Online Support for Collaborative Authentic Activities

Online Support for Collaborative Authentic Activities

Sue Bennett (University of Wollongong, Australia)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 5
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch223
OnDemand PDF Download:
$30.00
List Price: $37.50

Abstract

Collaborative learning has long been part of university study; for example, through group discussion, laboratory work in pairs and group projects (Jacques, 1991). In the past, these kinds of collaborative activities have been available only to full-time, on-campus students because of the difficulties in finding time and space for students to work together (Kimball, 2001). However, Internet-based communication technologies have made possible more flexible approaches to learning that offer new opportunities for students to collaborate (Bonk, Malinkowski, Angeli, & Suplee, 1998; Collis, 1996; McLoughlin, 2002; Oliver & Omari, 1999; Palloff & Pratt, 1999). Support for learning “anytime, anywhere” has changed patterns of on-campus attendance at many institutions, meaning that students come to class irregularly, infrequently or not at all.
Chapter Preview
Top

Introduction

Collaborative learning has long been part of university study; for example, through group discussion, laboratory work in pairs and group projects (Jacques, 1991). In the past, these kinds of collaborative activities have been available only to full-time, on-campus students because of the difficulties in finding time and space for students to work together (Kimball, 2001). However, Internet-based communication technologies have made possible more flexible approaches to learning that offer new opportunities for students to collaborate (Bonk, Malinkowski, Angeli, & Suplee, 1998; Collis, 1996; McLoughlin, 2002; Oliver & Omari, 1999; Palloff & Pratt, 1999). Support for learning “anytime, anywhere” has changed patterns of on-campus attendance at many institutions, meaning that students come to class irregularly, infrequently or not at all.

Another recent trend in higher education has been the use of authentic activities to help students understand how the knowledge and skills they learn relate to practice (McLoughlin, 2002; Reeves, Herrington, & Oliver, 2002). Such “authentic” activities aim to set learning within a real-world context (Bennett, Harper, & Hedberg, 2001; Herrington & Oliver, 2000). The rationale for authentic activities comes from the assumption that “people transfer learning with difficulty, needing both context and content learning” and, therefore, “skills and knowledge are best acquired within realistic contexts” (Grabinger, 1996, p. 667). An authentic task reflects the characteristics and complexity of the real-world setting (Barab & Duffy, 2000). Thus, when collaboration is a feature of the real-world environment, it also reflects the ways in which practitioners work together, the range of perspectives on a problem or issue, and the way knowledge is shared within communities of practice (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Duffy & Cunningham, 1996; Lave & Wenger, 1991).

Case-, problem- and project-based learning have been advocated as specific instructional strategies to support authentic activities (e.g., Duffy & Cunningham, 1996; Jonassen, Mayes, & McAleese, 1993; Savery & Duffy, 1995). These approaches are thought to offer a wide range of benefits to students by distributing knowledge and workload among group members, providing motivational support and bringing learners into contact with alternative interpretations and views. In particular, such approaches encourage collaboration through:

  • collective problem solving (Barrows, 1994; Jonassen et al., 1993; Herrington & Oliver, 1997)

  • group project work (Blumenfeld, Soloway, Marx, Krajcik, Guzdial, & Palincsar, 1991; Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1997)

  • discussion of rich descriptions of realistic cases (Ertmer & Russell, 1995; Stepich, Ertmer & Lane, 2001).

This article summarises the findings from a recent study of the role of online technologies to support collaborative project teams.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Collaborative Learning: Learning that required joint activity in which two or more learners negotiate meaning and process and contribute to the final outcome.

Authentic Activities: Activities that reflect the ways in which knowledge and skills are used in real-world practice. These are usually simplified in a formal learning environment rather than being identical to the activities a practitioner might perform.

Technology-Supported Learning Environment: An environment in which appropriate technology is integrated to support learners and teachers.

Online Communication Strategies: Strategies and protocols established by learners and teachers to make effective use of online communication tools.

Project Based Learning: Learning that centres on an individual or group project as the main activity. Projects are open-ended tasks that allow learners to make choices about focus and/or direction.

Online Communication Tools: Tools that allow communication through Internet-based technologies. Communication may be synchronous, in which communication occurs in real time; or asynchronous, in which there is a gap in time between the sending and receipt of a message.

Online Learning: Learning that is solely or partly mediated through online technologies. This mode of learning allows learners and teachers to interact regardless of location and time.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Reset