Roles, Culture, and Computer Supported Collaborative Work on Planet Oit

L. Brandt, O. Borchert, K. Addicott, B. Cosmano, J. Hawley, G. Hokanson, D. Reetz, B. Saini-Eidukat, D.P. Schwert, B.M. Slator, S. Tomac (USA)

Keywords

Collaborative Learning, RoleBased Learning, Interactive Learning Environments, Advanced Teaching and Learning Technologies, New Learning and Teaching Theories, Culture and Learning.

Abstract

The Geology Explorer is a multi-user geologic simulation created by North Dakota State University’s World Wide Web Instructional Committee (WWWIC). Students act in role-based authentic scenarios within a virtual cultural context to explore the mythical Planet Oit. Students explore geologic concepts, such as rock and mineral identification and landform creation and, through these experiences, learn various disciplinary approaches to the geological sciences. Until recently, cooperation between online explorers was limited to informal groups of students in close physical proximity. Advances in the Geology Explorer software has resulted in an expanded learning potential by developing a framework for group interaction and cooperation. Students now are able to form groups, chat with others online, leave notes for offline participants, and engage in other important organizational tasks that formerly were available only through close proximity or out-of-band communication, such as e-mail. Now, students can interact with one another within the virtual space, using roles to create a virtual learning culture heuristically separate from the classroom. These changes to the Geology Explorer software provide both organizational and pedagogical benefits. A recent pilot study gave an indication how effective group learning can be – 347 geology students participated. A small group of 38 students split into 19 groups-of-two and used a new group interface, with the rest of the students using the old individualized approach. A number of differences are noted, leading to new research questions and future studies.

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