High vs. Low Collaboration Courses: Impact on Learning Presence, Community of Inquiry, and Social Networking
Researchers demonstrated a relationship between learning presence and social engagement; however, research in this area is limited. For example, no distinctions are made as to what role faculty, students, or technology might play in facilitating social engagement. In general, researchers revealed that students’ ability to self-regulate leads to more focused attention, time on-task, and in turn, these skills could lead to better learning. Given the need for more theoretical work in the area, as well as the potential practical benefits from the use of these pedagogical strategies, we sought to compare the difference between high versus low-collaboration groups on assignments, as well as courses in general. Differences in groups were measured using student grades, peer evaluation, pre and post test, and the community of inquiry framework. In addition, learning presence and social network analysis were used to assess a high-collaboration assignment.
In the current study, we explored how collaborative technologies, specifically Google Docs and Google Hangouts, may be used to impact the level of learning presence (forethought and planning, performance, and reflection) students demonstrate while participating in a small group project. Participants were graduate education students in two randomly assigned sections of the same online course. The course content focused on basic educational psychology for students seeking initial teaching certification. The experimental section utilized a high-collaboration project (e.g., small group, Google Hangouts and Docs) to enhance understanding of course content while the comparison, control section employed a low-collaboration project (e.g., partner activity, Word documents) to enhance understanding of course content. Participants completed the Community of Inquiry (CoI) Survey at the end of the term which measured their perceived level of teaching, social, and cognitive presence during the course. Quantitative content analysis was used to explore occurrences of learning presence in the high-collaboration group. *Finally, we employed social network analysis (SNA) as a method of inquiry to analyze student interaction data with the high-collaboration group. SNA is used to explain relationships depicted by information flow and its influence from participants’ interactions. Scholars have used SNA in the online learning context to understand individual and group dimensions of interactions.
*Social Network Analysis (SNA) will not be addressed in this presentation but will be included in the manuscript.