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The idea for the Workshop on which this book is based arose from discussions which we had when we both attended an earlier - and more broadly based - NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning, directed by Claire O'Malley in Maratea, Italy, in 1989. We both felt that it would be interesting to organise a second Workshop in this area, but specifically concerned with the use of computers and networking (telematics) as communication tools for collaborative learning outside the formal school setting. We were particularly interested in examining the ways in which computer conferencing can be used for collaboration and group learning in the contexts of distance education, adult learning, professional training, and organisational networking. And we wanted to ensure that we included, in the scope of the Workshop, situations in which learning is a primary, explicit goal (e.g. an online training programme) as well as situations where learning occurs as a secondary, even incidental, outcome of a collaborative activity whose explicit purpose might be different (e.g. the activities of networked product teams or task groups). Another goal was to try to bring together for a few days people with three different perspectives on the use of computer conferencing: users, researchers, and software designers. We hoped that, if we could assemble a group of people from these three different constituencies, we might, collectively, be able to make a small contribution to real progress in the field.



Learning Together Apart

1. Learning Together Apart

This paper defines collaborative learning as “individual learning occurring as a result of group process”, and examines some of the issues and problems in using computer-mediated communication (CMC) for collaborative learning. A number of typical applications of computer conferencing, in both the educational context (where learning is the explicit primary goal, as in a course or training programme) and the organisational context (where learning might be a desirable, but secondary, outcome of a task-oriented activity), are reviewed. The influences of social climate, a text-based asynchronous communication environment, and software design features, on the success or failure of CMC for collaborative learning are examined.
Anthony Kaye

Computer Conferencing in Practice


2. Telematic Support for In-Service Teacher Training

This paper describes a pilot experiment carried out in Spain involving the use of various telematic media (file transfer, a videotex electronic mail application, and computer conferencing) in support of in-service teacher training courses. The experience is analysed with respect to the balance to be achieved between technological facilities and design features in order to promote collaborative learning processes, and thus maximise instructional effectiveness. Results show that learners made a highly differential use of media, with individual support being much more accepted than support for collaborative processes. Some design factors are studied in the light of these results: minimum estimated conditions for users’ participation, tutors’ changing roles, and the bridge to be built towards new instructional models by both learners and teachers.
Cristina Simón

3. Waiting for Electropolis

Computer mediated communication constitutes a method for overcoming time and space gaps in distance education, and the media can enhance collaborative environments electronically. Three cases: the NKS Electronic College, Competence Networks in the Public Sector, and the Pedagogical Online Seminar, illustrate various practical implementations of computer conferencing and collaborative learning in Norway. From an optimistic ‘global village’ perspective, new events like computer conferencing can deconstruct computing, education and training. At least, computer conferencing could be a fragment of a new developing groupware and a part of multimedia for the ‘Telematic Man’.
Morten Søby

4. Computer Mediated Communication for Management Learning

The paper addresses some issues to do with the running of a self-managed, collaboratively designed MA in Management Learning, using a mixture of computer conferencing, electronic mail, and periodic face-to-face seminars. The nature of professional practice in the online environment is discussed and analysed.
David McConnell

5. Collaboration in International Online Teams

This paper examines the use of computer-mediated communication (CMC) by four international online teams active in rural and environmental development projects on three continents. These cooperative teams engage in mutually supportive learning, as they utilize electronic mail and computer conferencing facilities, to help overcome challenges to effective communication presented by geographic isolation and time zone complexities. The groups’ experiences are examined in terms of their transition to CMC use, the types of communication tasks carried out via CMC, problems encountered and benefits received. CMC is reported to play a key role in developing an electronic or paper database to act as a project’s ‘collective memory’, increasing the feasibility of inter-continental projects, and viewing modern team communication as an orchestration of media. Recommendations are made regarding the effective use of CMC in international project management and the benefits of team learning to advance communication at the frontiers of cross-cultural problem solving.
Elaine McCreary, Madge Brochet

6. Collaborative Learning in a Large Scale Computer Conferencing System

Computer conferencing systems have been used for the last ten years by educational institutions at all levels, sometimes as an informal medium, sometimes as complementary, sometimes even as the only mechanism for delivering education. However, few educational organisations have used conferencing intensively for activities such as information exchange, brainstorming, project coordination, problem solving, and decision making. These uses are, in general, far less structured than the ones normally found in formal education settings; however in most of these activities a form of individual as well as collective learning emerges in a natural form, in particular when there are a large number of participants in the conferencing system. This paper describes some of the learning processes that take place within TOOLS, a family of computer conferencing systems used within the world-wide IBM internal network, with particular reference to the largest of them, the IBMPC conferencing system.
Jesus Rueda

Ways of Understanding Online Collaboration


7. Evaluation Methodologies for Computer Conferencing Applications

This chapter is a review of evaluation methodologies for computer conferencing applications. It focuses on major practitioners: the work of Roxanne Hiltz, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, the Institute for the Future, the Open University, and the University of Stockholm. The advantages and disadvantages of a wide range of evaluation strategies — survey questionnaires, laboratory experiments, case studies and user interviews — are discussed as they apply to conferencing applications, and particularly to collaborative uses of computer conferencing. The chapter makes a case for evaluators to focus on content analysis of conference messages as the key methodology for establishing the educational value of this medium.
Robin Mason

