We offered an experimental graduate course built around a World Wide Web-based collaborative learning experience; five graduate students participated. The World Wide Web served as the primary platform on which knowledge was compiled, shared, and synthesized. We built a WWW-based annotated bibliography and synthesized information from several disciplines. Net Forum-based discussions included student responses to questions posed by the instructors and by other students. The Web was valued most as a tool for information dispersal. As a result, students learned more from their peers than they had in other courses. However, students found brainstorming and "conversation" using Net Forum, a list server, and electronic mail cumbersome and intimidating. Participants noted a need for personal contact to develop the sense of community critical to fruitful collaboration. Complex issues were brought to closure in several face-to-face meetings. In future offerings, we envision an extended course that begins with community-building meetings (live or video) before migrating to intense WEb-based collaboration. We will use the Web's text and image capabilities for sharing complex information over long distances and time periods, and we will downplay the expectation of immediate response and focus instead on considered response. We will use Web-based conferencing technology for brainstorming and real-time interaction among participants. Institutions may have to increase flexibility in the timing and structure of courses to facilitate inter-institutional offerings.
Hess, George; Abt, Robert; and Serow, Robert
"Reshaping expectations for web-based collaborative learning,"
Natural Resources and Environmental Issues:
Vol. 7, Article 17.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/nrei/vol7/iss1/17