Web 2.0 affordances to support collaborative learning in higher education
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 00:57 authored by Andreas Utomo Kuswara
Technology plays a significant role in higher education and much emphasis has been given to the technology itself rather more than the effectiveness of its application for learning. Many scholars agree that an effective learning activity should enable learners to think and act upon the object of learning. Furthermore, in a socially-situated learning context, the social negotiation and renegotiation processes are as important as the individual cognitive processes. This importance is further emphasised by the rise of socially-enabled Web 2.0 technologies which connect learners in ways previously not possible. Thus, knowledge no longer just exists in the mind, but also in the discourse and social relationships which bind those individual and socially negotiating minds; and in the artefacts they produce and consume during that discourse. Therefore, there is a constant construction and negotiation between components of a learning activity. All the discussions mentioned above challenge educators to adopt the same technology that has changed students' social interaction, into an effective learning tool. This study offers a practical framework to empower educators in the design and evaluation of technology usage as part of their students' learning. It explores socially situated collaborative learning as an activity system including a community of learners within a specific learning context. The context formed by customs, history, rules, law and roles, influenced the learners as active agents supported by Web 2.0 affordances to produce artefacts and achieve meaningful learning outcomes. Through three case studies in computing and education, the study observed and interviewed students about their use of wikis in different collaborative learning activities; students' expectation and familiarity towards the technology itself; and the interplay between personal perception and group discovery of technology affordances. Although there are many practical findings from the study, and some are not unfamiliar to academics, the study discovered that the process of imparting technology to students in collaborative learning setttings is a two-step process of (1) inspiring the perceptive senses of students, and (2) nurturing group work dynamics within the team to induce an atmosphere that promotes perceived affordance of the tool into practical utilization that benefitted the entire group. This discovery would inform academics in our approach to encourage technology mediated collaboration in our teaching. The study observed that different technical affordances were being used in response to the needs of the collaboration activity being conducted. This confirms the argument which promotes the use of a set of tools rather than a single individual tool to support collaboration needs. Factors such as students' clarity of the tasks and positive expectation of what the tool can do for them based on their past experiences also contributed positively to the perception of the affordances. Contrary to commonly held perceptions that academics have little influence on the way students use technology in their learning, the study indicated that there is a significant role that academics can take, in particular, when influencing perceptions of affordances and scaffolding the experience with technology during the design and teaching stages of a unit. Academics' traditional role, such as nurturing a conducive environment for positive group work dynamics also contributed to this extended role. Although a hands-off approach from the academic can lead towards, accidental success, this study suggested well designed and purposely enacted interventions would lead to better learning outcomes.