ENHANCING STUDENT COLLABORATION AND TEAMWORK: THEORETICAL AND PRACTICAL ISSUES OF VIRTUAL PROJECT-BASED COLLABORATIVE LEARNING
Masaryk University (CZECH REPUBLIC)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Conference name: 7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 4-5 March, 2013
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:As recent years have shown, the rocket-like boom in networking and instant access to information have created demand for new kinds of competencies, both in various learning and working settings, which can be thought of as crucial for overall achievement in the context of the 21st century. It is possible to distinguish three main areas of these new core skills. First, it is the necessity for all students and employees to be able to independently plan and organize their own work, making an economical use of the resources available, and successfully manage any project-oriented tasks. Second, given the ever-increasing importance of group and teamwork, effective communication and collaboration among team members stand out as the main key to overall team success. Third, the prominent component enabling and supporting all the skills mentioned above is the ability to implement and use a purpose-oriented selection of available technological tools to help carry out various work and learning-related tasks and projects. In order to meet the demand for these new core skills, it is necessary to adopt new ways of teaching and learning, which would effectively exploit traditional as well as technology-driven methodologies to supply current students with ideas and tools needed to successfully function in the ever-changing economy of the 21st century.
In this paper, we focus on the concept of Virtual Project-Based Collaboration, a complex learning approach combining the methodologies of project-oriented learning, team-based learning, and soft skill development with the use of a virtual working environment devised to enhance team collaboration. Following the points outlined above, the main goal of the paper is to show why this particular approach presents a significant opportunity and perhaps future necessity for university-level education.
In the first part, the paper introduces a case study dealing with the implementation of Virtual Project-Based Collaboration methodology in a real learning context of an undergraduate course on team management. Here, students switched from using the standard faculty LMS to exploring a project management system (i. e. groupware), a specialized kind of software utilized for efficient project management and teamwork. Next, we present outcomes of a qualitative study on possible effects of using groupware in learning. More specifically, the study focused on possible ways that groupware could modify team processes and dynamics including both task- oriented processes (team communication, coordination, and cooperation) and socio-emotional processes (interpersonal relationships, trust, and cohesion). Together with these two main topic areas, the paper also deals with practical issues of groupware implementation in a learning environment. We have identified several crutial aspects which are necessary for the software to be successfully applied as a learning tool. To illustrate these points, we compare and contrast a number of currently available project management systems.
All in all, the paper presents an introductory overview of the field of project-oriented virtual teamwork. It summarizes the main issues of using this approach in learning situations and pinpoints possible pitfalls connected to its implementation. In addition, it outlines the key evaluative criteria for choosing a suitable groupware solution which would support fluent management of student teams and allow for the development of the new core skills.
Keywords: Teamwork, collaboration, groupware.