Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Comment on "Relative Effectiveness of Computer-based and Human Feedback for Enhancing Student Learning"

Relative Effectiveness of Computer-based and Human Feedback for Enhancing Student Learning by B. Jean Mandernach, Park University.

The author noted that:
There are two primary avenues for this type of feedback: interactions with online instructors and computer-based feedback automatically generated by online assessment programs.

Well, there is at least a third type of avenues for obtaining feedback and enhance the online learners knowledge of the course material - peer-to-peer evaluation.

The author's study has shown that:
The purpose of this study is to examine the educational impact of presenting various levels of computer-based, online feedback (no-feedback, knowledge-of-response, knowledge-of-correct-response, topic-contingent, and response-contingent) either alone or paired with human interaction in an independent, mastery learning environment. Results indicate that student learning is enhanced by human interaction but is not influenced by the various types of computer-based feedback. Although the type of computer-based feedback does not impact student learning, students report distinct preferences for knowledge-of-response and response-contingent computer-based feedback.

I have read a lot of other studies - all point to the same result. Learning is enhanced by human interaction, not computer-based canned feedback system. In this new world of learning, we should now begin to take a more "student-centred" view. Feedback need not, and should not, come from the teacher alone. Peer learners is a great source of support, both evaluative and otherwise. Don't waste this value resource and pedagogical opportunity.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Email games

Thiagi's website is a treasure chest for asynchronous collaborative learning activities. Here are two freebies example: 101 tips and Depolarizer.

In Depolarizer, templates are available on the website to run the game. The main pedagogical device used in this activity is based on the activation of the player's experience. The procedure is one thing - given in the game. The content provided by the moderator is the topic, e.g. "The Future of Web-based training". The rest of the content are generated by the players. That's a very clever approach.

Friday, February 04, 2005

A game called "who am I"

This is a familiar game in ice-breaking situations. Here is a version adapted to classroom use from CanTeach:
  • Before doing this lesson, label the index cards according to whatever subject you are using them for:
    Socials- historical figures, time-periods, places, geography terms and features, places,...
    Science- scientists, inventors, chemicals, rocks, planets, plants, animals, ...
    Language Arts- authors, parts of speech, punctuation marks,...
    Fine Arts- artists, musicians, instruments, works of art,...

  • The point of the game is for students to figure out who/what they are, based on answers to questions they pose to their classmates.

  • Tape a different card on each student's back.

  • Students wander around asking classmates yes/no questions about who/what they are.

  • Whoever guesses who/what they are first, wins.

  • The acolla version of this game may be something like this.
  • Each player is assigned an object.

  • Each player gets a list of all the objects assigned to other players - except his own.

  • At the odd number rounds, player asks each other (via discussion forum) yes/no questions.

  • At the even number rounds, player answers questions posted to them.

  • Whoever guesses who/what they are first, wins.

  • This game and set up illustrate what I referred to as using "human intelligence" to process open responses in yesterday's post. The player asks each other yes/no question is a type of open response to the game. Devising an AI module to handle this kind of questions is very difficult. By asking other players to response, we achieve two objectives at the same time:
    1. provide a mechanism for feedback
    2. the questions are examples which they can be used to devise questions to solve their own problem.

    Thursday, February 03, 2005

    Tecnology supported cooperative learning

    This is a relatively old newsletter from David W. Johnson, Roger T. Johnson (2 of the greatest names in this field) and Edythe Holubec.

    The first point they made is to urge us to abandon the "Individual Assumption". They wrote:
    The individual assumption is that instruction should be tailored to each student's personal aptitude, learning style, personality characteristics, motivation, and needs. Computers were originally viewed as an important tool for providing individualized learning experiences. The attempts to individualize instruction through technology clarified that so much variation exists in learning styles and personality traits and so little agreement exists on how to translate differences in learning styles and personal traits into instructional prescriptions that attempting to do so is exorbitantly time consuming and expensive (requiring considerable development and hardware costs). Even if it were possible it individualize, working alone limits the resources available to learn and the isolation tends to result in boredom, frustration, anxiety, and the perception that learning is impersonal.

    I agree whole-heartedly to their argument. To provide a complete individualised program for "solo" learning, we have to exhaust all possible potential responses from the learners and cater for each and everyone of them in different combinations. Take a very simple example. If we are to provide feedback to students based on their answers to three simple multiple choice items (each with 4 possible choices), we would have to provide a set of feedback to cater for 4x4x4 possibilities (64 in this case). If we allow customising items based on the answers to previous items, the feedback "space" will be much bigger.

    I have long given up on this. Rather I prefer to depend on peer to peer feedback - collaboration/co-operation.

    I also do not like the idea of providing a closed choice learning environment (i.e. a learning environment where all the possible responses are anticipated by the designer and learners are basically faced with a glorified multiple choice). I prefer open answer learning environment where learners provide response using their own words and imagination. The mental activities between picking a choice out of a few and making up a response are qualitatively different, the latter being much more valuable in real life situations. Unfortunately, up to now, computers are still not very good in processing open responses although some exciting development is taking place. The solution to this problem, ironically, is based on providing "human intelligence" rather than "artificial intelligence".

    They continue to suggest that
    There are two ways that technology-supported cooperative learning may be used: (a) cooperation around computers and (b) cooperation through computers.

    Cooperation around computers can be based on software that is designed originally for solo use, but we introduce creative learning strategies to let groups of learner to learn around the software.

    Cooperation through computers assume the computers are connected and they become a tool for learners to reach out to a wider world than they normally can. This is where collaboration tools come in. Today, we see a great many such tools. One I routinely use is Skype ( which allows me to talk to anyone who is also on the Skype network free. Based in Melbourne, Australia, I am able to work with my US customers continuously throughout their whole working hours via Skype. Without it, the exuberant price of Australian telecommunications will have sent me bankrupt :-) .

    I still hold the view that collaboration tools are great by themselves. For effective learning, we need to have clear protocols (or structure) so that learners can work efficiently and effectively. The distinction between co-operative learning and collaborative learning, to me, lies in how such protocols were negotiated and formed.

    Tuesday, February 01, 2005

    Collaborative verse Co-operative Learning

    Ted Panitz's (1996) article attempts to distinguish "between collaborative and cooperative learning definitions."

    He wrote:
    Collaboration is a philosophy of interaction and personal lifestyle whereas cooperation is a structure of interaction designed to facilitate the accomplishment of an end product or goal.

    To clarify, he wrote:
    Collaborative learning is a personal philosophy, not just a classroom technique. In all situations where people come together in groups, it suggests a way of dealing with people which respects and highlights individual group members' abilities and contributions. There is a sharing of authority and acceptance of responsibility among group members for the groups actions. The underlying premise of collaborative learning is based upon consensus building through cooperation by group members, in contrast to competition in which individuals best other group members. CL practitioners apply this philosophy in the classroom, at committee meetings, with community groups, within their families and generally as a way of living with and dealing with other people.


    Cooperative learning is defined by a set of processes which help people interact together in order to accomplish a specific goal or develop an end product which is usually content specific. It is more directive than a collaborative system of governance and closely controlled by the teacher. While there are many mechanisms for group analysis and introspection the fundamental approach is teacher centred whereas collaborative learning is more student centred.

    I guess this website is more about co-operative learning than collaborative learning according to Ted.

    I am not interested in this philosophical question. You may call this website co-operative learning if you like. My main interest here is to understand how asynchronous technology may be used to promote learning (co-operative or collaborative or both).