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Title: A critical analysis to explore the extent to which cases of asynchronous online discussions support collaborative learning
Author: Mukherjee, Arundhati
ISNI:       0000 0004 2717 342X
Awarding Body: Institute of Education, University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2011
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There is such a wide variety of uses of this term 'collaborative learning' inside each academic field, and a fortiori, across the fields (Dillenbourg, 1999). However, in terms ofthe recent focus of CSCL (computer supported collaborative learning), in effective collaborative knowledge building, the group must engage in thinking together about a problem or task and produce a knowledge artefact such as a verbal problem clarification, a textual solution proposal, or a more developed theoretical inscription that integrates their different perspectives on the topic and represents a shared group result that they have negotiated (Stahl, 2006). As a consequence, collaborative learning should combine 'constructionism' with 'social learning' (Laurillard,2009). From this perspective, collaboration cannot be considered as a condition and support for individual cognition, rather it should be conceptualised as an effective means of developing group meaning through the interactions among the group's individual members, not by the individuals on their own. The idea of this thesis is to analyse and critique the mechanism of knowledge construction happening inside the boundary of the asynchronous discussion forums which are often referred to as the 'collaborative environments'. The objective of the research is to investigate how far the contemporary design of the learning environment and the process of facilitating the general approach of collaborative interactions are compatible with the theoretical assumptions of the ideal form of collaborative learning. Conceptualising collaboration on a continuum of six consecutive processes, the content analysis model originally illustrated by Murphy (2004), has been used in this research for the identification and measurement of collaboration in four different asynchronous discussions where critical emphasis was given to analyse the process of group meaning making from the qualitative point of view, mainly by micro analysis of the messages. As in an evaluation context, the aim of this research project is to document and analyse the process, as well as the quality, of the asynchronous collaborative discussion, so the Case Study method has been chosen as an effective means to carry out the research. The data gathered from semi-structured interviews with the tutors and the texts of the online classes have been combined in order to develop a comprehensive view of the collaborative online discussions taking place. The research findings reveal that the participants' interactional involvement with the collaborative situation appears to be highly influenced by the way the practice environment has been designed, especially in terms of task design and the nature of involvement of the tutor in the learning process. The findings support the suggestion that these two factors are likely to be guided by the perception of the tutor about collaborative engagement. Through illuminating the essential characteristics of collaborative interactions in asynchronous online discussions, this research has attempted to make explicit the way that tutors can recognise both the process and the quality of collaboration taking place during online asynchronous discourse. The research findings include proposals for sound 'pedagogical design principles' that might support tutors better in designing collaborative learning. Moreover, the detailed presentation of collaborative interactions could enrich the experience of the student participants in terms of their desired involvement in collaborative interactions. And finally for the educational institutions and technology designers, this study can provide useful guidelines for overcoming the ideologies of 'individualism' and supporting the concept of' group achievement'.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available