learning Success

Robert F. Houghton (Idaho State University, USA), Kevin R. Parker (Idaho State University, USA), Bill Davey (RMIT University, Australia) and Karoly Bozan (Idaho State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3949-0.ch002


Collaborative work can provide a valuable learning experience, especially for those preparing to enter the information systems workforce. There have been numerous papers that discuss various effective means of realizing the benefits of collaborative group learning, but the approach still experiences issues stemming from pragmatic environmental factors such as the non-traditional nature of many students. This chapter has identified a range of problems and reports on a longitudinal Action Research study in two universities in Australia and the United States. Over three semesters problems were identified and methods tested using various approaches. Several promising remedies to the identified problems are suggested, including the use of student profiles, ePortfolios, project milestones, and freely available online collaborative tools.
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Experience with collaborative work is essential for those intending to enter the information systems profession and is necessary to derive maximum benefit from courses, particularly courses like Systems Analysis and Design or Database Design and Implementation that involve large assignments modeled after projects encountered in the real world. While the benefits of collaborative learning and the very experience of working in groups have been well discussed (O'Malley, 2012; Barkley, Cross, & Major, 2014; Kaye, 2012), there are common problems that must be addressed (Boud, Cohen, & Sampson, 2014). Gregory and Thorley (2013) contend “[i]f we are to exploit group-based learning fully we need to take into account its complexity, including issues such as structure; delivery; type of material; the basics of group dynamics; extent of preparation; and extent of social interaction” (p. 20).

In this study, academics from a university in the United States and another in Australia first identified common problems of a pragmatic nature and then applied various techniques to determine their efficacy in helping to overcome those problems. Each was evaluated using Action Research principles and those that survived the analysis were refined and reused in following semesters. This chapter shares methods of dealing with each problem that have shown promise in the light of improved student performance. and alaborates on findings reported in Davey, Bozan, Houghton, and Parker (2016).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Passive Learning Approaches: Lectures and structured homework assignments.

Cooperative/Collaborative Learning: Instructional methods that encourage students to work together on academic tasks.

Slacker: Team member who fails to contribute a proportionate amount of work toward the completion of an assignment or project.

Social Isolation: a state of complete or near-complete lack of contact between an individual and his or her peers.

Milestone: A point in a project that make it possible for the instructor to determine which students are experiencing difficulties and therefor provide more appropriate guidance.

ePortfolio: An online, secure, website that contain projects, papers, and other relevant course work for students to manage.

Constructivist Learning: Learning that is active, constructive and reflective, intentional, and real-world.

Social Media Platform: A highly interactive tool using web-based and mobile technologies that provides individuals, communities, and organizations the means to share, co-create, discuss, promote, and modify user-generated content posted online.

Active Learning Approaches: Teaching/learning approaches such as project-based learning.

Collaborative Tool: Internet-based application that allows users to access, create, edit, and print documents from a phone, tablet, or computer and allows multiple users to work with each other in real-time.

Social Loafer: Team member who fails to contribute a proportionate amount of work toward the completion of an assignment or project (see Slacker).

Project-Based Learning: An instructional method that organizes learning around projects.

Collaborative: Characterized by opportunities to interact with each other to clarify and share ideas, to seek assistance, to negotiate problems, and discuss solutions.

Learning Management System (LMS): A web-based application designed to organize instruction and classroom content that is accessible by both instructor and student.

Versioning: Application that give the students the knowledge that the document or data set they are working with is the latest creation, and they can easily ascertain which portions need additional attention.

Community Of Practice: A group of people engaged in collective learning in a shared domain.

Wiki: A collaborative web site whose content can be edited by visitors to the site, allowing users to easily create and edit web pages collaboratively.

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