Phases, Scaffolds, and Technology: Cloud-Based Student Collaboration Model for Online and Blended Course Design

Phases, Scaffolds, and Technology: Cloud-Based Student Collaboration Model for Online and Blended Course Design

Julia Parra (New Mexico State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1650-7.ch012
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With ubiquitous Internet and the related tools, including computational devices and cloud-based technology, has come public access to a world of information literally at one's fingertips. This has led to the increased use of cloud-based student collaboration as a key strategy for engaging students as responsible, creative, and productive participants in the learning process. For the purpose of this qualitative study there are three objectives: 1) update and revise a course design model for cloud-based student collaboration that uses phases and scaffolds, and includes an optimal cloud-based collaboration toolkit identified by graduate students, 2) describe an online course wherein this model has been applied, and 3) share exemplar course materials including guides, learning plans and directions, and content scaffolds in the form of templates, that support this model and can be repurposed by anyone using cloud-based student collaboration in higher education.
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As previously noted, work environments are becoming increasing collaborative, new educational paradigms include online, hybrid, and collaborative models, technologies we use are becoming increasingly cloud-based, and student roles are shifting from consumer to creator. Thus, cloud-based student collaboration is increasingly becoming an effective strategy for teaching and learning, and includes a beneficial set of skills for students to develop. Further, many cloud-based collaboration tools are available to support student collaboration in a variety of forms such as student group work, the focus of cloud-based student collaboration in this study.

Cloud-Based Student Collaboration

Conrad and Donaldson (2004) remind us that “Bruner, Vygotsy, and Piaget all embraced the philosophy that humans do not learn in a vacuum but rather through interaction” (p. 4), and Pallof & Pratt further discus collaboration as an integral component and “the ‘heart and soul’ of an online course or, for that matter a course that bases its theoretical foundation in constructivism” (Pallof & Pratt, 2005a, p. 6). When students are engaged in learning groups within a learning community they “have the opportunity to extend and deepen their learning experience, test out new ideas by sharing them with a supportive group, and receive critical and constructive feedback” (Pallof & Pratt, 2005b, p. 1). Collison, Elbaum, Haavind and Tinker (2000) further note the importance of collaboration and collective inquiry:

A process that involves inquiry confronts the unknown and relies on personal or collective resources to resolve questions. The online environment in which inquiry can flourish is gradually built by collaborative and collective contributions. Such collaboration efforts are likely to result in better outcomes, designs, practices, or products. (p. 30)

With the increasing development of cloud-based technologies, elements for the development of learning community and for class collaborations have also moved to the cloud. Such elements include student-ways of communication and document sharing (Fichter, 2005), student reflective activities (Lin, Wen, Jou, & Wu, 2014), collaborative writing (Blau, & Caspi, 2009) brainstorming and teamwork/group work (Herrick, 2009). This study focuses on these elements as cloud-based student collaboration particularly in support of student group work.

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