LEARNING ON AN ONLINE CAMPUS : STUDENTS TEAMBUILDING THROUGH ONLINE INTERACTIONS ON A LEARNING MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (LMS)
I collected empirical data through a fieldwork study in a French distance education institution. I was hired as a training manager, in charge of an online campus (Learning Management System, LMS) dedicated to computer skills learning. As an education sciences researcher at Conservatoire national des arts et métiers (Cnam, France), I use these data to analyze students teambuilding on the platform and compare them to literature about teambuilding and workgroup (1) in online environment.
Students interact with the online course contents (reading material, set of exercises given on the website) but also with the teachers on an online forum (where they can ask for pieces of advice about the exercises) and with other students (on the same platform where they exchange tips and personal experiences about the training).
It is through these interactions with humans (teachers, other students) and non-humans (website, files to read, exercises to solve) that the learning group is built up. All along the training period, each individual learner is progressively included in a learning community. The head of the teachers acts therefore as a community manager, giving rhythm and harmonizing the learning community of practices of the group of students.
When listening to students after their training period, I found out that they stress out the importance of this collective dimension of their learning process. It is thanks to the group that they kept up studying all along their training period (about eight months) : they were boosted by a collective dynamic to enhance their individual performance (through both competition and cooperation to solve the problems) and felt supported on their long run effort (they didn’t give up in a weak moment because they felt part of a learning team).
It therefore appears that the construction of this workgroup is based on interactions between its members : the more learners, teachers and artifacts interacts, the more the learning group becomes effective and efficient.
(1) : I used Kurt Lewin’s analysis of group dynamics but also more recent articles such as Cheng C.Y. and al. “The effects of Team-based learning on learning behaviors in the maternal-child nursing course”, in Nurse education today (2013) and Yu-Ling Lin and al. “The values of college students in business simulation game: a means-end chain approach” in Computers & Education (2011)