Evaluation of a Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning Tool: Effects on Quiz Performance, Content-Conceptualization, Affect, and Motivation

Article excerpt


The current study tested the effectiveness of a computer-supported collaborative learning tool-HyLighter-on undergraduate students' learning, affect for learning, and complex cognitive skills. The HyLighter group (N = 23) (1) digitally highlighted and annotated a reading article, and (2) reviewed and expanded on peers' and instructor's highlights and annotations. The control group (N=27) read the article in hard copy without using HyLighter and practicing its learning activities. The dependent variables included: (a) performance on a reading quiz, (b) a number of affective variables related to the reading assignment, and (3) students' cognitive modeling of the article's content. Although students reported high rates of satisfaction with the HyLighter tool, performance on the reading comprehension quiz did not differ significantly between the two groups. Students using HyLighter tended to score higher on both the positive-valence and negative-valence emotions. However, these students also showed significant and substantial superiority in mental model similarity indices. Thus, HyLigher use in the learning process was apparent in the learners' content-conceptualization more so than in quiz performances. These findings have significant implications for both instructional and research purposes.


social annotation, distance education, computer-supported collaborative learning, complex thinking skills, HIMATT, HyLigther, text summaries, reference models


Collaborative learning is characterized by groups of learners actively communicating and interacting with each other to set up a shared focus aimed at reaching a common goal (Akkerman et al., 2007; Beers, Boshuizen, Kirschner, & Gijselaers, 2006). In fact, "the widespread and increasing use of collaborative learning has been a success story" (Johnson & Johnson, 2009, p. 365). Amongst most important characteristics of collaborative learning are the following: (1) positive mutual dependence where the learners depend on each other to complete a shared task, (2) individual accountability where each learner in the group shares responsibility for the end result, and (3) social skills where the members develop social skills to work together successfully (see van der Meijden, 2007). The success of collaborative learning can be attributed to its allowing increased active engagement in the learning process and longer retention of the learned material (Morgan, Whorton, & Gunsalus, 2000), improving students' complex thinking skills (Sloffer, Dueber, & Duffy, 1999), and overall enabling more self- regulation in students (Van Boxtel, Van der Linden, & Kanselaar, 2000). Several concepts inherent in different disciplines can help at least partially explain why students, given the right circumstances, learn more optimally from actively communicating with one another.

According to classical cognitive developmental perspective, collaborative learning works efficiently because it promotes learning within a zone of proximal development (see Vygotsky, 1978). Hence, the scaffolding of the learning material by the more capable learner transfers to the less capable learner. Moreover, collaborative learning works because it supports the development of new cognitive schémas (Fawcett & Garton, 2005); hence, more advanced representations are formed and implemented by the learner. Finally, collaborative learning works because it creates social cohesion resulting in group members' desire to help each other in the learning task (see Janssen, Kirschner, Erkens, Kirschner, & Paas, 2010). This said, collaborative learning environments may differ in size, group characteristics, learning focus, learning goals, and supportive technologies (Kirschner, Paas, & Kirschner, 2009).

Within technologically supported learning environments, computer-supported collaborative learning draws ample research (Gress, Fior, Hadwin, & Winne, 2008). …


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