The students have different working abilities

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Recently, the new paradigm of "Collaborative Learning" has evolved. This refers to a team learning process where members of the team support each other to reach an agreed target. The students have different working abilities and are responsible for both their own learning and the learning of others [1]. Collaborative learning has many advantages over the traditional forms of learning, including the development of oral, written and verbal skills, increasing the ability of students to work in teams, encouraging students to seek solutions to a problem in variety of ways, and learning from the experience of others [2-4].

In the recent times, providing a collaborative learning environment through the use of multi-touch interface has gained greater importance. This is due to the fact that technology has not just become an integral part of a student's life but it is now available at affordable prices as well. Multi-touch interfaces have the ability to accommodate more than one user concurrently, which is particularly useful for learning through large and shared display systems like tabletops [5]. Using such a system should encourage students to collaborate with each other and create an environment wherein, they can discuss their findings and integrate their ideas seamlessly without any technological hindrances. It should enhance their interaction skills and promote teamwork. The purpose of this research to investigate whether there is an improvement in the quality of the students' learning experiences.

Unified Modelling Language (UML) is amongst the most popular Object Oriented (OO) design languages. However, students who are attempting to learn UML find it difficult to comprehend its concepts [6]. Possible reasons for this range from inherent difficulties in the OO design to problems in learning the OO modelling language and methods [7]. This raises the need for easier and more efficient ways to learn UML.

In light of the advantages of collaborative learning and multi-touch technology, this research will investigate the educational impact of collaborative learning of UML-State diagrams using multi-touch technology. The research will identify how to help students to work together to solve problems, to communicate with each other and to discuss their different solutions to reach an agreed design with the help of multi-touch technology.


The difficulties of understanding and learning UML have been widely researched [8]. Some of studies have focused on developing an Intelligent Tutoring System that helps individuals and small groups learn UML-Class diagrams [9]. Thus, in order to support the design of other diagrams of UML such as State diagrams, it is proposed to develop a multi-touch technology-based collaboration learning system that enables students to build quality UML-State diagrams. In addition, the research will investigate the educational impact of multi-touch collaborative learning of UML-State diagrams to produce high quality design. Some of the key issues that this research will attempt to understand are: the impact of multi-touch technology in enhancing students' engagement in collaborative design, if there are improvements in the students' learning of UML-State diagrams design, if there are enhancement in the quality of diagrams design and if students improve their collaboration skills.


Recent research activity has developed a large number of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) systems [10]. Such systems can be classified into three categories [11]. The earliest systems reflected the actions performed by one individual on the screen of other participants [12]. The next type of system keeps track of the state of interactions between various participants. An example of this is Sharlok (Sharing, Linking and Looking-for Knowledge) [13]. The most recent type of system offers feedback to the participants during the collaboration process. Notable tools that have been developed with this feature are COLER [14], COLLECT-UML [15] and CoLeMo [16]. However, user often works individually to design UML diagrams. Subsequently, they collaborate by discussing result or exchanging their views. Therefore, the level of collaboration is often limited in these tools. Users do not collaborate over the design process but over the subsequent discussions. In addition, above discussed research projects have investigated collaborative learning of UML for remote collaborators. However, the focus of this research is on supporting collaborative learning of UML-State diagrams for co-located collaborators.

This research will try to fill the gap identified above in order to enhance the co-located collaboration between group members. It will also explore the impact of a collaborative learning environment using multi-touch technology on the pedagogical goals of improving students' collaboration skills and engagement activities.


There has been a lot of research on the benefits of collaborative learning environments [17]. Potential benefits identified include encouraging participants to verbalize their thinking, finding new ways to solve a problem, encouraging team work, and learning from the experience of others [18, 19].

Some of the earlier CSCL systems developed are COLER, CoLeMo, COLLECT-UML and AUTO-COLLEAGUE. Of these, only COLLECT-UML and AUTO-COLLEAGUE enable the learning of UML. COLLECT-UML helps the participants to learn Class diagrams in a collaborative environment that is supported by an Intelligent Tutoring System, which generates feedback for users while AUTO-COLLEAGUE offers students adaptive help and advice regarding the most efficient and productive organization of the students in groups in order to learn UML. However, both COLLECT-UML and AUTO-COLLEAGUE are concerned with providing advice for students learning design modelling language using UML [20]. This research will focus on improving the level of students' collaboration in order to achieve some pedagogical goals such as improving students' collaborative and learning engagement activities while learning UML-State diagrams through multi-touch-based collaborative learning.

Multi-touch interfaces have the ability to accommodate more than one user concurrently. This is particularly useful for learning through large and shared display systems like tabletops and interactive walls [5]. Rogers, et al (2004) found in their research that users tend to interact consecutively rather than concurrently while using a multi-touch table [21]. However, such a situation may occur when the group is given a small task such as designing a calendar, map or diagram. Therefore, it would be interesting to find out how users would react to using multi-touch technology when given larger tasks like UML-state diagram modelling.

