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JALT CALL 2011 Presentation: Designing and Managing Online Collaborative Learning tasks for 500 students

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Andrew Johnson

on 16 February 2012

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Transcript of JALT CALL 2011 Presentation: Designing and Managing Online Collaborative Learning tasks for 500 students

Designing and Managing Online Collaborative Learning tasks for 500 students: lessons learned so far V irtual E P nglish rogram What is
VEP? Background
& Theory Roles 4 mandatory
semester-long, credit-bearing courses No class meetings

All online 1st & 2nd
year students Content Themes:
based on university courses Computer Science Philosophy of Science English Learning Skills Library Skills Environment and Industry Some Examples: Artificial Intelligence VEP
Administrators Students Teachers Content
Creators VEP
Supervisors Bibliography “...knowledge is an artefact created by a community of knowledgeable peers ... learning is a social and not an individual process, ...To learn is to work collaboratively to establish and maintain knowledge among a community of knowledgeable peers” (Bruffee 1984, p. 646)

“...for improving ... student achievement at a variety of grade levels and in many subjects, intergroup relations, relationships between mainstreamed and normal- progress students, and student self esteem” (Slavin 1991, p. 81). in the context of university online courses, the community can be extended beyond the classroom (Paloff & Pratt 2007, pp. 11-13)

studies have shown that students working in groups outperformed those working on their own in standardized language tests (Nunan 1993, p. 3)

various studies have demonstrated that Wikis can lead to positive outcomes vis-a-vis students’ language acquisition (Miyazoe & Anderson 2010, p. 188). CL reduced dropout rates, improved test scores, motivated students and enabled them to cover 20% more material during the term (Walker 1997, p.209). CL has a humanizing capacity to enhance
social skills (West & West 2009, p. 126) CL has a facility to encourage students to see things from others’ perspectives (Rau & Heyl 1990; Anderson 2008, p. 57). the development of communities of practice, similar to but not entirely the same as virtual learning communities (VLCs) and distributed communities of practice (DCoPs), have become central to the concept of CL (Schwier 2008) individuals in learning communities “both support and challenge each other leading to effective and relevant knowledge construction” (Anderson 2008, p. 51) + + + + - + - ..the darker sides of collaborative participation (Ferreday & Hodgson 2008; Hodgson. & Reynolds 2005). ...dangerous to make students responsible for each other’s learning (Randall 1999) ...require students to complete worksheets in order to earn a “ticket” into the group.They argue that this “rule prevents self-servers from sponging off the honest toil of others, an insidious injustice that saps collective morale and undermines norms of reciprocity and cooperation” (Rau & Heyl 1990, p.147) Abstract This paper is a report of an ongoing attempt to facilitate online collaborative language learning amongst 500 university computer science students. Not wanting to perpetuate the 'data transmission' style of eLearning, it was decided to make collaboratively written compositions an important component of four fully online Moodle courses. In order to monitor and enhance the effectiveness of these collaborative tasks an action research project was initiated.

