Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Testing the Benefits of Blended Education: Using Social Technology to Foster Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing in Face-to-Face LIS Courses

Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Testing the Benefits of Blended Education: Using Social Technology to Foster Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing in Face-to-Face LIS Courses

Article excerpt

Blended education, which mixes elements of face-to-face and online educational delivery, can occur at the activity, course, program, or administrative level. This study examined the use of student blogs to test the benefits of course-level blended educational delivery for LIS students enrolled in a face-to-face course. Data collected from students' blogs were also used to assess whether Zach and Agosto's (2009) framework for maximizing student collaboration and knowledge sharing in online courses can be applied to face-to-face courses. The study found that blogs successfully supported collaboration and community building because they were well-suited to sharing course-related knowledge and because students encountered few technical barriers. These findings support Zach and Agosto's proposed criteria for selecting technologies to foster increased collaboration and knowledge sharing, e.g., low learning curves and easily facilitated student interaction. The results suggest that blended education can bring many of the educational benefits of online learning to face-to-face students.

Keywords: knowledge sharing, collaboration, blogs, case studies, blended delivery

Introduction

Previous research tells us that "collaborative teaching and collaborative learning are both means of providing students with early exposure to working in a collaborative paradigm" (Gunawardena, Weber, & Agosto, 2010, p. 217). Beyond the professional benefits of teaching students to use technologies that they will need when they enter the workforce, there are several learning and social benefits that can be gained by encouraging online collaboration in the classroom. These include acquiring increased domain knowledge, supporting advanced critical thinking and problem solving skills, and understanding how people interact in online information environments (Abrams, 2005; Du, Darlington & Mathews, 2007; Lock & Redmond, 2006; Zach & Agosto, 2009). A critical factor in facilitating collaboration and knowledge sharing among students is building a sense of community.

While a large number of studies have investigated the use of technologies for building communities in online courses, few studies have addressed this issue in face-to-face or blended teachingAearning environments. This paper reports on a study that applied a framework designed for maximizing student collaboration and knowledge sharing in online courses to a face-to-face course to test the collaboration and knowledge sharing benefits of social technologies in the face-to-face teaching environment. Data collected from students in an LIS graduate course demonstrate that the use of blogging was effective to encourage student collaboration and knowledge sharing in the face-to-face course environment. The paper concludes with a discussion of the importance of fostering the development of a "collaborative paradigm" through the use of blended learning environments.

Literature Review

Nature of Collaboration in Educational Settings

Mattessich, Murray-Close, and Monsey (2001) defined collaboration as "a mutually beneficial and well-defined relationship entered into by two or more organizations to achieve common goals" (p. 4). Ingram and Hathorn (2004) suggested that true collaboration consists of three critical elements: participation, interaction, and synthesis. This means that collaboration in educational settings requires students to move beyond merely dividing up assignments so that each one produces a separate part of a project; true collaboration involves working together on shared tasks to produce jointly-created work that is more than the sum of its disparate parts. As Prince (2004) explained, "The core element of collaborative learning is the emphasis on student interactions rather than on learning as a solitary activity" (p. 223).

There are a number of educational benefits that can be achieved by harnessing true collaboration for teaching and learning. …

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