BCM210 Research Proposal: Connected Learning

A 2013 opinion piece in The Australian newspaper titled “students hate group assignments” makes the blanket claim of discontent amongst students when it comes to engaging in group work exercises in university settings.

As a university student I have mixed experiences with group work.  I have encountered positive group work situations where having multiple perspectives and skill sets engaging in a subject enable me to gain a deep understanding of topics and produce high quality projects. Issues have arisen in other group work situations due to the varied objectives and conflicting schedules of group members becoming challenging obstacles. Frustrations arising due to lack group cohesion is another common issue. The most productive group projects I have been involved in are those in which the group manages to overcome such obstacles and communicate fluently. Upon reflection I have noticed that Employing digital media technologies such as Google Docs and Facebook to share ideas and collaborate has been a major contributor to my positive group work experiences. Digital media technologies have previously enabled my groups to communicate cohesively which has enabled issues such as time restraints to be resolved and led to more efficient collaboration and productive group learning environments.

I am curious about the claims made in The Australian article mentioned above and I will conduct research to determine the experiences of students in group learning practices.  The purpose of this research is to develop an understanding of how Communications and Media students view the group work experience at UOW. In addition, I aim to uncover student’s experiences and positions towards the use of digital media technologies in group work projects.  The data collected will aim to refine our current understanding of students experiences with group learning and the use of digital media technologies in collaborative learning projects.

My initial research into the topic of group work found there is a wealth empirical and theoretical research that overwhelmingly supports the worth of group work for “increased learning and development of higher-order cognitive skills”. This implies that group work is an important part of the university education experience as it strengthens students critical thinking and problem solving abilities (Hillyard, Gillespie, and Littig, 2010).

Further investigation also uncovered a study conducted on the use of digital communication technologies (namely Facebook) and how online social networking can affect university students’ learning outcomes. Qualitative data collected from focus group discussion among university students in the United States found that online communication applications can potentially be utilised for education, especially when the higher education institutions emphasise student-centered learning (Tian, Yu, Vogel and Kwok, 2011).

The impact of digital communications technologies in group learning is a concept that is being studied by Laura Gogia from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in The United States. A dissertation written by Dr. Gogia found that connected learning with the use of digital communication technologies can make academic relevance explicit, and increase opportunities for interest-driven learning and expose students to different perspectives. Dr Gogia also suggests that, connected learning also offers opportunities for collective knowledge building.

This research indicates that group work is an important part of the university learning experience and that communications technologies can play a role in student outcomes. The work of Dr Gogia and VCU suggests that connected learning has benefits and can help students to “embrace the existence of multiple perspectives and generate creative solutions.” These narratives suggest that it is important to gain an understanding of students experiences with group work and digital media technology at The University of Wollongong so we can identify  the ways in which these technologies are being/ can be implemented in learning practices.

Research methods for this project will consist of collecting quantative data in the form of surveys devised to collect information from the students in my cohort and their experience with group work and the use of digital media technologies in group work setting. I will summate the results of the data I collect to assess trends in the experiences and knowledge of students to form a hypothesis and epistemological proposition about the nature of applying digital media technologies to collaborative work projects.

Reference:

Tian, S.W., Yu, A.Y., Vogel, D. and Kwok, R.C.W., 2011. The impact of online social networking on learning: a social integration perspective. International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organisations, Vol. 8 No. 4, pp.264-280.

Hillyard, C., Gillespie, D. and Littig, P., 2010. University students’ attitudes about learning in small groups after frequent participation. Active Learning in Higher Education, Vol. 11, no., pp.9-20.

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10 thoughts on “BCM210 Research Proposal: Connected Learning

  1. This is a very interesting topic Eddie, and one that I think has direct relevance to our study as university students. Personally, I don’t mind group work, but as it has such a huge impact on final grades for certain subjects, the arguments from both sides are obviously justified.

    I particularly like how you’ve avoided jumping straight for the “group work is bad” argument and presented that there are two very strong points of view.

    I suggest in your surveys collecting data from students in first, second, third year etc. as a way of giving a diverse opinion on the issue, but overall you seem very clear in your aim.

    Good luck!

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    1. Thanks Tom,

      I appreciate your input. What are you’re views on the use of digital communication technologies in the group work setting?

      Also, your suggestion of collecting data from students in different stages of their degree’s is an idea I had not personally considered, but will now certainly pursue, thanks to you!

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  2. I think this is a very interesting topic. As uni students we all know the stress that a group assignment can present us for a number of reasons. For me personally, communicating with a group online with social media is more difficult than communicating in person so I’m interested to see the findings of your research.
    Perhaps you could also investigate the opinions of graduate students? This could be useful information as far as the efficacy of group work at uni goes.
    Excellent proposal overall.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your opinion. May I ask, what is your opinion about the use of digital communication technologies in group work, when applied in conjunction with traditional face to face collaboration?

      You’re suggestions will help with my research, thanks for taking the time to comment

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  3. This is a very relevant topic to research especially whilst studying BCM. Also as social media is such a large part of every University students life the link created through group work in this research project is very well thought of.
    It is also a similar topic to my own and I am happy to collaborate with you to make both of our research endeavors more successful .
    Good luck with your project.

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  4. I’m really interested that you have a range of comments here. One thing I think it would be helpful to understand are the pressures that some students feel in online communication, to see whether there are some digital environments that work better than others. Which channels have the best chance of succeeding, or is it that everyone needs to use what they use, and then somehow aggregate? Is there a step that a successful group can take to ensure that diversity is cared for? (Check out the literature on virtual teams. It’s useful.)

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  5. Hi Eddie.
    Laura Gogia sent me your way 🙂 I was interested to see that you were conducting this survey in a single cohort and I wondered if they were all doing the same group work. That would make a difference to your survey I think because if students were doing different group assignments with different outputs and assessment schemes then you would probably have to ask them about that in the survey.
    The other things I thought about were process and product – finding out what they felt about working with others and what they learned about how to do that – and what the outcome of the group work was, maybe something they were proud of, or maybe the marks/grades were the thing. I guess that links to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation that I think are quire a challenge for teachers and students to balance in group work. Good luck Eddie – I am sure you’ll do some great research.

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    1. Thank you so much for your detailed and insightful response. I tried to keep the survey short and easy to answer. 7 questions seemed enough to get what To the point. I will be sure to notify you on Twitter once I have published the findings. Thank you!

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