A tale of two evaluations: Better practice for learning collaboratively online

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Research and Development in Higher Education: Learning for an Unknown Future Vol. 26

July, 2003, 692 pages
Published by
Helen Mathews and Rod McKay
0 90 8557 55 8

Learning for an unknown future requires not only the development of new knowledge in emerging domains but also the capabilities for participating in knowledge creation and knowledge sharing processes. Collaborative learning, especially as supported by proliferating web-based technologies, offers students now the opportunity to learn for unknown futures as well as to develop these capabilities for collectively creating new futures. Nevertheless, online environments that employ collaborative learning in electronically-mediated discussion forums may not necessarily be facilitating the development of such requisite knowledge and capabilities. How do we currently evaluate whether social interactions taking place within these electronic spaces are productive of collaborative learning? For what purposes? Indeed, who cares? This paper argues that much of the evaluation of online collaborative learning (OCL) has been implicit, and that what are now required are rigorous theoretical frameworks to guide better OCL evaluation practice. To advance this argument, two approaches to OCL evaluation of an undergraduate management subject are contrasted: one from analysis of students’ perceptions, another from linguistic analysis employing a theoretical framework that draws on Habermas’ Theory of Communicative Action. The intention of this roundtable paper is to raise questions concerning the ways in which online collaborative learning are evaluated. For arguably, the conceptualisation, design and facilitation of successful collaborative learning will not only prepare students for an unknown future in the information age; it may also develop capabilities in knowledge creation and knowledge sharing that will make known those futures.

Keywords: web-based learning; communicative practices; evaluation

A tale of two evaluations: Better practice for learning collaboratively online

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Treleaven, L.