Overview of the Model
Since collaborative learning is an outcome of cooperative learning, learning cubes is a product of both teaching strategies. Learning cubes is another name for peer learning and teaching, peer tutoring or team learning. The major difference between these learning strategies and leaning cubes is who is delivering and the amount of information delivered to the student at one time. With learning cubes one student will take responsibility for a certain prescribed amount of information and teach it to a small assigned group of students. This prescribed amount of Information disseminated by the group will be small, challenging, and productive. Prescribed information can be layered assignment to assignment allowing connections of previous taught material to be made while threading new ideas or skills to be learned from the group. Group size for the learning cube is usually small between two or three students. This size increases effective interaction between students while extending the learning process. Some positive interdependence is built in to the experience so that members need one another to accomplish common goals of constructing knowledge. Learning cube, team learning, and peer tutoring works best for some students and it may not work well for all but in most cases students increase learning while not hindering the learning of others (McKeachie, 2002, Larson, 1984). Students become active partners in the learning process and may learn effectively from interacting with their peers. Instructors may need to spend more of their time in the role of facilitator, organizing students, managing students, and helping students work together effectively.
Within a faculty development classroom, nine newly hired McLennan Community College (MCC) educators participated in an online collaborative project-based assignment. This faculty development was mandatory for all newly hired instructors. The educators taught in various fields of study (nursing, construction, music, business, art, psychology, English, science, and math). All educators were given two preliminary workshops using Blackboard, the e-learning course management system software. The workshops provided basic knowledge of navigation skills needed to effectively complete the assignment. After completion of the workshops, the teachers (students) were randomly assigned into groups of three making a total of three groups.
As students, the instructors were given two weeks to complete the assignment. As learners via the web, the instructors could interact with one another from different geographical locations either in synchronous (real time) or asynchronous (delayed) mode via text-based communication for the purpose of dialogue. They also had the option of working as a group within a classroom setting to implement the tasks of the assignment. Each group elected a person who would become the teacher for the group. Each activity covered small amounts of content, which could be covered successfully within a few minutes. All members of the group had to complete the activities assigned. For assessment purposes, students were required to demonstrate newly learned skills in two pieces of work:
after learning how to create a web page from a Word document, each student must create a HTML document reflecting the pros and cons of cooperative learning, and another HTML document reflecting upon items given on their pre-survey.
Within Blackboard the interface structure was designed for ease of use. There were eight categories of interactive buttons designed on the left side of each web page. The categories were in the following order: Announcements – this category welcomed students online, reinforced what the emphasis of the activity is about, gave minor reminders about the use of Blackboard and the assignment, allowed students to take a pre-survey, and gave day and times the assignment help desk could be accessed for technical support. Course Information – this category gave clear and precise responsibilities for the groups teachers and students Course Documents – this category gave clear and precise instructions for downloading a digital streamed video movie. Students had the option of printing the instructions or reading them from the website. Assignments – this category allowed students to take a pre-survey, study a streamed movie, apply new knowledge learned to a simple activity, and teach this new knowledge to the group Books – this category gave references as books and websites about cooperative, collaborative, and team learning