A. Garcés Osado1, L.F. Sánchez-Barba Merlo1, M. Honrado Díaz del Campo2

1Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (SPAIN)
2Universidad de Castilla La Mancha (SPAIN)
The traditional teaching methods in Higher Education Institutions mainly centered in teachers as the only responsible of learning have begun to shift to a new approach focused on encouraging learners to discuss, debate and ultimately develop their critical thinking through a student-centered scenario. Cooperative learning (CL) has been recognized by teachers as a convenient technique which brings the opportunity to develop high-order thinking skills in learners through their organization in small groups where they learn on their own, without the constant and direct teacher supervision. Collaboration between students provides countless benefits including increase of their learning achievement, social skills, conflict resolution and making decisions, which are essential skills in the current real-life tasks. Learners also experienced positive interdependence because all members' effort is required for each group in order to achieve success for the team, as well as individual accountability is also present due to that individual contributions are also necessary during the process. Since interaction between learners is essential for effective knowledge acquisition, a flexible learning environment, therefore, is required. In this sense, the advent of the new Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) has contributed to create powerful computer-based collaborative learning environments, facilitating communication and collaboration between students and, additionally, providing tutors the media to support, monitor and guide learning in a synchronous or asynchronous mode.

The present article examines the effectiveness of the implementation of several cooperative learning strategies with first-year undergraduates through the employment of different ICT tools supported by in-class teaching within a blended learning scenario. The study covered different students’ profiles and showed a significant improvement in achievement rates and positive changes in student attitudes for all courses evaluated, including large-enrollment classes. In addition, students considered positively the method employed according to the learners’ perceptions found in questionnaires handed in at the end of the experience.