Learning Together Virtually

Learning together virtually by Clark & Mayer discussed the effectiveness of collaborative learning in computer-mediated environments. Based on the studies, their recommendations include an online lesson that depends on social interdependence, clear outcomes and objectives, heterogeneous grouping, and quality dialog among members.  From experience I can verify that collaboration can be successfully completed in a virtual environment. I worked on a project virtually at Lee Pesky Learning Center in redeveloping their professional online math course for young learners with the staff and university faculty members. We communicated using a combination of synchronous and asynchronous tools. Most of this was done through emails and once or twice a month using Skype. We used Dropbox to store project documents and files where users could access, review work, and make comments for further modifications. I provided multimedia assistance using Adobe Captivate, PowerPoint, Sony Vegas, and Ableton Live. From my experience, asynchronous chat has been just as effective and possibly a little better than Skype.  The reason being that it’s capable of doing everything that a synchronous chat tool could do. This includes group chat, attachments for visual references, discussion threads, the ability to develop social presence, and the added flexibility of delayed responses, which can be beneficial for people with different schedules.  One drawback that I noticed was that in the discussion threads it could be hard to locate a particular item after the development of many comments. It can more challenging with the presence of several different threads with similar topics. One thing that we did at the beginning of each month was create a new updated to do list to provide a fresh reminder. Having a clear subject for each thread would also be helpful or searching for a different web tool to better handle this task.


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