Project Title: Developing A Model for Interactive Collaborative Teaching Over The Internet

 
Principal Investigator
Thomas Treadwell
West Chester University
West Chester, Pennsylvania
Co-Investigators
Donna Ashcraft
Clarion University
Clarion, Pennsylvania
 
Paul Arsenault
West Chester University
West Chester, Pennsylvania
 
Collaborative Faculty
Bob Mittan
Casper College/University of Wyoming
Casper, Wyoming
 
Paul Edmiston
Matrix Magic
Web Design and Knowledge Management
Atlanta, Georgia
 
Adel Barimani
Executive Director of Academic Computing
West Chester University
West Chester, Pennsylvania
 
 
 
 
Submitted to Community of Agile Partners In Education (CAPE)
June 16, 2000



 

Collaborative On-line Research and Learning (CORAL)

On Line + Video-Conferencing = Electronic Collaboration!

Since 1992, a multidisciplinary collaborative task force with members at various universities has been dedicated to creating and testing a model for the integration of technology with collaborative teaching and learning (Treadwell, Leach, Kellar, Lewis & Mittan, 1998). The task force believes that traditional classroom settings, restructured to incorporate technology, should offer more than information exchange and acquisition of knowledge. They provide places where students have the opportunity to be learners actively working together on a specific learning objective. Therefore, this model has used the Internet as a collaborative tool connecting university-level students in varied disciplines and at distant sites.

Although course content differs, psychology students at West Chester University and Clarion University of Pennsylvania collaborate on applied research projects, producing final documents synthesizing their work on topics addressed at their respective sites. Peer project guides located at Casper College/University of Wyoming aid students in working through their projects through electronic communication.

Team member's enrolled in the collaborative course used web browsers' to access web-based communication systems. For example, WWWboard and WebBoards were used as discussion boards; a Java-based synchronous talker site; WebCT Whiteboard, Bulletin Boards and SMARTBoards were utilized to exchange files, and Video-Conferencing equipment were used for synchronous visual-audio communication and were accessible at the Clarion and West Chester Universities sites. The Casper College/University of Wyoming site did not have the Video-Conferencing equipment.

This model, designed to integrate technology with collaborative teaching and learning, continually evolves through redesigning the project and course structure and integrating new technologies as they develop. Each semester is, in effect, a new beginning. But regardless of these changes, this model achieves effective teaching and learning focusing on successful collaboration. The collaborative teaching and learning project was supported in part by SMARTBoard TM technology through a grant from the SMARTer Kids Foundation, and a video-conferencing grant from Community for Agile Partners in Education (CAPE).

Before spring semester 2000 the research team met face-to-face at a collaborative conference to hash out the details of on-line communication and video-conferencing. After four intensive days the collaborative team redesigned the collaborative course to reflect goals we considered attainable with advanced college students. In brief, the students had to develop a research proposal on gender differences, effects of gender, or perceptions of gender. To get students familiar with the collaborative process, which we defined "collaboration as `working with' or `working together.' But communication, in all its many shapes, is also integral to collaboration . . . because communication is almost never not collaborative" (Brown, S., Mittan, R., and Roen, D. 1997). Thus, we applied the Tangram Exercise, an ancient Chinese puzzle, in which group members rearrange the seven forms to reproduce as many images as they could. These images are either geometric in nature or patterned after a familiar object. It is not as easy as it first appears. We found this to be an excellent exercise in developing skills for working together as a group. Group members have to note the whole from its randomly scattered parts developing the primary components of working together coupled with developing a sense of group cohesion necessary for this collaborative project. In addition, teams were required to create ' team logos' and 'team names' to amplify their sense of a collaborative group identity.

Collaboration is continuously observed and measured using the following scales: Sociometric Inventory, Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire for Teams, Group Cohesion Scale, and the Collaborative Communication Scale. Instruments were administered during the 14th week of the semester. We were looked at transformational and transactional leadership styles within the collaborative environment. We predicted that the transformational style is best suited for the collaborative courses.

Transformational relationships develop between leaders and subordinates to work toward goals that transcend individual needs and toward organizational visions. Subordinates are encouraged to meet self-actualization needs using self-reinforcement as the basis of control. Transactional leaders on the other hand, may have had experience working toward the organization's shorter term performance goals or may have had more exposure to transactional, rather than transformational role models (Wofford & Goodwin,1994).

Results suggest that cohesion for two of the groups were significant indicating that the distant groups integrated and were able to work as one group. One group had difficulty in this area and showed a trend toward cohesion. The same is true for collaborative efforts, two teams did extremely well and one evidenced a collaborative trend. Overall, one sees two highly cohesive and collaborative groups. In addition, these two groups were highly transformational supporting the collaborative idea.

One group (Psyclones) evidenced transactional behavior, suggesting that the task be completed at any cost, displayed lower scores on cohesion as a group, and unsatisfied with their collaborative results. However, this transactional group was significantly high on extra effort into making the project successful and low on satisfaction and effectiveness as a team. Transactional and transformational leadership are two ways in which leadership roles can be approached.

A second group (Jigsaws) although cohesive and collaborative as a team, performed as a transformational team, but were unsatisfied with their final product, felt minimally effective, yet evidenced extra effort into getting the project completed.

The third group (Diamonds) were very cohesive and collaborative as a transformational team, were very satisfied with the their final product, evidenced significant extra effort, and felt very effective in achieving their collaborative objectives. In brief, this group was the most transformational.

Sociometrically we used seven questions to measure collaboration, site leaders, transformational leadership, and clarification of the collaborative process and are reporting four for each team.

