B. Hirsch

There are a number of different theories of learning, but recently the social learning view has gotten much attention. It is based on a constructionist view, whereby we learn by actively creating knowledge based on experience, as opposed to passively receiving it from the teacher. This notion is then refined with learning by observing and modeling the behavior of others in social learning. Collaborative learning assumes that knowledge can be created by interacting and sharing experiences. It allows the learners to assume various roles including one of a teacher, another effective method of learning.
The aim of the collaborative learning environment (CLE) is to provide a platform which can be used to engage students, and validate various theories of learning in the context of university courses. It takes into account the way students interact with technology and provides means to collect information on how they use the system. Context awareness and intelligent profiles of the students allows the system to adapt to different situations across different devices.
Context awareness embeds the tool in a holistic iCampus framework, and its potential comes from the ability to harness functionality that the iCampus environment provides. For example, location awareness together with access to course and study group information allows the system to automatically not only provide relevant files and access to resources, but can also remote connect missing members of a study group automatically.
The opportunity here is threefold. First, it allows students to collaborate within a known environment with automatic access to all relevant course documents, synchronously as well as asynchronously, locally and remotely. Second, it allows to validate theories on collaborative learning and computer supported learning. Third, the teacher can evaluate the student learning process and build an understanding of their contribution in group assignments.
Various modules allow students to collaboratively edit, communicate using text, voice or video, share bookmarks and files, and access course material, amongst others.
The CLE is based on the open-source Moodle Learning Management System. This provides immediate familiarity with the tool for students and faculty and provides a direct link to relevant course documents.
The way students interact with the tool is monitored to gain insight in the way they collaborate using technological means. This is used to (1) evaluate their learning process instead of just the learning outcome as well as (2) understand their individual learning style and behavior within the group.
The goal of the CLE is to support students and faculty in a formal classroom setting by enabling collaboration on assignments and tasks. Additionally, it allows students and faculty from different campuses to easily share, collaborate, and communicate.
The CLE is set to be trialed during the next summer semester at Khalifa University.