8. Computer Conferencing and Content Analysis

The chapter presents a framework and analytical model that could be used by educators for a better understanding of the learning process and of the riches available in the content of CMC messages. The analytical model was developed to highlight five dimensions of the learning process exteriorized in messages: participation, interaction, social, cognitive, and metacognitive dimensions. These dimensions were chosen because they pertain to the work of an educator in dealing with a group of distance learners, and because of their connection with the cognitive approach to the learning process. The point is that CMC messages are polysemic, and that content analysis helps us to understand the learning process and offers data useful to improving the efficacy of interaction with students. The analytical model appears capable of promoting and supporting a collaborative learning process.
France Henri

9. A Case Study Approach to Evaluation of Computer Conferencing

The use of computer conferencing in collaborative learning involves a complex interplay of three sets of conditions: the basic elements of a planned collaborative learning experience; the characteristics of the computer conferencing system; and individual and group characteristics. The understanding of such complex interactions among the numerous variables involved does not emerge from a particular analytic approach, be it statistical manipulation, content analysis, or other single quantitative or qualitative technique. Rather, an encompassing approach is needed to provide a comprehensive view and broader insight into the multifaceted phenomenon that occurs when a group of individuals, embarking on a collective task, mediate their communication through a computer conferencing system. A case study approach is proposed that combines selected quantitative and qualitative techniques.
Michael Waggoner

10. Talking, Teaching, and Learning in Network Groups: Lessons from Research

Using empirical research findings, this chapter describes what we know about electronic groups and how electronic groups may change education. Electronic groups are not just long-distance traditional groups. Electronic groups can transform computer and people resources, both for informal and formal learning. Among these changes are qualitative changes in social contacts and group dynamics. A major structural change would be a shift from traditional classroom organization to more group or team centered collaborative learning in education and training. This transformation may benefit many students and educators but also will create new complications, such as the possibility of further centralization of school institutions, of new ‘free’ markets for education, and of changing roles of teachers and students.
Sara Kiesler

11. Understanding Collaborative Learning in Networked Organizations

This paper argues that collaborative learning is a routine occurrence in organizations that have invested in computer conferencing networks to support their business. Computer conferencing allows people to learn from each other, while they work, although the ‘learning network’ potential of conferencing has not received much attention. The paper looks forward to valuable exchanges between networked organizations and distance education enterprises. One result could be education designs which prepare people for working in teams.
John Gundry

Issues in Software Design


12. The Challenge of Conferencing System Development

More than in most other areas of software development, writers of computer conferencing systems are faced with difficult challenges. Conferencing systems must be used if any of the benefits of computer conferencing are to materialize. Getting participation is not the job of the administrator but rather that of the software developer. This paper develops this argument, reviews the history of well-established conferencing systems, and attempts to draw some lessons along these lines.
Oliver Vallée

13. Metaphors and the Design of the Human Interface

As it stands, computers and computer systems are relatively new phenomena in our daily life, and we do not have any norm or tradition for a particular use of language, when we speak about these technologies. Therefore, we must use concepts and terms from domains with which we are already acquainted, and which — in some areas — are similar to these new phenomena; in other words, we must use metaphors as a means both to perceive and understand these new technologies, and to communicate around them.
Elsebeth Korsgaard Sorensen

14. Designing Human Interfaces for Collaborative Learning

Collaborative learning, as opposed to individual learning, is known to provide an effective and efficient means of learning. Using computer-mediated communication (CMC), it can be incorporated into distance learning. This chapter describes the collaborative learning approach to be adopted in a forthcoming experimental course. It then describes the design of the interface for a CMC system to support it. Following a discussion of interface styles, it presents draft designs for four ‘views’ of the conference system: a personal view, a conference system overview, a conference overview, and a message view. The design attempts to convey the illusion of the presence of the members of the collaborative group (‘telepresence’), and provides convenient tools for collaboration.
Gary Alexander

15. Toward a Hypermedium for Collaborative Learning?

The use of Computer Mediated Conferences (CMC) has gained popularity in various fields of human activity. Some pioneers have reported experiments in the field of education either to support remote learners in Open Learning institutions, or to teach at distance. We have designed the first generation of a CMC system tailored for education, based on the French videotex network. We have also tested this, and a summary of the first results is reported here. The human communication process, even if it is mediated by a computer, is very complex and requires the contribution of disciplines such as psychology, linguistics, and social sciences. The design of a new generation of CMC system adapted to educational goals is an ambitious task, which calls for very flexible work-benches to allow for multiple and various experiments. It also needs to solve a number of fundamental issues, of which seven are highlighted, and to explore new foundations and paradigms for such a design.
Alain Derycke

16. Computer Conferencing Functions and Standards

This paper makes a comprehensive inventory of functionalities often available in computer conferencing systems. Each function is described, and the terminology used to refer to this function in well-known systems is included. The paper further discusses why standardization of computer conferencing is of value, and which different interfaces can be covered by such a standard. A short introduction to current models for standards in this area is included. Finally, the design and user interface of one particular conference system, SuperKOM, is shown.
Jacob Palme

17. Hardware and Software Architecture in Computer Conferencing Systems

The use of Computer Conferencing Systems (CCS) has so far been very limited. Why is this the present situation? Is the problem due to lack of user friendliness or functionality, or is it because they do not fit in with other systems? This paper discusses the different possible answers.
Jens Ambrosius


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