B. Kopp1, M.C. Matteucci2

1Ludwig-Maximilians-University (GERMANY)
2University of Bologna (ITALY)
This pilot field study investigated the evaluation of virtual collaboration and of support methods over time to capture the subjective evaluation and the change in this subjective evaluation and their respective correlations.
Solving tasks together in order to receive a better solution is one main objective of virtual collaboration. In this context, the task level and the social level are of relevance. The task level involves goal orientation and task completion. While goal orientation focuses on the impact of the goal, task completion forms the main purpose of collaboration. The social level involves group cohesion and taking responsibility. Group cohesion describes the tendency for a group to stick together and remain united; taking responsibility is central for the whole collaboration to prevent dysfunctional phenomena. To support virtual collaboration, we implemented two key methods: the design of group work with assigning roles to group members and providing them with group rules, and providing learners with feedback on their performance and with worked examples. Thus, we examined two main questions: (1) How do students evaluate virtual collaboration and support methods over time? (2) To what extent do support methods correlate with virtual collaboration?
To gain further insights, we evaluated the seminar “Attachment Theory” at three points in time during a semester. We specifically asked 32 undergraduates studying pedagogy with a survey questionnaire to evaluate nine virtual collaborative phases of a seminar about “Attachment Theory” in terms of collaboration on a task level (goal orientation, task completion) and social level (cohesion, taking responsibility) and of support methods (design of group work, providing feedback) at three points of measurement. Every four weeks, participants received an online questionnaire to be filled-in within one week. This questionnaire included four dimensions for virtual collaboration using a six-point Likert scale from 1 (“not effective at all”) to 6 (“very effective”). To measure support methods, we asked how effective certain aspects were for group work, specifically for group design “rotating moderator” and “defining group rules”, and for providing feedback “feedback on group solutions” and “worked examples”. Results of the descriptive data indicate that both virtual collaboration and support methods were evaluated on a high level. Regarding virtual collaboration, t-tests showed that taking responsibility was evaluated lowest at all three points of time followed by goal orientation. Regarding support methods, at the first point of time, the design of group work was evaluated significantly higher than providing feedback. Over time, t-tests showed that there were only two differences between the first and second point of measurement regarding task completion and providing feedback. Correlations indicate that specifically the design of group work positively correlated with all four dimensions of virtual collaboration.
According to these results, there are difficulties for group members to feel responsible for their joint group solution, eventually due to differences in social presence. Furthermore, the design of group work seems to be more helpful for virtual collaboration. More specifically, group rules and a rotating moderator are highly connected with taking responsibility. Thus, it seems that the design of group work may be able to compensate the deficits in taking responsibility.