National University (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Page: 2664 (abstract only)
ISBN: 978-84-616-3847-5
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2013
Location: Seville, Spain
Just as the role of classroom teachers must shift to help students achieve proficiency in 21st century skills, so must the role of the teacher educator. Academic educators traditionally focus on their area of discipline rather than the learning environment in which their course takes place. However with more than one third of all higher education students taking at least one course online (Allen & Seaman, 2011) and dropout rates for online learning courses 10-20% higher than traditional courses, (Carr, 2000) it is vital for online educators to implement best practices for online learning. The traditional face-to-face learning environment lends itself to interaction between peer-to-peer and teacher-to-student. However, online learning can be a static, instructor-led discussion, which is not particularly supportive of student engagement (Adams, Defleur, & Heald, 2007). The role of academic educators in an online learning environment requires instructors to step outside their role as content expert, and design a virtual learning community where interaction is seamless and tasks promote student engagement in a virtual environment.

Student engagement has been linked to academic achievement, school retention and student resiliency (Fredericks, 2004). Understanding the role of student engagement in the school and classroom environment may clarify why school failure among Online Learners is higher than traditional classroom. Three types of engagement were identified by Fredericks (2004) to encompass school and classroom engagement. Behavioral engagement involves participation in academic and social activities. Emotional engagement includes positive and negative reactions to people and activities at school and cognitive engagement involves reflective thinking as well as students’ effort to grasp complex ideas and skills. In summary engagement is an important predictor of student success. Collaboration can be a natural pathway to enhancing meaningful engagement.

Web based applications are currently used in different contexts for peer collaboration, online socialization, and engaging in meaningful exchanges. In the online course these tools can be essential for building on students’ prior knowledge, enhancing curriculum, facilitating discussion and organizing and managing course content. Unlike traditional course content systems, web based applications are accessible on mobile devices and adaptable. These tools are student-centered and allows for collaboration regardless of the time or place.

Collaborative group work has always been problematic for a variety of reasons. Students who work hard and take pride in their work resent their peers who have a more lackadaisical attitude. It’s not uncommon that the most motivated students will do the work of the slackards to maintain their high standards while the slackards are grateful to get good graded based on the efforts of the A students. Too often instructors don’t have easy ways to hold students individually accountable for a group’s output. For online instructors the online learning platform can provide rich opportunities for group collaboration with rigorous individual accountability. Specific pedagogical approaches can facilitate student learning while allowing instructors to fairly evaluate each student’s contribution to the group effort.
Online Collaboration, Individual Accountability, Assessment.