• Collaborative Learning Using Collaboration Technology: Report from the Field

      Sonnenwald, Diane H.; Iivonen, Mirja; Alpi, Jeffrey A.; Kokkinen, Heli; Eurelings, A.; Gastkemper, F.; Kommers, P.; Lewis, R.; van Meel, R.; Melief, B. (Kluwer Publishers, 1999)
      We propose that emerging collaboration, or groupware, technology that supports synchronous interaction among students and faculty can add new aspects to the traditional distance learning and university course models. To explore this assumption we taught a masters' level university course using collaboration technology. In our approach, collaboration technology (integrated synchronous audio- and video-conferencing, electronic whiteboard and shared application tools) was used to provide students at universities in different countries opportunities to participate in interactive class exercises and discussions, and to do class assignments together. Students also participated in traditional, face-to-face class seminars, discussions and exercises at their local university. Thus students learned using collaboration technology and traditional methods. In this paper we describe the course and discuss students' evaluations of the course, their collaboration with each other, and collaboration technology used during the course. Students evaluated the course and their collaborative experiences very highly but reported unique challenges and had mixed impressions with respect to the technology. Challenges included establishing interpersonal communication and meeting commitments. In general, students judged collaboration technology lower than e-mail and telephony in characteristics such as social presence, participation and ease of use. However, there were differences in evaluations among students in Chapel Hill and Oulu implying cultural preferences. In addition, students reported varying degrees of productivity and variety of tasks afforded the technology. These differences were similar for students in Chapel Hill and Oulu, implying individual preferences influenced evaluation of the technology. These results appear to imply that students need to learn principles of collaboration in addition to the technology for collaborative learning across distances to occur, and that a variety of technologies are needed to accommodate cultural and individual differences among students.