1 Ludwig-Maximilians-University (GERMANY)
2 University of Bologna (ITALY)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2011 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Pages: 2533-2539
ISBN: 978-84-614-7423-3
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 5th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2011
Location: Valencia, Spain
This study investigated differences between experienced and non-experienced European e-tutors in their support of online collaboration in practice. E-tutors are important for supporting virtual collaboration as learners mostly have not experience in virtual learning which is often more demanding. Therefore, it is necessary that the e-tutor foster cognitive and social activities in collaboration. But regarding the daily practice of e-tutors, the question arises whether and how e-tutors support collaborative online learning. As research on the topic of expertise shows that experts differ from individuals without expertise in their way how they deal with problems, the question remains whether such differences in problem-handling are true for e-tutorial support in collaborative online learning.
We developed a questionnaire e-tutors had to fill in to evaluate specific collaborative activities and to answer yes/no-questions regarding their intervention to support these collaborative activities. 78 e-learning experiences from 17 different European countries were included.
We used the TwoStep cluster methodology to explore the data. The algorithm selected the optimal number of clusters based on either the Schwarz Bayesian Information Criterion (BIC) or the Akaike Information Criterion (AIC). Once clusters were established, we used separate t-tests and chi-square tests on variable(s) not used to form the clusters to test the validity of the cluster solution. We compared the clusters based on their response type across the various categories of support activities.
The cluster analysis identified two clusters whose stability was ascertained until 75 % of the sample size. Cluster 1 (n= 51; 65.4%) comprised e-tutors who evaluated cognitive activities more important (mean between 4.90 and 5.47) than e-tutors included in cluster 2 (n =24; 30.8%) (mean between 4.08 and 4.83). Furthermore, e-tutors of cluster 1 intervened between 40 and 48 times to foster cognitive activities in online collaboration while e-tutors of cluster 2 intervened only 8 to 14 times. Regarding social activities, according to Chi-Square-Tests again e-tutors of cluster 1 intervened significantly more often than e-tutors of cluster 2. For cluster validation, we used items concerning the past experience of e-tutors in designing and realizing online courses. Results showed that the great majority of e-tutors with past experience in designing and realizing e-learning courses belonged to cluster 1, X2 (1, n = 75) = 11.75, p < 0.01).
Thus, our sample of e-tutors significantly differs in evaluating the importance of cognitive activities as well as in their intervention rate concerning collaborative activities. Subsequent analyses confirm that e-tutors who intervened more frequently in respect of fostering cognitive and social activities in virtual collaboration are those with past experience. It seems that e-tutors with experience are more able to detect dysfunctional phenomena and thus support their learners in working effectively together. It seems that experience is an essential precondition for evaluating relevant collaborative activities higher and in adequately intervening for fostering the interaction between group members. As this study asked e-tutors concerning their daily practice, it seems essential to train e-tutors in considering and detecting specific dysfunctional phenomena which may otherwise inhibit effective group work.
E-tutorial support, online collaboration, experience of e-tutors.