Students' attitudes were gathered using a mixed methods approach: surveys, interviews and focus groups. Students of all levels report that they believe that the opportunity to work with peers outside of their regular cohorts is helping to improve their negotiation and interpersonal skills. Furthermore, results of pre and post language proficiency tests indicate that these tasks have had a positive impact on their language skills. On the negative side, some students expressed a concern that other students were riding on the coattails of more advanced students. A comparison of students' collaborative writing task grades with their proficiency test scores reveals that when placed with higher level students, lower level students are rewarded with grades that are higher than their individual proficiency would warrant. However, it appears that the advantage accrued to these students is diminished over time: the more collaborative tasks there are, the more likely it is that every low level student will benefit equally from being placed with higher level students. It is hoped that the lessons learned in this project will be of interest to anyone considering designing online collaborative tasks. Describe the groups
random assignments
wiki, assignment
feedback + The Tasks Groups The Tools ...be answered by groups ...require opinions and / or analysis and / or imagination ...think outside the core text Designed to... ...complement what students were being taught in their writing strategies component write one 200-250 word composition (= TWO to FIVE paragraphs) in English about ONE of the following topics: Is VEP Effective? TOEIC Bridge Increase due to VEP?? We can't say for sure. However, in the 4 years TOEIC Bridge has been given, this is the first time the average post score has increased by more than a point. Other factors Student level?
TOEIC Bridge linked to Communication scores?
Teaching influence? Student General VEP
Feedback End of year survey Jan
2011 Jan
2011 Jan
2011 n=187 n=187 n=187 Jan
2011 n=187 Jan
2011 n=187 Jan
2011 n=187 Jan
2011 n=187 1. Forums: 2. Wiki: 3. Feedback+: Forums Wiki Feedback Plus A place for students to communicate with their group members The place to collaboratively work on their writing assignment. The final version is graded. The place the VEP supervisor grades the assignment. Students can see their grades here. VEP Components Reading
(Speaking) http://hope.c.fun.ac.jp/course/view.php?id=241 random groups of 3
roughly 83 groups per course
students at various abilities Used Moodle's built-in groups and grouping to create groups Lessons
Learned Future
Hakodate Data Collaborative
Writing http://www.fun.ac.jp Students Schools & Courses School of Media Architecture School of Systems Information Science Information Systems Course
Advanced ICT Course
Information Design Course Complex Systems Course
Intelligent Systems Course increase
English exposure Writing Task
Student Examples Grading Rubric The Writing Tasks Peter Ruthven-Stuart, Adam Smith, Andrew Johnson Writing Task
Scores Communicating English Computer
Use Future Research re CSCL & The VEP What are students learning in their Writing Task Groups?
How does ability level affect students' interation with the tasks & peers?
What are the factors that lead to successful task completion?
Is it possible to devise an effecient and effective form of peer evaluation to reduce the incidence of free-riding?
Could self evaluation reduce the incidence of free-riding?
Can students be trained to use Wikis more effectively?
Is there an ability (motivation) threshold, below which CSCL can't work?
Are there a cultural reasons why CSCL may not be appropriate? Custom module for grading group grading
rubric grading
recycled feedback Issues slow
notification mails
recycled feedback Concerns Free-riding
Translation Software
Some groups don't collaborate
Not using wikis as collaborative tool Student Grade View p>0.0.5 Changes from
2010 to 2011 Changes we want to make Made writing task meeting place forum
Full time VEP supervisor
Pledge stating each member contributed to writing task
Reduced the number of questions for Ss to choose from for each writing task
Specific writing feedback based on grading rubric ('Feedback+' module)

Added 'How to Write an Essay' unit
Open topic for writing tasks
Made separate area devoted to writing tasks
Students have 2 optional writing tasks about a 'TED' Improve Feedback+ module
Add conditional activities focusing on common writing mistakes
Improve students' understanding of what group work involves
Bonus unit on writing skills
Group allocation based on TOEIC Bridge (?)
Review use of Skype for teacher contact (not used much)
Review use of FAQ forum for students (not used much)
Further investigate possibilities of Self and Peer Assessment Future University Hakodate Modified 1.9.12 Videos Student Writing Task Feedback Only 85% used wiki in H.S Anderson, T. (2008) "Towards a theory of online learning", In T. Anderson (Ed.), The theory and practice of online learning [Electronic Version]. Athabasca, Canada: Athabasca University Press, 91-119. Accessed April 7, 2010, 91-119.
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Denscombe, M. (2007) The Good Research Guide: Open University Press.
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West, J. A. & West, M. L. (2009) Using Wikis for Online Collaboration. The Power of the Read-Write Web: Jossey-Bass. learning as coparticpation ..... legitimate peripheral particaption in communities of practice (Lave & Wenger 1991) 7 problems of CSCL
#1: student antipathy towards group work
#2: the selection of the groups
#3: a lack of essential group-work skills
#4: the free-rider
#5: possible inequalities of student abilities
#6: the withdrawal of group members, and
#7: the assessment of individuals within the groups
(Roberts & McInnerney 2007) Problems re Working in Groups:
communication problems n=38
problems meeting n=32
lack of cooperation (as opposed to lack of participation) n=19
lack of participation (as opposed to lack of cooperation) n=18
group work n=13
free-riders n=9
better done on ones own n=9
mixed level groups n=4
random groups n=3
lose friends n=1
lack of agreement n=1 Good things re Working in Groups 33%
communication skills n=14
group work n=12
make friends n=10
meet people n=8
cooperation skills n=8
exchange opinions n=7
reduces work load n=2 students are not Digital Natives
but, it is possible to get 500+ minimally supervised low-ability students to "successfully" complete online collabortive writing tasks
important to be consistent with task structure (no mid-term changes)
be prepared to make changes when the evidence requires
know how your system works
be upfront and explicit with task goals
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