Using multi-touch technology for a collaborative learning purpose, students can learn fast as the chances of conflicts between users would be minimal in such an environment. This is largely due to the fact that such a learning environment helps users to communicate more effectively with each other and therefore facilitate greater understanding within the group [22]. Experts such as Westerman and his colleagues (2001) believe that such multi-touch environment provides new possibilities for interaction between human beings and computers. Many researchers explore this theory further and indicate that a multi-touch environment can be successful since interaction through touch is intuitive and natural. They also believe that with the advancement in multi-touch devices, there would be more interaction between human and computers in the future [23].

In a collaborative multi-touch environment, users can create their personal space and work on designated modules. This could further help facilitate getting individual inputs and completing the project at a faster rate. Further, it would ensure that every student is involved in the project and everyone is able to contribute towards the success.

Several projects have introduced the use of multi-touch surfaces to enhance collaboration learning such as DigiTile [24], WordPlay [25] and WebSurface [26]. The level of collaboration is limited and restricted to simple action performed by users such as putting words in the right context (e.g. puzzles) arbitrary arranging items over tables, simple clicks and drag actions (e.g. collaboration browsing). However, UML design involves advanced design issues that raises new collaboration needs. For example, simple and easy to use mechanisms are required to enable, students bring their ideas to surfaces and visualize their thoughts. In addition, we need to explore the best techniques that allow users to collaborate over the annotation and linking to UML entities. Also, it opens the vistas to undertake a comprehensive research to find out whether multi-touch technology enhances students' engagement, collaboration skills in a collaborative learning of UML-State diagrams. It is now possible to investigate if multi-touch technology supports collaborative activity in students' learning software design.


In order to evaluate this hypothesis multi-touch technology enhance students' collaboration skills, students' engagement of UML-State diagrams design, as well as improves the quality of diagrams design, the research will provide a tool for collaborative learning of UML-State diagrams over the multi-touch surface which allow them to collaborate to build State diagrams.

Students will be given a task (problem statement) and each group of three students will work on a task using multi-touch desk. The task is to design UML-state diagrams so; the tool enables students solving the problem by choosing the diagram elements such as initial state, state, transition, event and action and final state from element bar in order to compose diagrams. Students should start with the main diagram and then they will be able to discompose it to substaes. The quantitative data of learning process such as time to reach agreed diagram, number and type of mistake made measurement of individuals' contribution to tasks and actions taken by each individual in support of the collaborative solution will be collected from the video recording.

For this study, two experiments would be conducted to measure the efficacy of multi-touch technology in promoting collaborative learning. Students will be divided into a set of six experimental groups, with each group consisting of three students from postgraduate levels. In the first experiment, group (A) will be asked to complete a UML-State diagrams design in papers and group (B) will be asked to complete a UML-State diagrams design of the same task of group (A). Then, in the second experiment, group (A) will be asked again to complete the same task of UML-State diagrams using a multi-touch surface and group (B) will be asked also to complete the same task of UML-State diagrams using papers. Both first and second experiments will be applied for all other groups (C, D, E and F). The methods that would be used to observe the progress of the students work is the video recording. These results would then be analysed to find out whether students benefited from using Multi-touch technology for collaborative learning of UML-State diagrams.


The study intends to find out whether providing collaborative learning through the use of multi-touch interface improves the learning capabilities of students, especially, for creating UML-State diagrams. This study would encourage students to collaborate with each other to design using multi-touch technology; they can discuss their findings and integrate their ideas seamlessly without any technological hindrances.

It would further enhance their interaction skills and promote teamwork. Although, the individual members of the team would play an important role in determining the success of this study, even the hardware used for this type of learning environment would have a vital role as well. Therefore, for this study, even papers platform is used to find out whether students are more comfortable using traditional method (using papers) or multi-touch interfaces. It is assumed that multi-touch interface would be the preferred method of design as it would allow students to work at the same time on similar designs in the same location without the problem of having a leader to control the entire process.

Evaluation Criteria

The evaluation criteria will consist of answering the research main questions and verifying whether the results of the experimental method support the research hypothesis, or not. The following table shows the evaluation criteria and method of data collection for each research question.

Research questions Method of Data collection Evaluation Criteria

  1. Does Collaborative design using Multi-Touch technology enhances students' engagement of UML- state diagrams design? Video recording student's contribution to the task in both paper sitting and multi-touch. Measure the number of each student's contribution to the task such as drawing diagram elements and editing a part of a diagram. It is about counting the physical action to the task.
  2. Does Collaborative design using Multi-Touch technology enhances Learning UML- state diagrams design? Conducting a pre-test and post-test of UML-State diagrams in order to evaluate the learning enhancement. Comparing the results of pre-test and post-test for each student.
  3. Does Collaborative design using Multi-Touch technology enhances the quality of UML- state diagrams design? Final results of the UML-State diagrams created by the students on the papers and multi-touch interfaces will be evaluated by expert(s) of UML. Grading the final designs created on papers and multi-touch interfaces separately on the scale of 1 to 5, 1 being very good design and 5 being very poor design.
  4. Does Collaborative design using Multi-Touch technology enhances students' collaboration skills? Video recording students' behaviour throughout the experiment. Number of discords/arguments between students Number of ideas/suggestions given by each student.
  5. Does multi-touch technology enhances interactions techniques that allows for easy building of UML diagrams without obstructing collaborative activities? Conducting a questionnaire. Measure user's satisfaction.


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