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Advantages of Collaborative Learning in Online Study Groups

Questions:

Discuss how your experiences as a consumer, produce and sharer of information in the online world have assisted you in developing 21st Century skills and provide examples that demonstrate this. 


Discuss how the development of an informational resource, or your work in the discussion board, has helped you understand how to evaluate the credibility of online sources in an academic environment. 


Identify some of the advantages and limitations of working collaboratively in an online community and reflect on how you might exploit advantages and overcome the limitations. 
 

From the times of learning so much through books, we have certainly moved to a collaborative approach. The approach of Collaborative learning in online study groups has become a great trend. It has been see that studying online in groups and adopting such pedagogies have been the way out. Most importantly the increasing number of online courses are using an instructional approach of choice and have various kinds of forums and much more which actually makes it worth the learning and knowledge with fun of interacting with others. But we actually then move onto the side of the fact that how actually the assessment of this approach is there. What are the various advantages and disadvantages of learning online.  The benefits of this kind of collaboration in learning has actually been establishing with various kinds of theories. Primarily one of the social theories is Social Constructivism (Vygotsky, 1978) and Connectivism theory (Siemens, 2005).

Many researchers have demonstrated that the learning tends to be quite good and effective if students are working in collaboration and much more. Moreover the opportunity to express themselves and discuss the challenges of their work, ideas and various thoughts makes all the difference. Also this all provides a group solution to all if this. (Johnson & Johnson, 1989).

Brindley, Walti, & Blaschke, 2009 have clearly mentioned that when learning in group, it helps you build your stance, your critical thinking skills and the coconstruction of their concepts and knowledge.

Even Moller (1998) has also observed that the groups which have been always found to outperform the individual members. Moreover when they have a sort of learning community, they always perform better when the higher-order thinking activities such as problem solving and critical thinking are considered.

The online collaboration in small groups has been known to actually be very advantageous for the students to learn and get recognition at the same time. This has been even particularly recognized by students in terms of appreciation and having many merits attached to it. As both advantageous and appreciated by students.  Gayatan & McEwen, 2007 have even mentioned that to actually correct the concepts and having a quicker decision making, smaller groups on many sorts of online forums does help students to learn faster with more accuracy and comfort.

It has even been said that in smaller groups or even the bigger ones, equal contribution is possible if the same is managed properly. (Finegold & Cooke, 2006). Springer, Stanne, and Donovan (2009) had researched on the same issue and have quoted that not only it provides them with a better learning experience but even greater academic achievement. With tons of activities and loads more in academic institutions these days, it's not possible for the students to manage everything in the class time only. Thus the comfort and forums online help them a lot to deal with projects and other assignments. (Brindley et al., 2009)

Disadvantages of Collaborative Learning in Online Study Groups

But on the other side it has equal amount of disadvantages attached to it. The formation of online groups can be any format and thus online learning might not provide anything.
If we move ahead with the online MOOCs, the learning is altogether different and so is the learning experience. The online courses have tons of material uploaded and there might not be an availability of the professor or the tutor always. Thus this might always have the student is many dilemmas. Dilemmas of how to study and even the examination and evaluation. Thus online learning if done with the proper availability of everyone- with constant discussion on the forums- then only it can actually build up the critical thinking skills and also the problem solving ability of the student.

Dealing with many difficulties, students on online course learning platforms are not known to each other. And thus when it’s the time to learn together, there might be a lot of hesitation in the same.

No knowledge of each other's prior knowledge and backgrounds, it sometimes not useful when groups are made and learning process needs to be initiated.

Thus this all is far from enough knowledge, learning’s of skills and loads more. (Roberts & McInnerney, 2007).

In the last two decades, Internet has become such a phenomenon that has actually integrated our lives with such indispensability. It has become a tool for information, knowledge and communication (Fallows, 2005).

