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Learning Cubes: A Model for Online Education - page 5 / 7





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the watching of the streamed tutorial movie, and the engagement of making a HTML document from within a Word document. Positive comments stated, “I was actively engaged using the presentation,” “I enjoyed the movie. This was a well organized and executed demonstration and course set-up,” “I was actively engaged by creating my own web page,” “with cooperation from colleagues, I created a web page,” “I learned more about my ability to use Blackboard.” Some faculty did not feel actively engaged and commented, “not user friendly,” “just confused about how to get in,” “the topic was not something I understood,” “I had to cooperate . . . I think.”

Instructors also commented on what aspect of the project-based assignment would they immediately incorporate into their teaching. Most commented positively. One faculty group member stated, “I now know what it is like to be a student of on online class. I think I will focus on preparing supplemental materials for my online site to accommodate my students,” another instructor said, “I hope to begin using the web to post my musical rehearsal assignments, etc,” “I will attempt to use more cooperative learning,” “in class, I would like to try more group searches for information, maybe using my own web page,” I’m currently working on a Blackboard presentation.” From the instructor comments it was clear that not all perceived working in learning cubes to be valuable. Some inexperienced users did not have enough time to work with the software program Blackboard. While other groups did not have enough members experienced to work with technology. One instructor commented, “I just couldn’t figure it out to immediately incorporate it into my teaching.” Others stated that they would not attempt to incorporate this assignment into their teaching methods.

Instructors also commented on what was missing that would make this project-based assignment more valuable to them. One instructor commented, “perhaps a little more detail on the value of cooperative and its integration to be used in web pages.” Two instructors said, “I would have liked to learn this from a traditional classroom setting.” While most instructors commented that nothing really stood out, a few still had problems following directions or working with the methodology. These instructors commented, “a little hard following instructions,” “this was very time consuming,” finally, “it was too hard to get into this.”

Pedagogical Issues

Cooperative or active learning methods may not be appropriate for every institutional setting (e.g., part time students working full time). For new teachers beginning to implement cooperative strategies, the idea of using students’ as instructors teaching small amounts of information may be somewhat intimidating. If you are teaching specific content or cognitive processing, each session must facilitate an environment conducive to collaboration. For learning cubes, team learning, peer tutoring to work, the groups and the content delivered must be small and effective. Further, the team project or assignment must be challenging enough to insist teamwork. Groups need to feel that they are reliant upon one another in order to be successful. Members will be more likely to appreciate each other's unique contributions if reliance is a factor. Besides, challenging assignments replicate real world situations and help prepare students to be productive life-long learners.

To have effective group members, instructors should provide guidance for students on how to work successfully in collaborative teams. The social characteristic of successful teams should be clearly taught and not assumed. Successful teams will have certain member qualities. Among those sought-after qualities are an interest in other team members beyond the task at hand, the capacity to clarify and commit to goals, an open and honest evaluation of team performance, an understanding of others' perspectives, a wish to confront conflict positively, a commitment to make decisions inclusively, the valuing of individual differences, a willingness to freely contribute ideas and encourage that in other team members (Robbins & Finley, 1995). Teachers can only do so much to facilitate worthwhile collaborative rich learning experiences. In short, group members play an important part in the success of the assignment. From the group’s perspective, clear and distinct roles for each member can aid in the groups communications. Among group members, a clear understanding of assignments and work responsibilities can make task management easier for each student. Assignment responsibilities are directly related according to each group member’s role. Tasks and authority in the given areas of responsibility must be well defined. Individual team members may be given more decision- making authority in their various areas of expertise.

The key to collaboration is communication. The spirit of project-based, online collaborative learning is communication because positive group structure and learning occur through on-going discussion (Kemery, 2000). Asynchronous communications can be employed for much of the collaborative effort, through email with attachments and private forums. In addition, synchronous private chat rooms can be used successfully to

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