Matthew Olson

Dissertation Study - Examining Collaborative Real-world Application Activities in Online Environments: Implications for Design

This project, informed by social constructivist thought, focuses on the design of learning activities which require students to collaborate on real-world applications of course content in online courses.

Due to the current lack of research on the development process of these increasingly popular online activities, I used a qualitative, multiple case study methodology. Investigating three cases of online learning activities in three different courses, I explored the process of how professors design collaborative real-world application activities for online environments, focusing on the relationship between design decisions and activity outcomes.

Through this study I identified a set of critical decision points for faculty designing collaborative real-world application activities, and provided insights into effective management techniques promoting quality in online groups, including important emerging group roles and useful metaphors for faculty participation. Critical decision points in the design included: (1) the timing and duration of the activity; (2) the amount of structure provided to students; (3) the grouping strategies employed by professors; (4) the nature of the instructional problem posed to students; and (5) the ways in which group work was graded.

Effective management techniques for collaborative real world application activities in online environments include: (1) identification of an effective metaphor for the instructional role; (2) leveraging the emerging group roles of student leader and student technical support; (3) recognition and support for extended collaboration among students; (4) and acknowledgement of individual student routines and multiple overlapping calendars when planning group work.

Click here for the PDF version of the unpublished dissertation.

Last Modified: 6/10/16