 
Key:
Purple = Site 1
Blue = Site 2
Black = Project Guide

Team 1 (transactional) shows one major leader - number 6. Others view this person as the peacemaker, showing minimal interaction with other team members, and very little integration of team members from both sites.

The next configuration measures site leaders. One sees mutual communication between site members number 6 and 2. There is minimal interaction and sub-grouping suggesting the transformational style.

 

 

The next configuration gives us a clear idea of the team communication pattern. The transactional leaders do discuss matters with others, yet they stay completely on task -- get the job done! There is minimal sub grouping suggesting that members rely on their transactional leader to get the job done.

This configuration is very interesting. There is a switch at one site regarding ability to clarify collaborative process. Person 6 stays in the clarifying position and person 1is most helpful in clarifying at the distant site the collaborative process. In addition, person 10 is the project guide and has significant influence upon clarification of purpose.

  

 

 

 This graph shows that team 1 put extreme effort into getting the project done, yet were not satisfied with the final product and felt they were not effective as a collaborative team. Nonetheless, the job got done which is typical transactional behavior.

 

 

Team 2 (transformational) one sees a different configuration -- there are more interactions between the sites. There are three major persons that keep this team moving in a collaborative manner, persons 1, 2, 7 & 8, showing evidence of their division of labor. If difficulty emerges, there are 4 persons the team members turn.

 

The following configuration confirms the idea that there are shared responsibilities at each site and not one site leader. Persons' 2, 7, 8, and 1 appear to be the decision-makers for the team.

 This shows how transformational leadership in its embryonic stage. Decision-making is mainly between persons 1 & 7. There is sub grouping with person 7 and 8 and 3,4, &5.

 

  

As this graph shows there are transformational leaders coupled with various sub-groups that are pulling the team away from its goal. Persons keeping the team organized are 1, 7 and 8. One might note that number 9 isolated self from the team.

 

This graph shows how unsatisfied they were with their final project. They put extra effort into collaborating yet were unable to reach their expected level of achievement. This is a good example of 'attempting to collaborate'. They never gave up and if it wasn't for video-conferencing our hunch is that this team would have scattered to work independently.

 Team 3 (transformational) and the configuration changes with this group showing site problem solvers, persons 2 and 6 (and # 10 are 'self selection'). This is somewhat common in a highly transformational group -- they tend to select themselves to secure that the job gets done. In addition, one sees many interactions between the two sites.

 

 

Identifying the site leaders. In this group they depend on each other for decisions and there are 4 persons that team members rely heavily on, persons 2, 8, 6, & 7. Back up persons are 5, 3, and 4.

 

The following graph shows transformational leadership style. There is not one outstanding leader - much is collaborative leadership between persons 8, 6, 3, 2 & 7. In brief, mostly all members are selected at some level.

 

 

This graph shows how transformational the team was. They were very effective, satisfied, and put much effort into the collaborative project.

  

 

Discussion

Video-conferencing had a positive effect upon the collaborative participation of team members. Overall collaborative effort, satisfaction, and effectiveness are high for all three teams as shown in the figures below.

 

 

Specific Items measuring video-conferencing collaboration are shown below. Item one was extremely interesting indicating that face-to-face collaboration was effective. Item 1 measured video-conferencing collaboration using a negative question: "The lack of face-to-face communication has been difficult for me" suggested students were having difficulty communicating in an unfamiliar format. This was expected and predicts it will decrease in future collaborative projects. Items 2-10 measured the satisfaction with using the new technology (including Java based chat room, WebCT, SMARTBoards) that teams members discussed with teammates via videoconference. Items 11 and 12 measured the how well the Project Guides worked with teams.

In summary, the initial videoconference project was quite successful as the data suggest. Students' had a difficult time adjusting to the technological communication pattern and preferred face-to-face contact. Video-conferencing certainly helped to decrease this need to a great extent. We ran into many technical problems in connecting the two sites and there was one videoconference that had to be canceled due to this problem. It must be stated that the students' were upset, yet when we rescheduled the video-conference three days later they were all there. That does say quite a bit about the student interest in this project. In addition, it must be stated that all videoconferences were above and beyond what our students expected from the collaborative course. They had to give up their time for each videoconference. We also feel that the technical support was not at its best at one site and treated video-conferencing as a 'secondary' assignment.

There are areas that need attention, such as the Project Guides communicated minimally synchronously and majority of their time was asynchronous (on WebBoards). Videoconference equipment was not available and it is recommended that the project guides join in on the team's videoconference. This is one area the team members felt needed immediate attention. Secondly, the state system of higher education in Pennsylvania has had an ATM backbone installed to all 14 universities. However, to wire from the major hub will cost the project. If this could be done then we have dedicated rooms at both Clarion and West Chester Universities to carry out a more intensive experimental collaborative video-interactive project. In addition, we have two collaborative team members that are not members of CAPE and have put us at somewhat of a disadvantage financially. Our technological support person is located in Georgia and our Project Guide Coordinator is located in Wyoming. We need to bring both of them into the interactive video-conferencing.

References:

Treadwell, T.W., Mittan, R., Leach, E.A., Kellar, H., & Lewis, R.. (1998). Collaborative Teaching and Research Over the Internet. Journal of Management Education, 22, 4 498-508.

Brown, S., Mittan, R., & Roen, D. (1997). The Writers Toolbox. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Wofford, J.C., & Goodwin, V.L. (1998). A field study of a cognitive approach to understanding transformational and transactional leadership. Leadership Quarterly, vol. 9, no. 1, pp 55-85.