Creating Collaboration in Global Online Learning: Case Studies

Creating Collaboration in Global Online Learning: Case Studies

Patricia Cranton (University of New Brunswick, Canada) and Patricia Thompson (Penn State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6046-5.ch007
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Abstract

In this chapter, the authors address the question of how educators can creative collaborative learning in online courses, especially in those courses that occur in a global context. They use constructivism as a theoretical framework, and they review the literature related to collaborative learning, learner-centered teaching, groups in online learning, cultural competence in online teaching, and research on online learning. The authors present two case studies, one in which collaborative learning occurred, and one in which the collaborative component was less developed, even though the content of the courses were the same and the same educator facilitated the courses. The authors conclude the chapter by suggesting areas of further research on collaboration in online learning.
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Theoretical Framework

The theoretical framework for collaborative learning rests in constructivism, a theoretical perspective that has a long history in adult education, beginning with Lindemann (1926) and in education in general (Piaget, Dewey). Constructivism is a broad orientation to learning and, as such, it incorporates a variety of perspectives. Essentially, it means that individuals understand their experiences by constructing their own meaning rather than relying on authority or searching for an objective truth that exists separately and independently from the experience. In the constructivist framework, learners are active rather than passive—learning occurs through discussion, collaboration, experiential activities, and engagement with ideas and events.

Many theorists distinguish between personal constructivism and social constructionism. Personal constructivism focuses on the way individuals make meaning based on their personal experiences, and social constructionism is concerned with the social or collective meaning that is shaped by cultural and social norms and which give meaning to how individuals see the world. Constructivism also plays a predominant role in the understanding of adult development and racial and ethnic identity theories (Smith & Taylor, 2010), both of which may be relevant to thinking about collaboration in online environments.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Constuctivism: A broad orientation to learning in which individuals understand their experiences by constructing their own meaning rather than relying on authority or searching for an objective truth that exists separately and independently from the experience; learners are active rather than passive—learning occurs through discussion, collaboration, experiential activities, and engagement with ideas and events.

Case Study: A research methodology which focuses on a specific unit or context, for example, a course, a school, or an individual, and uses a variety of types of data to yield an in-depth understanding of the unit or context.

Learner-Centered Teaching: An approach to teaching that focuses on the learners and their development rather than on the transmission of content; it addresses the balance of power in teaching and learning, moves toward learners actively constructing their own knowledge, and puts the responsibility for learning on the learners.

Online Learning: A formalized teaching and learning system specifically designed to be carried out remotely by using electronic communication. It may be asynchronous (where students do not need to be online at the same time) or synchronous (where students are online together) or some mixture of the two. A variety of technologies can be incorporated.

Cultural Competence: The ability to interact effectively with people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds based on an awareness of one’s own culture and a knowledge of different cultural practices.

Collaborative Learning: A group of individuals working together for a common result such as project teams, problem based learning, group case analysis, simulations or games, peer mentoring, collaborative scientific research, and collaborative discussion groups.

Group Work: A teaching and learning strategy in which students work together in either a face-to-face or an online environment. In cooperative groups, students solve practical problems by bringing their expertise and experience to the table; in collaborative groups students construct a new way of viewing an issue; and in transformative groups students reflect on their assumptions, beliefs, and perspectives.

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