A Delphi study on collaborative learning in distance education


Collaborative Learning (CL) is increasingly being used in Distance Education (DE), as it has been identified as an effective solution to known weaknesses such as high average rates of dropout and low quality of learning attainment. Information Technology is a core component of this type of learning as it not only provides the means to collaborate over distance but also has the potential to enable higher learning outcomes. There are a rapidly growing number of technologies in use today and the importance of these to collaborative learning initiatives, and the role they play, is an area of active research in the Information Systems (IS) community. IS educators and practitioners face an increasing challenge therefore to successfully implement CL in DE, precipitated not only from technical advances but also from wider social and organisational concerns. Using a Delphi study, this research is the first to investigate the factors that influence collaborative learning in distance education by surveying the opinions of an expert panel in this area. The aim was to produce an integrated list of the most important implementation factors and to investigate the role technology is perceived to contribute. The findings identified seventeen of the most important factors. These factors cover a range of themes including course rationale and design, instructor characteristics, training, group dynamics, the development of a learning community and technology. The potential of technology however does not seem to be fully realised and newer technologies such as multi-user environments would seem to be of limited use in practice, according to the expert panel.

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