Using Computer-Mediated Communications to Enhance Instructional Design Classes: A Case Study

By Brush, Thomas A.; Uden, Lorna | International Journal of Instructional Media, Spring 2000 | Go to article overview

Using Computer-Mediated Communications to Enhance Instructional Design Classes: A Case Study


Brush, Thomas A., Uden, Lorna, International Journal of Instructional Media


INTRODUCTION

Recently, university faculty in instructional design and development have been urged to adopt philosophies that embrace and support student-centered learning [1]. A particular emphasis of this movement has involved shifting the focus of classroom teaching and learning from the teacher and/or the subject matter to the learner, inviting students to take a more active role in their learning.

Advances in cognitive psychology and related fields have provided important information regarding the desirable types of student actions and interactions within the learning context to maximize knowledge acquisition and construction. For example, a theory of situated cognition suggests that knowledge is situated in the activity, context, and culture of which it is a part [2]. In this view, learning is a process of enculturation. To become expert at using the tools of a particular domain, learners must adopt and become part of the culture in which those tools are to be used [3].

To equip our students with new skills, we must critically evaluate the way individuals learn and develop instructional strategies consistent with learning theory. Current trends in educational theory, based largely on the work of pioneers such as Dewey and Vygotsky, make the following assumptions about learning [4, 5, 2]:

* Learning is a process of knowledge construction.

* Learning is reflective and builds on the learner's existing knowledge.

* Learning benefits from multiple views of a subject area.

* Learning is facilitated by authentic activity relevant to the situation in which it is used.

* Learning is affected as much by motivational issues as by cognitive issues.

* Learning is collaborative, with meaning negotiated from multiple perspectives.

Therefore, for instruction to be effective it must have a social component and allow students to share ideas and develop their own understanding of the information presented. In other words, learning is predominantly a social process [6, 5].

COMPUTER-MEDIATED COMMUNICATIONS VIA THE INTERNET

Numerous instructors have turned to computer-mediated communications (CMC) to facilitate the integration of social learning into classroom instruction [7, 8]. CMC is defined as "... the ways in which telecommunications technologies have merged with computers and computer networks to give us new tools to support teaching and learning." [8, p. 1]. CMC via the Internet provides a means for developing and implementing new forms of collaboration among groups, regardless of where these groups are located [8, 9], provides opportunities for inquiry-based learning where students and teachers can network, study, and collaborate with others around the world, provides collaborative learning between students within and outside of the universities, and allows students to engage in public dialogue regarding a wide variety of scholarly and professional topics [10, 11].

We believe that the use of CMC tools which enable discourse and discussion among students from a variety of settings and backgrounds enhance the social components of a class and provide students with multiple perspectives on relevant topics and issues, thus integrating several components of student-centered, open-ended learning [4]. The purpose of this paper is to describe a case study involving the implementation of CMC via the Internet linking two university instructional design classes in two different countries. We will describe the initial implementation of the project, provide examples of discussions that took place among our students, demonstrate the impact of discussions on student's computer-based design projects, and make suggestions for continued collaboration among university classes.

THE PROBLEM

Traditional instructional design classes at universities rarely provide students with opportunities to collaborate and share ideas with individuals beyond the confines of the classroom. …

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