The plethora which is available out there is so wide and to actually dig out a lot of the needed one is not an easy task. Moreover the reliance of all us on the Internet is immense but the issue is of the credibility of the sources and the Information which is there on line.
Reliance is there but the reliance should be on the matter of the actual reliable information. The information seekers actually have a lot of concern on the same. From students, academicians and researchers, we have many to actually seek information which can be quoted i.e., from credible sources available online.

I being involved in a lot of the same activities, eyebrows do rise when the information is there but no credibility to the same. The issue of how to actually assess the same is not very easy. (Hovland, Janis, & Kelley, 1953).

Research has found that the concept of credibility is a multifaceted concept. This has two primary dimensions: expertise and trustworthiness.

There can be even other secondary factors which do affect credibility of the perceptions as well even including that how attractive is the source and dynamism(O’Keefe, 2002). 

This needs to be actually understood that the credibility of a source is dependent on many kind of subjective perceptions (Freeman & Spyridakis, 2004). The recent concerns about the credibility are actually because of so much off internet and digitization technologies.
The low cost and ease and increase in access to information has resulted into the sources being so many and all have information which makes it impossible for the information seeker to judge the sources. 
As an Information seeker, the customer, I might be very satisfied with the kinds of sources of information. But the production and dissemination of the same might not fulfill my aim. Moreover as a producer, if I also upload any kind of information without thinking or citing sources or methodology, it might create an even bigger ruckus on the issue of credibility of the online resources for learning and lots more.

Challenges of Online Learning

It has come to a level that now more information is available from so many more sources and is very easily accessible. In the past there was some kind of issues that without proper authority, not anybody could upload or even disseminate information but this paradigm shift has actually given a power to everyone- The power of actually sharing any kind of information in any manner.

Thus again this raises issues of credibility, a problem of the fact that so many Web sites operate without any kind of review or oversight on the kind of information which is being shared.

Unlike the most traditional which is print form of publishing information which is now posted on the Web is nowhere under the filtering through many sorts of professional gatekeepers. 
The absence of protocol and code of conduct for posting information online has even made it difficult for the correct information to be posted online.

The culmination of all this has actually made it so difficult for people to actually look over Internet and critically evaluates information. This is more important than ever because shifting the burden of credibility assessment and quality control to the professional gatekeepers is actually coming up to the individual information seeker ie, the customer. But the person who is sharing needs to even determine the content which is being posted. Thus developing the skills to evaluate Web-based information has become crucial for the users of the Internet. However, many people aren't prepared for this sort of responsibility- the burden of assessing the credibility of online information. 

References

Fallows, D. (2005). Search engine users: Internet searchers are confident, satisfied and trusting—But they are also unaware and naïve. Report for the Pew Internet and American Life Project. 

Hovland, C.I., Janis, I.L., & Kelley, J.J. (1953). Communication and persuasion. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press 

O’Keefe, D.J. (2002). Persuasion: Theory and research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage 

Freeman, K.S., & Spyridakis, J.H. (2004). An examination of factors that affect the credibility of online health information. Technical Communication, 51(2), 239–263. 

Fritch, J.W., & Cromwell, R.L. (2001). Evaluating Internet resources: Identity, affiliation, and cognitive authority in a networked world. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 52(6), 499–507. 

Fritch, J.W., & Cromwell, R.L. (2002). Delving deeper into evaluation: Exploring cognitive authority on the Internet. Reference Services Review, 30(3), 242–254. 

Burbules, N.C. (1998). Rhetorics of the Web: Hyperreading and critical literacy. In I. Snyder (Ed.), Page to screen: Taking literacy into the electronic era (pp. 102–122). London: Routledge. 

Flanagin, A.J., & Metzger, M.J. (2000). Perceptions of Internet information credibility. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 77(3), 515–540. 

Fritch, J.W. (2003). Heuristics, tools, and systems for evaluating Internet information: Helping users assess a tangled Web. Online Information Review, 27(5), 321–327. 

Metzger, M.J., Flanagin, A.J., & Zwarun, L. (2003). Student Internet use, perceptions of information credibility, and verification behavior. Computers & Education, 41, 271–290. 

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 

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