Solving problems collaboratively online : experiences of Australian and Chinese heritage university students
Smith, Peter, Smith, S. N., Coldwell, Jo and Murphy, Karen 2005, Solving problems collaboratively online : experiences of Australian and Chinese heritage university students, in WCCE 2005 : 8th IFIP world conference on computers in education, Emerald, Bradford, England, pp. 1-8.
International Federation for Information Processing World Conference on Computers in Education
Place of publication
The research reported in this paper is part of a larger project designed to compare the online collaborative learning behaviours of Chinese Heritage Culture (CHC) university students, for whom a Chinese dialect is a first language, with Australian university students of European descent, and for whom English is a first language. The collaborative learning discussion focussed on in the research involved fellow students, rather than tutorial staff, facilitating those discussions.
The first component of the research was quantitative, comprising a questionnaire on readiness for online learning, and a quantitative analysis of student postings to a student-led collaborative problem solving task conducted online. The first component of the research (reported in Smith et at, 2005) showed no differences between the two groups in their willingness to self-manage their own learning, but did show that the CHC students were significantly less comfortable than the Australian students with online learning. Student postings to the online discussions were classified into organisational postings, social postings, and intellectual. There were substantial differences between the two groups in their patterns of online postings among those classifications, as well as differences in the length of postings made.
This paper will explore these findings in more detail through qualitative data generated through interviews with a subset of students from each group. Interview data provided further insight into the lesser comfort with e-learning among CHC students. Students from both groups felt there were inefficiencies in the online discussion, but CHC students also felt rather marginalised by the process. Australian students were more likely to evaluate the experience in terms of its capacity to achieve required learning outcomes in a time efficient way, while CHC students expressed more concern about how the process had impacted upon them personally. The interview data also indicated that a tutor sensitive to cultural difference is important for comfort among the CHC students in particular, since there is need for encouragement to those students to make reflective inputs to the discussion.
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