Methodological Issues in Mobile Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (mCSCL): What Methods, What to Measure and When to Measure?

By Song, Yanjie | Educational Technology & Society, October 2014 | Go to article overview

Methodological Issues in Mobile Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (mCSCL): What Methods, What to Measure and When to Measure?


Song, Yanjie, Educational Technology & Society


Introduction

Computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) research is concerned with studying how people can learn together with the help of computers as an emerging field of learning sciences (Stahl, Koschmann, & Suthers, 2006); while Mobile Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (mCSCL) research focuses on learning and collaboration mediated by mobile devices (e.g., Zurita & Nussbaum, 2004). Stahl et al. (2006) maintain that it is a challenging task to combine the two elements "computer support" and "collaborative learning" to effectively enhance learning that CSCL is designed to address. Yet, it is an even more challenging task to understand how to combine the ideas of "mobile computer support" and "collaborative learning" to advance learning and collaboration in different settings and modes because mCSCL involves many changing practices partly due to the unique technology characteristic of "mobility" and the dynamically re-constructed context for interaction and learning (Looi, Wong, & Song, 2012; Arrigo, Kukulska-Hulme, Arnedillo-Sanchez, & Kismihok, 2013). Various tools and systems have been increasingly developed on, or integrated into, mobile devices for mCSCL. These activities have been carried out across different spaces physically, socially and virtually. However, despite a number of studies reporting the benefits gained from the implementation of mobile tools or systems for mCSCL, little impact has been observed on actual educational practices outside the context of research investigations (Roschelle et al., 2010). To uncover the "black box" of mCSCL research, it is crucial to explore current mCSCL research designs, especially current methodology approaches to mCSCL practices in order to understand how groups and individuals make sense of situations and construct knowledge supported by mobile technologies, and what methodological issues are unique to mCSCL practices. Thus, this study attempts to conduct a systematic review of methodological approaches found in the mCSCL research literature in order to bring to light potential methods more conducive to examining the effectiveness of mCSCL practices, and to uncover methodological design issues in mCSCL practices to be addressed in future research. This, in turn, will help sustain the practices.

This paper first provides a description of how the literature review was carried out. Second, the results of the review are presented followed by discussions of methodological issues and potential directions for future mCSCL research. Finally, conclusions are drawn.

Method

To understand mCSCL practices, a systematic review was carried out. A systematic review refers to a review of the literature based on explicit, rigorous and transparent methodology (Coffield, Moseley, Hall, & Ecclestoneaims, 2004). This study systematically reviewed and synthesized the relevant literature on mCSCL research to unpack the methodological approaches adopted in the studies (Coffield et al., 2004; Wong & Looi, 2011; Wu, Wu, Chen, Kao, Lin, & Huang, 2012). In general, the first phase of a systematic review is framing the research questions regarding which the review is carried out. This is followed by a thorough search of the relevant literature, followed by a check of the criteria in selecting articles that meet the review purposes. The second phase is the review process. Finally, the third phase is to write the report of the review. The review is intended for researchers who are interested empirical studies in the area of mobile/handheld educational applications, especially methodological issues in mCSCL practices.

The research questions are:

* What methods are utilized in mCSCL research?

* When are the methods administered?

* Have these methods examined mCSCL effectively?

* What issues do the methodological approaches have in existing mCSCL studies?

Selection criteria

To address the research questions, a set of criteria drawn from the literature (e. …

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