The importance of task appropriateness in computer-supported collaborative learning
Buckner, K. & Morss, K. (1999) The importance of task appropriateness in computer-supported collaborative learning, ALT-J, vol. 7, , pp. 33-38,
Collaborative learning activities can be beneficial for exchanging ideas, sharing experiences, and developing shared understanding. It is our view that the task given to the student is central to the success or otherwise of the learning experience. In this paper, we discuss the need for the adaptation of traditional face-to-face tasks when these are incorporated in computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) environments. We focus on critical issues in relation to the implementation of CSCL tasks including: the appropriateness of the medium for the task, the role of individuals, the volume of work involved, the time allocated for tasks or sub-tasks, and, the assessment procedures. In this paper we describe and evaluate two case studies that illustrate the importance of the appropriateness of the task in computer-supported co-operative learning. Both case studies (taught by one of the authors) involve final-year Information Management undergraduates in on-campus modules. Our findings indicate that the task must allow the module outcomes to be achieved (and assessed if necessary), and must be supported by software tools which facilitate effective student learning. If it does, and the assessment mechanism is appropriate, the benefits include improved motivation to participate in discussion, improved student learning, and the ability to assess individual performance in group activities.