Technology In Online Group Work Learning Education Essay

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In today society the use of social networking is at an all time high. With the access of Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and other famous websites, people are able to communicate or share information with the click of a button. Social networks are services that are web-based and provide means for users to interact over the Internet, such as e-mail and instant messaging. Social networking is up 73 percent with children from the ages of 12 to 17 from 2006. With this being said, how can social networking be used in the educational school system? Just a few years ago, social networking was nothing but a headache to administration and teachers. Now days, social networking can be used to enhance learning, serve as a collaboration tool, help students with professional development, along with reaching out to different learning styles of students. Today's students are ready to participate. "The members of the "Net" or "Millennial" Generation have been connected to the new technology throughout their development and they expect that teaching and learning will be more interactive, collaborative, and experiential, and that it will feature technological connectivity" (Sherer 2011; Skiba and Barton 2006). Perhaps disaffected by traditional teaching methods and the competitive target culture of schools, many students have turned to social networking through the cluster of computer-based applications known as Web 2.0. Here, they can communicate, share and learn informally using knowledge systems their elders can barely understand. So what is Web 2.0? According to Green and Hannon, Web 2.0 is "a 'second generation' of internet-based services that emphasize online collaboration and sharing among users, often allowing users to build connections between themselves and others". Stephens defined Web 2.0 as "the network as platform, spanning all connected devices" (Stephens 2011). Therefore, Web 2.0 applications now include blogs, wikis, media sharing, social bookmarking, and virtual worlds. Matt Bower says, "There has been an explosion in the number of Web 2.0 tools available for educators to use with their students. The open, collaborative and contribution-based nature of the Web 2.0 paradigm and its associated tools holds great promise for the future of education" (Bower 2010).

Teachers are finding hundreds of ways to use social media inside classrooms. For example, a twelfth grade English teacher may teach a lesson on literature and bring the lesson to life with the help of social networking. Once the class has read the literature story, the teacher may assign a collaborative group assignment on conveying the literature characters to life. For an assignment, the teacher may have the groups create a Facebook page for the literature character. In order to do this, students would have to recall specific facts and details of the specific character. The students would have to have knowledge of the character in order to create the page. Therefore, students are recalling intelligence while getting the chance to communicate within peers and have the opportunity to express their character through Web 2.0.

Purpose

In recent years, the use of technology has steadily climbed throughout business, education, and personal use. The purpose of this paper is to influence and prove that collaborative online learning promotes and enriches learning for students. According to Regina Smith, at Portland State University, "collaborative group work is a common teaching approach for many adult educators. Theorists (see, e.g., Bruffee, 1999) cite many advantages of collaborative groups. These include: (a) improved learner motivation, (b) opportunities for mature learners to develop critical and problem-solving skills, and (c) a possible social atmosphere where all learners are afforded an opportunity to share, consider, challenge one another's ideas, and to construct new knowledge (Bruffee, 1999)" Smith pg 1.

HELP SEEKING IN ONLINE COLLABORATIVE GROUP WORK

Introduction

Have you found yourself currently enrolled in a college course and you have a collaborative group work assignment to complete? First off, what is collaborative group work? According to J.M. Dirkx, writer of Online Collaborative Learning, "collaborative groups are small, interdependent, and heterogeneous groups that co-construct knowledge (Vygotsky, 1978) through the resolution of ill-structured problems (Jonassen, 2000) to achieve consensus and shared classroom authority (Bruffee, 1999). Examples of these kinds of groups include problem-based learning (PBL; Barrows, 1994; Boud&Feletti, 1991) and case-based learning (Christensen & Hansen, 1986), in which the teacher serves as the facilitator and the small groups acquire the content through problem exploration" Dirkx page 133.Therefore, most online learning courses require some sort of assignment or activity to be completed with collaborative group work.

Discussion

Online courses offer the opportunity to create a highly social learning environment, characterized by participation and interactivity for both students and instructors. According to Kearsley (2000), "online learning is as much a social activity as an individual one. However, the quality and quantity of interactivity can vary dramatically from course to course". With this being said, most people have little formal training in how to successfully interact or work with others and that the social surroundings of online activities is quite different from in-person interactions, thus requiring new skills and behaviors. With online courses requiring collaborative group work several factors come into play such as responsibility, reliability, and engagement. Engagement, defined as "student-faculty interaction, peer-to-peer collaboration and active learning" (Chen, Gonyea, &Kuh, 2008, para. 2), has been optimistically related to the superiority of the learning experience. Social learning or learning as part of a collaborative group is an important way to help students gain experience in collaboration and social networking skills in critical thinking, self-reflection, and co-construction of knowledge. Today's students are ready to participate. The members of the "Net" or "Millennial" Generation have been connected to the new technology throughout their development and they expect that teaching and learning will be more interactive, collaborative, and experiential, and that it will feature technological connectivity (Oblinger and Oblinger 2005; Skiba and Barton 2006).

