The Right Tool for the Right Job: The Influence of Technology and Virtual Group Dynamics on Collaborative Learning
Studies of virtual team learning in the field of Education have been from early adopters and have a tendency to be anecdotal and often concentrate on the technology rather than the process of learning. (Pilkington et al. 2000; Russell, 2000).
Although, virtual learning environments (VLEs) have been associated with developing higher levels of learning by, promotion of reflection and discussion through online communication tools and fostering self-study. (Russell, 2000, Goldberg, 1997), Mason, (1998) argues, “…online courses are driving pedagogical evolution in higher education, generally, because of the rush to digitize, virtualize and globalize the campus”. Simpson shares these concerns, by arguing that it is academic and student interaction that create a true VLE (Simpson, 2001). She asserts that academia has been over-eager to adopt and implement VLEs, and prophesises that it will produce virtual environments rich in content and tools but lacking learning.”
This study investigates the impact of virtual team work, on learning where students studying at a large University, study in a VLE to develop conceptual understanding of a specified topic. It investigates the learning experiences, inquires into how students conduct their learning within a virtual learning team (VLT) and comments on the process of learning through VLTs, collaboration, communication, online engagement and reflection. It concludes by highlighting lessons learnt from selecting appropriate virtual communication tools and offers strategies for educators to employ virtual collaborative team work in the future.
Keywords: Virtual Learning Teams, Group Dynamics, ICT, e-Learning
Lecturer ICT in Education, Faculty of Education, La Trobe University