E-Collaboration in Educational Organizations: Opportunities and Challenges in Virtual Learning Environments and Learning Spaces

E-Collaboration in Educational Organizations: Opportunities and Challenges in Virtual Learning Environments and Learning Spaces

Sofia Th. Papadimitriou (Hellenic Open University, Greece) and Spyros Papadakis (Hellenic Open University, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4891-2.ch006
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Abstract

The chapter explores the use of virtual learning environments (VLE) to support learning spaces in schools/universities and illustrates their advantages to enhance e-collaboration and its key dimensions. Case studies of learning management systems (LMSs) point out the use of synchronous or asynchronous communication and highlight the advantages, the requirements, and the relevant constraints. In particular, this chapter emphasizes in the development of e-collaborative experiences at schools/universities based on LMSs to support both students and educators in their complex work. VLEs will be presented aiming to e-collaboration and their numerous services to enhance differentiated pedagogy. Case studies of e-collaborating in communities of practice and exemplary LMSs are illustrated in a comparative table highlighting how they support key dimensions of e-collaboration. Finally, the chapter highlights discussion themes raised by e-collaborating in VLEs and generally in learning spaces. Proposals for further development of e-collaboration and conclusions are drawn and commented.
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Introduction

Today’s students, an expression used by Marc Prensky in his paper “Digital natives, digital immigrants” back in 2001, represent the Net generation having grown up within digital technology. To use his own words, Prensky said for them they have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age [....] Computer games, email, the Internet, cell phones and instant messaging are integral parts of their lives (Tapscott 1998, 2009; Prensky 2001; Palfrey and Gasser 2008, Bayne 2011).

Hence, pupils and students of the Net Generation (Net Gen) need flexible studies and strongly connected with contemporary technologies. These needs of students today lead to the increasing importance of redefining educational physical & online space. On the other hand, all, educational organizations face the challenge to make the shift from in person learning in class or campus to a blended environment of combining face-to-face and online activities. A new teaching and learning blended ecosystem for all educational organizations rises. Collaborating in both physical and virtual spaces (Learning Spaces) is a key aspect of that blended ecosystem.

The chapter explores the use of Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) to support Learning Spaces in Schools/Universities and illustrate their advantages to enhance e-collaboration and its key dimensions. VLEs are Web-based platforms that provide teachers with a concrete structure for the creation, storage, and access to online courses which use resources, activities, interactions and different stages of assessments. Case studies of Learning Management System (LMSs), point out the use of various services of synchronous or asynchronous communication and highlight the advantages, the requirements and the relevant constraints. In particular this chapter emphasizes in the development of e-collaborative experiences at Schools/Universities based on LMSs to support both students and educators in their complex work.

This chapter introduces teaching at a distance and the essential need of supporting students in the first unit. The second unit presents definitions for e-Collaboration and the key dimensions to achieve it. It also focuses on the key aspect of collaborating in both physical and virtual spaces (Learning Spaces) aiming to the Net generation learners. The third unit approaches the concept of Communities of Practice (CoP) and focuses on two case studies, those of “etwinning” and “Teachers for Europe” (T4E) as best practices of educational CoPs which promote e-collaboration and use both virtual and physical spaces to enhance collaborative activities. A special “etwinning” project entitledd “Digital stories” is described thoroughly as an exemplar case study of e-collaboration in a Learning Space.

Virtual Learning Environments which support e-collaboration will be presented in the fourth unit and their numerous services to enhance differentiated pedagogy. Exemplary LMSs are illustrated in a comparative table highlighting how their services support key dimensions of e-collaboration. Elaborating LMSs, the Learning Activity Management System (LAMS) is proposed as an appropriate open LMS which serves e-collaborative activities with a structured way.

Finally, the chapter highlights discussion themes raised by e-collaborating with Virtual Learning Environments and generally in Learning Spaces. Proposals for further development of e-collaboration and conclusions are drawn and commented.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Interactive Videoconference: A synchronous e-learning tool which provides opportunities to students to exchange views, share data, and participate actively in a dynamic interactive environment with collaborative construction of knowledge in real time.

Adaptive Personalized Learning: A category of learning, based on the dynamic adaptation of teaching practices aiming to achieve special learning needs and personal goals for each student.

Learning Sequence: A guide of learning activities which serves as a catalyst to enhance the learning process. Students accomplish concrete educational goals in a flexible educational setting, implementing the sequences on their own or in Campus supporting by facilitators.

Co-Creation: A collaborative process which takes place when complex non-pre-defined problems occur and serve as challenges to implement common work in small teams proposing and optimising solutions.

LAMS LMS: An open source freely available web-based Learning Management System ‘inspired’ by the Learning Design model for designing and delivering online and offline sequences of learning activities.

Learning Spaces: A combination of virtual and physical s paces aiming at enhancing learning experiences, interactivity, and collaboration between learners of the net generation, educators and educational content, opening up new perspectives in DL.

Peer Assessment: A learning process whereby students grade assignments or tests of their peers, based on benchmarks provided by their teacher. Rubrics are often used in conjunction with peer-assessment. This practice is addressed to improve students’ understanding on the learning material and also enhance meta-cognitive skills.

Learning Analytics: The measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs. Educators can use learning analytics from advanced learning systems to monitor and intervene in students’ performance depending on their individual progress.

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