CSCL '99 Submission Format Example

Connecting students with group work
Fay Sudweeks
School of Information Technology
Murdoch University, Murdoch WA 6150 Australia
[email protected]
Virtual learning environments provide an attractive method for information
dissemination, but they are often adopted because of their technical innovativeness,
and little thought is given to integrating the medium with learning objectives and
pedagogical strategies.
Moreover, computer-based learning is used increasingly as the solution to the
problems associated with flexible learning, particularly for students situated in
different locations and studying in different modes. Too often, though, global
education typically lacks social and collaborative activities with the unintended
consequence of feelings of social isolation. Technology can separate rather than
connect students.
Yet, more than any other teaching medium, virtual learning environments have the
potential to fully exploit theories of social and active learning through
communication and collaboration (e.g. Vygotsky, 1978; Tiffin and Rajasingham,
1995, Sudweeks and Simoff, 2001). The questions addressed here are:
 Can we do more to encourage collaboration among students who are
studying online?
 How can we connect students who are studying in different modes and in
different locations?
In this paper, I describe action research in an Organisational Informatics course at
Murdoch University, Australia. The action research was a process of planning and
evaluation of a group project. The group assignment involved the development of a
proposal for a major event. Communication among the four group members was
restricted to text-based communication tools so that all students (external, external,
full-time, part-time, international and local) had a level-playing field. Each group
member had a choice of a “role” – client, consultant, researcher, presenter. The
defined roles gave a clear structure and division of tasks within the group, while
still retaining an interdependency. Scaffolding was provided by having a tutor and
coordinator available via a private group forum and chat room. The proposal
developed by group members was presented online to class members.
The results of quantiative and qualitative analyses of group collaboration indicate
that the students gained significant benefits from collaborating without meeting
Sudweeks, F. and Simoff, S. (2000). Participation and reflection in virtual workshops, in J.
Burn (ed.), Proceedings 3rd Western Australian Workshop on Information Systems
Research, Perth, Australia (CD-ROM).
Tiffin, J. and Rajasingham, L. (1995). In Search of the Virtual Class: Education in an
Information Society, Routledge, London.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in Society: The Development of the Higher Psychological
Processes, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA
Add this bit somewhere (from UTS Online advertising a lecture).
The term flexible delivery has become common place in the Higher
Education sector. Increasingly Universities are investigating
flexible modes for delivering their teaching programs to address the
issue of equity of access and to create teaching opportunities in new
markets or extending existing markets. New media, new
technologies, pedagogical perspectives and a reduction in
Government funding are other important factors influencing this
While equity of access and new teaching opportunities were
primary motivations for the development of the iLecture system, a
criticism has been that it builds on a mode of teaching that is
possibly out-moded. In part this is a philosophy of teaching and
learning, ie. the debate of teacher-instructed versus student-centred.