Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

A Two-Dimension Process in Explaining Learners' Collaborative Behaviors in CSCL

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

A Two-Dimension Process in Explaining Learners' Collaborative Behaviors in CSCL

Article excerpt

Introduction

Computer supported collaborative learning (hereafter CSCL), as an emerging field in educational research, has captured many educators and researchers to contribute their efforts on this domain. Its anywhere--anytime characteristics and great potential to support interactive group learning make it one of the most promising next generation of educational tools. There is already an ample literature of research reporting its positive impact on learning (Altinay & Paraskevas, 2007; Ellis, 2001; Joiner, 2004; Rourke & Anderson, 2002; Salovaara, 2005). In sum, these studies acknowledged that collaborating can lead to information sharing, problem solving, and evaluation feedback, which are the result of interaction of the understandings of those who participate in the group activities. While accompanied with these benefits, CSCL inevitably poses some challenges. Kreijns, Krischner, and Jochems (2002) were among the first to identify that the design of CSCL environments do not completely fulfill expectations on supporting interactive and coordinated group learning. In fact they found a pitfall came from the assumption that collaborative interaction is taken for granted and that it will automatically happen in a CSCL environment.

Regarding the pitfall raised by Kreijns et al. (2002), we believe one approach to enhancing learners' collaborative behaviors in CSCL is to identify characteristics that differentiate low collaborating face-to-face (FTF) groups from high collaborating FTF groups and then determine if groups in CSCL also have these characteristics. If they do, and if those characteristics can be properly managed, groups in CSCL may enjoy fruitful experience in collaborating online. Two flaws most frequently mentioned in FTF groups are social loafing and free riding (see Williams & Karau, 1991; Albanese & Van Fleet, 1985). Actually social loafing and free riding essentially share a similar characteristic that an individual who is not providing the maximum effort is due to feeling of dispensability to the group (Kidwell & Bennett, 1993). Therefore, both of which reduce learners' willingness to make contributions for the group, as such it may handicap engendering of collaborative behaviors. DeSanctis and Gallupe (1987) also noted that while dealing with unstructured problems does not required members of the group to be in the same physical location, it is required for them to be aware of one another and to perceive themselves as being part of the group. An individual who feels himself as a member of a group may internalize the group's merit as part of his own preference, which will help overcome problems of collective behaviors and barriers to resource exchange. For example, parents often make sacrifices for their children; however, they may not refer the actions to a sacrifice. In this regard, whether one considers oneself part of a group determines whether the welfare of the group is important to the individual, therefore a sense of group seems play an important role in explaining occurrence of collective behaviors.

In this regard, to explain engendering of collaborative behaviors in CSCL, this study referred the previous study by Gray (1989) who indicated a dynamic nature of collaboration, thus, more specifically, proposes a two-dimension process, namely perceptual, and supportive dimension. Considering past research (De Dreu, 2007) appreciated that effectiveness of a virtual group is significantly affected by conflicts or difference of opinions and shared motivations, this study consider task conflict and norms of cooperation critical in explaining collaborative behaviors. Therefore, we refer them to factors of perceptual dimension. Although the corresponding factors of perceptual dimension in this study are not uniquely related to CSCL settings, the nature of the CSCL settings has made them more salient and critical than in FTF environments. …

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