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Mar 01 2015 - 07:00 PM
Cultivating Collaboration for Language Learning

How can web-based study tools supplement traditional classroom learning? Do collaborative online spaces successfully support information reflection and retention? In this study, researchers at Kainan University in Taiwan examined how ESL learners responded to using study materials on a collaborative web platform. Students were invited to use Google Docs, a free online application, which contained study materials and reading exercises. Researchers measured whether students experienced any improvements in information recall while working in this collaborative, albeit online, space. They concluded that active collaborators gained stronger vocabulary knowledge than passive contributors; the results also suggest positive reception for online collaborative learning.

The study involved 180 students, between 19 and 26 years old. The majority of participating students were in their first year of study, while the remaining 43% were second year students. All participants had been studying English for seven or more years prior to the experiment. The study spanned 18 weeks, beginning with a pretest on English vocabulary and concluded with a posttest and questionnaire. Over the course of the study, students participated in vocabulary learning activities on Google Docs, answered questions based on readings, and attended workshop sessions. In addition to supplementary learning materials located on Google Docs, students attended weekly in-person English courses.

After 18 weeks of learning and practicing vocabulary through virtual materials and in-person collaborations, there was a significant increase in posttest scores when compared with pretest results. Additionally, two types of collaborative styles (passive and active) were identified and analyzed for possible test score correlations. The analysis revealed that active collaborators (those who contributed answers and commented on other students’ posts) demonstrated a stronger grasp of vocabulary than passive collaborators (non-contributors). These findings suggest social annotation tools like Google Docs support online learning and memory retention. Additionally, those who actively participate on these platforms are more likely to achieve higher scores overall.

This study supports collaborative online learning in addition to compulsory in-person discussion and provides evidence of positive correlations in vocabulary retention when both learning techniques are used simultaneously. The study indicates a connection between knowledge retention and discussion. Additional research on the impact of online video collaborations using Skype or other software could complement this study nicely.

Liu, S.-H.-J., Lan, Y.-J., & Ho, C.-Y.-Y. (2014). Exploring the Relationship between Self-Regulated Vocabulary Learning and Web-Based Collaboration. Educational Technology & Society, 17 (4), 404–419

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|By: Dana Haugh|536 Reads