Different learning styles and diversity issues can be accommodated more effortlessly because effective collaborative learning values assortment (Palloff& Pratt, 2005). In today's classroom, students have different learning styles, attitudes, and values that can change or promote learning. "Interprofessional collaboration (IPC) provides a platform to bring professionals from diverse perspectives together to problem solve in a synergistic and collaborative way" (Barr, Freeth, Hammick, Koppel, & Reeves, 2005; Hammick, Freeth, Koppel, Reeves, & Barr, 2007).Further, skills gained from the experience of collaborative learning are highly transferable to team-based work environments (Shaw, 2006). Chapman, Ramondt, and Smiley (2005) also establish a strong link between building effective online communities and deeper learning and confirm that "... the world of work requires that learners can apply, analyze, synthesize and evaluate information..." (p. 220). Despite these documented benefits and the intense popularity of informal social networking using web 2.0 tools and mobile devices, collaborative learning in the form of small groups (four to six peers), which is not of their own choosing, is often dreaded and avoided by online learners (Chapman, Ramondt, Smiley 2005). Stephens defined Web 2.0 as "the network as platform, spanning all connected devices" (Stephens 2011). Matt Bower says, "There has been an explosion in the number of Web 2.0 tools available for educators to use with their students. The open, collaborative and contribution-based nature of the Web 2.0 paradigm and its associated tools holds great promise for the future of education" (Bower 2010). However, for example in this class, we had to create a technology plan within our collaborative online learning group. At first, I will admit, I dreaded the project and was unsure of the assignment. In result, I am extremely satisfied and relieved the technology plan was a collaborative group effort. It took each one of the group members participation and engagement to complete their part to make the assignment complete.

Online learners who seek flexibility in their study situations can view participation in group learning as an obstacle to their progress and often shy away at or at best stomach collaborative learning situations forced by course itself. Students may have worries about their ability to work as part of a group (Harasim, Hiltz, Teles, &Turoff, 1998), or they may have become reluctant to participate based on negative past experiences of working with an unproductive or very difficult peer, having had to carry more than their fair share of the workload, or having received a grade that they felt did not reflect their level of contribution to a group project. From experience with collaborative group work, not all group activities are fair nor do they provide equal share of work. For instance, some students may not excel in coursework or procrastinate to do their part whereas; other students are perfectionist and want to get the job done. This in turn, relates to a conflict within the collaborative group which can cause the project or assignment to lack efficient information and detail, which resolves in a lower grade. On the turn, "Collaboration provides many benefits to the learning environment, such as increasing students' academic motivation and their overall feeling of success" (Daniels, 1994- Miller, 2008).

With the use of collaborative group work from students appearing more frequently in today's learning atmosphere, what kind of Web 2.0 based tools support collaborative group work? Wiki is something that is being used in today's classrooms to promote collaborative group work and discussions. So, what is wiki? According to Yun-Ke Chang, "Wikis are popular web sites that allow users to create, publish and share web contents without much programming skill. A user can link keywords within a document or a number of documents, which allows the growth of wiki pages, while editing privileges may also be extended to all users or restricted to selected users to the wiki sites" (Chang 2010). With this being said, Wikis is a supporting tool for student's learning and collaboration in completing online group work. Tasks such as cooperative authoring joined workbooks creation, document review, group assignments, reflection notes and others have been tried out using wikis as a facilitating tool, and all have been successful. Another positive benefit the instructional technology tool provides is user friendly access and navigation to online students. Wikis sites are set up to engage and promote learning for a wide range of age groups of learners. With easy access and user friendly learning capabilities, wikis attract the younger more technological generation as well as being assessable to an older cliental of learners. According to Webb and Palincsar, "several studies have demonstrated that students derive numerous benefits from working in collaborative teams, for example, by giving and receiving help, sharing knowledge, building on each other's' ideas, recognizing and resolving contradictions between their own and other students' perspectives" (Webb &Palincsar, 1996).

In today's present college setting, more and more students trying to complete bachelor, master, and doctoral programs are dropping out and not finishing. All colleges should try to solve and help secure this problem. One way to help students from the traditional school atmosphere is to allow students to expand from the traditional style and promote group work or collaborative learning. Denise , an academic cohorts writer suggests, "This non-traditional approach to education places students pursuing the same field of education into learning groups that take a majority of their class work together according to a pre-determined schedule of classes"(Gorelick 2011). With this being said, today's students are ready to participate. "The members of the "Net" or "Millennial" Generation have been connected to the new technology throughout their development and they expect that teaching and learning will be more interactive, collaborative, and experiential, and that it will feature technological connectivity" (Sherer 2011; Skiba and Barton 2006).

In conclusion, there is adequate research on the positive benefits of collaborative group learning. Hojnacki, an academic journal writer, states "That the positive benefits on collaborative online learning outweigh the negatives 3 to 1" (Hojnacki 1997). According to Maher (2005), "there are more cooperative learning, peer teaching, student-led discussions, and research presentations in collaborative online group learning rather than traditional learning". With research being completed and technology being at an all time high, collaborative learning is in the system to stay. "Evidently, technology is a tool that can help teachers exemplify best practices to create enriched and collaborative learning environments by addressing different learning needs, supporting transfer of learning, encouraging higher-order thinking, incorporating real world problems and authentic assessments, and preparing students for lifelong learning" (Goh 2011). Another positive benefit is, "Research on collaborative memory has unveiled the counterintuitive yet robust phenomenon that collaboration impairs group recall" (Cogleton 2011). Collaborative learning is a positive attribute that builds individuals communication skills while teaching different learning styles and cultures.

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