Investigation on E-learning
New online educational environments need designs that use collaborative tools to support social engagement, mediation, and reflection in order to facilitate effective collaboration among students. Through empirical research, observations, case study comparisons, and visual explorations, the proposed designs in this document are alternative solutions that move online education toward an experience that is more relevant to the current educational settings than the existing online environments.
The design solutions address issues stated previously with visualizations and interactions that support collaborative conversations and enhance learning outcomes. These solutions should increase engagement and participation by visualizing social progress of group participation and helping the team identity its progress towards a goal. These designs use visualization of learner feedback to trace the status of collaborative work, which will help learners detect communication pitfalls and mediate conflict. This strategy facilitates intellectual progress, organization of ideas, decision-making skills, and exploration of alternative ideas. Finally, the alternative solutions foster reflection and understanding in a way that will help group learners organize their findings and concepts, while encouraging quality feedback and building on other students’ ideas. This process of reflection and understanding results in intellectual synthesis, assimilation and accommodation of new concepts, a deeper understanding of target skills, and the application of knowledge to broader conditions.
These solutions will hopefully further the research and development of online education toward an environment that is unbounded with unlimited resources and requires playful imagination (Thomas & Brown, 2011).
Conditions and Context
Over the past century, American education has transformed. It has moved through didactic learning – to spell things out explicitly – to authentic learning – true to the interests and motivations of the learner. Education will continue to transform into a ubiquitous and immersive learning environment in order to be relevant for the contemporary world and technologies.
Current online learning environments resemble the industrial age — an environment where the teacher controls the conversations and resources and student assessments are based on the quantity of knowledge memorized and recited.
While these new technologies create possibilities for borderless education, they do introduce new challenges. Current online learning environments struggle to overcome the challenges of asynchronous communication. More specifically, current platforms fail to foster a learning culture of reflective engagement and critical thinking.
New online educational environments need designs that use collaborative tools to support social engagement, mediation, and reflection in order to facilitate effective collaboration among students.
Using experimental learning theories, such as Schön and Piaget, to support the position of intelligences shaped through experience and that knowledge arises as a product of interaction between the person and his/her environment. This will foster inquiry and lead toward deeper understand of the individual or group.
The first type of knowledge in Schön’s framework is “knowing-in-action,” which refers to the type of knowing that can be described verbally and demonstrated through action.
The next type of knowing is “reflection-in-action” and refers to the moment when unexpected results disrupt the process of knowing-in-action. This ability requires the designer to stop and think about the disruption and the how to proceed.
The final type of knowledge used in this framework is “knowing-in-practice” and refers to a shared understanding between communities of practitioners.
The generalized design process supports the stages of learning and collaborative knowledge work necessary for group learning.
The first area of investigation in the PBOL design process is “Research.” In this stage of the design process, an online environment should foster participation of individuals, mediation of conversation, and facilitate collaborative idea generation. Idea generation and the conversations happening in research draw on previous experience and metaphors.
The next area of investigation is “Iteration.” In this stage, learners need an environment that facilitates the mediation of complex conversation, the organizing and linking of ideas, and constructing shared knowledge. During the convergence of new ideas in learning groups, conflicts can arise and learners need to mediate agreements and disagreements.
The last area of investigation in the design process is “Critique.” In this phase, learning environments need to support the ability for learners to follow activities, engage in quality listening, form a consensus, and demonstrate understanding and learning from experience. At this stage, also referred to as intellectual convergence, groups need to develop shared understanding, including the ability to ‘agree to disagree.’
The research framework explores a scenario of an online Introduction to Physics course offered through an accredited University using PBOL. This course is available for undergraduates at the university level, mostly freshman, and advanced placement high school students. This course has no prerequisites but is a prerequisite for many science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs.
Participation and Engagement in Research
Supported by activities such as idea generation, divergent thinking, brainstorming, verbalization, and sharing ideas or positions.
Students are searching and finding content then adding it and structuring it with other found content in a way that makes sense to themselves and their peers.
This knowledge is “knowing-in-action” and it refers to the type of knowing that is possessed through series of actions and demonstrated through action.
Visual dashboards and interactive display shows the social process of group participation to enhance learning conversations and engagement in collaborative virtual environments.
Problems in Iteration
Supported by activities such as organizing and elaborating various ideas into common positions.
Student positions demonstrate intellectual growth through comprehending multiple perspectives and understanding how they relate to one another.
This stage moves learners into the next type of knowing, “reflection-in-action,” which occurs when the knowing-in-action is disrupted by unexpected results and requires the learner to stop and think about the disruption and the how to proceed.
The visualization of learner feedback traces the status of collaborative work by detecting communication pitfalls and mediating conflict.
Reflection and Understanding in Critique
Supported by idea structuring activities such as articulating understandings, building context, connecting prior knowledge, and intellectual synthesis.
Students prepare multiple drafts in response to peer and teacher feedback, while students gain self-regulated learning benefits, such as a deeper, more concrete understanding of the target skills, and practice in self-assessment.
The final type of knowledge used in this framework is “knowing-in-practice” and refers to a shared understanding among communities of learners.
The continuous feedback on group learning processes support a clear view of their learning and improvement, and a sense of responsibility for their own progress.
How can the use of visualization strategies in the design of collaborative tools support social engagement, mediation, and reflection to facilitate effective collaboration among first year college students in a Project-based online learning environment (PBOL)?
How can an interactive display visualize the social process of group participation to enhance conversations and engagement in online PBL environments?
How can visualization enhance personal identity and team awareness in collaborative processes by demonstrating learner presence?
How can the visualization of learner feedback trace the status of collaborative work by detecting pitfalls and meditating conflict in learner communications?
How can visual cues indicate what is being referenced in an PBOL environment?
How can connections and affiliations be visualized to help group learners organize their finding and concepts?
How can the design of an online PBL environment encourage quality feedback and allow individual learners to build upon other member’s ideas?