A Longitudinal Study of the Use of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning in Promoting Lifelong Learning Skills

Article excerpt

Literature Review

Lifelong Learning and CSCL

Life long learning refers to the idea of learning as a lifelong process with emphasis on the individual learner having the ability and responsibility to influence his or her own learning (Aspin & Chapman, 2007). A universal and consensual understanding of lifelong learning is unattainable as definitions of the theory vary between nations, regions, and fields of study, making it a slippery concept (Tuijnman, 2002). However, it is best understood in this research project as a process of individual learning across a life span from cradle to grave. It embraces not only education in formal settings, but also "life-wide" learning in informal settings at home, at work or in the broader community.

Life long learning is seen as creating important economic and social effects. A combination of work productivity and education can focus on an entire life span instead of only the middle period. It is thought to represent a strategy for enhancing a nation's stock of human capital, which is seen as a necessary determinant for achieving rapid technological expansion and, by extension, macro-economic growth (Rubenson, 2001). Tuijnman (2002) indicates that a framework for lifelong learning should foster the personal development of the individual, counter risks to social cohesion, develop civil society through promoting democratic traditions, and enhance labour market flexibility. In this sense, lifelong learning can have a strong instrumental value and Hong Kong education shares this vision of lifelong learning.

In order to develop a school curriculum for the 21st century, and to meet the needs of students and society, it is a policy priority to provide lifelong learning experiences through the school curriculum with emphasis on development of generic elements for lifelong learning throughout all stages of schooling and across the key learning areas. Computer supported collaborative learning (CSCL) is regarded as one of the most promising innovations to learning and teaching creating new opportunities for conceptualizing, designing and facilitating collaborating learning. CSCL is receiving increasing attention in different educational scenarios (cf. Dewiyanti et al., 2007; Ewing & Miller, 2002; Gillies, 2004; Nachmias, Mioduser, Oren, & Ram., 2000; Resta & Laferriere, 2007; Shellens & Valcke, 2005; Wegerif, 2004). With the advent of computer technology, and more recently the wide accessibility of communication technology, the collaborative learning concept is undergoing reformulation because the way that learners assimilate information is changing radically, requiring concomitant pedagogical reform. By working together in the new computer-supported environment, it is believed that; (a) the setting of activity, (b) the dynamics of the interactions, (c) the support of members' equal opportunity to participate and contribute, (d) the configuration of the group; and (e) the variety of communication used for interacting will provide ample space for learners to achieve shared understanding and co-create knowledge (Nachmias et al., 2000, p. 95). It is anticipated that these features will significantly support the development of lifelong learning capabilities, namely research abilities, information technology, critical reflection, collaboration, creativity and higher order thinking, to cope with the exponential growth of knowledge in contemporary society as well as develop generic skills valued in the workplace.

The ultimate success of CSCL, however, often depends upon resolving the question of how it can be assessed in ways that are credible and reliable and how the technology-driven environment can enhance learning. Little guidance is found in the literature on the assessment of CSCL prompts the researcher to re-examine the role of assessment in learning and attempt to devise a peer assessment design in a technology-enhanced environment as part of the learning activities for this project. …