Deakin University

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Exploring the social aspects of student collaboration in online learning

conference contribution
posted on 2023-08-25, 05:30 authored by Shahed Kamal, Margaret Bearman, Joanna Tai, Brandi FoxBrandi Fox
Social interaction is seen as a key tenet of constructivist approaches to learning. There is a significant body of literature looking into online collaboration for learning, however less is known about how students experience collaboration more broadly. Understanding student experience may help to understand ways of ensuring online collaboration is successful. This student-led study aimed to explore what can be learnt from student perspectives of online collaboration. This study is embedded in a larger research program surrounding a 2019 course renewal project. Ten undergraduate law students were interviewed as part of the overall study but with additional semi-structured questions regarding collaboration. Participants were enrolled in a mix of online and blended units. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and thematically analysed. Four themes were interpreted: 1) pre-existing social relationships facilitate online collaboration; 2) social media platforms enable interpersonal interaction and, as a result, online collaboration; 3) university-provided platforms lacked social elements of collaboration; and 4) face-to-face collaboration appears frictionless compared to online only collaboration. This study indicates the value of exploring collaboration as a broad social phenomenon rather than one purely focussed on educational designs that promote collaboration. Results suggest a considerable interaction between the interpersonal (friend focus) and study (learning focus). In the online space, collaboration was mediated by pre-existing embodied relationships and social media forums. There was a sense that social media activity would be difficult to mandate. This raises challenges, including how to manage equity issues around access to informal platforms; and how to incorporate into learning environments technologies that are experienced as ‘frictionless’ (i.e., easy and achievable without thought) and which appear to promote collaboration.




Title of proceedings

ASCILITE 2021: Back to the Future – ASCILITE ‘21 Proceedings ASCILITE 2021 in Armidale


ASCILITE 2021: Back to the Future – ASCILITE ‘21


University of New England, Armidale

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