Social software and collaborative learning

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1 Introduction

This wiki explores the relationship between social software social software and collaborative learning.

Adam Binet
Memorial University of Newfoundland

2 Social Software

Social software, known more popularly as Web 2.0 consists of an array of online tools and technologies that allows users to interact and share information, files, and resources with one another (Minocha,2009). Social software includes tools such as: Wikis, video-sharing websites (e.g.,YouTube), blogs, social networking sites (e.g. Facebook), and instant messaging. These tools and services have added increased possibilities for online learning opportunities (Capuruco & Capretz, 2009). Social software and Web 2.0 sites have marked a movement away from the initial function of the Internet as a one-way, static business tool to a rich experience made ‘by the people for the people’, allowing two-way communication and sharing (Selwyn & Grant, 2009). Learning and educating using social software and Web 2.0 technology have moved in a direction that fosters a single student’s work, but also group and partner collaboration, in a new learning atmosphere (Dorninger & Schrack, 2008). Hughes (2009) states that compared to simple communication tools such as e-mail, Web 2.0 has an intrinsic networking effect that allows individuals to connect and share with other like-minded people quickly and effectively. Furthermore, it invites a user to create or extend a whole new identity online (Hughes).

3 Learning using social software

Learning using social software and Web 2.0 technology have moved in a direction that fosters a single student’s work, but also group and partner collaboration, in a new learning atmosphere (Dorninger & Schrack, 2008). Hughes (2009) found that, compared to simple communication tools such as e-mail, Web 2.0 has an intrinsic networking effect that allows individuals to connect and share with other like-minded people quickly and effectively. Furthermore, it invites a user to create or extend a whole new identity online (Hughes).

4 Collaborative learning

Collaborative learning has proven to lead to higher grades than learners achieve in other conditions and the means by which they learn is more constructive (Dewiyanti, Brand-Gruwel, Jochems & Broers 2007). [Li, Dong and Huang (2009) argued that collaborative learning leads to higher student performance and improved retention of the learned information for longer periods. According to Johnson, Johnson and Smith (1998), several different criteria must exist for collaborative learning to be occurring: Students must know their individual success rests on the success of the group as a whole; individual effort within the group is assessed, holding them more accountable; students teach and learn from one another while employing leadership skills; and the group must work as a cohesive unit being both critical and constructive to help achieve the greatest good for the group.

5 Social software and collaborative learning

Crichton and Kopp (2008) argue that social software provides the opportunity for sustained collaborative learning, expression, reflection, and a rich community of practice. In addition, Web 2.0 applications have the potential to enhance students’ future careers and can be used by teachers to supplement effective classroom practices. (Crichton & Kopp). The capacity for social software and Web 2.0 applications to result in collaborative learning depends upon how the technology is used (Thorpe, 2002). Kok (2009) posits that one of the most representative tools of the Web 2.0 is the Wiki. Frydenberg (2008) states that because students and faculty can both post information to the Wiki, the role of the instructor changes from being the single authority to being a partner with the students in their own learning. This social software is an enabler of social interaction, collaboration and information sharing, promoting the growth of communities as user groups (Kok).

6 Cautionary uses of social software and web 2.0

Koh and Hill (2009) argue that there are several areas which need to be further researched with regards to students using online environments for successful learning: students need help and assistance with communicating feelings and opinions honestly; time and effort must be put forth in helping students forge communities online which have a rich dialogue and are supportive; and teacher planning must be focused on group work. Finally, teachers must be adept at catching problems with group communication early and have a process to deal with it. As Hughes states, it is also erroneous for educators to assume that social software alone will close the divide and disparity which exists between struggling and excelled learners (2009). Teachers need to improve their practice and expand their knowledge regarding what students find challenging, as well as beneficial, about group work in online settings (Koh & Hill, 2009). A large part of the predicament with the technological advancements is the desire to adopt them immediately without critical analysis (Lozano-Nieto, Guijarro & Berjano, 2006). When using social software for educational ends, it must be acknowledged that it has not been developed specifically for learning (Dalsgaard & Mathiasen, 2008). According to Henry and Meadows (2008), to ensure student success, the use and further development of software and technology must be handled wisely and coupled with a sense of a collaborative community. Technology, in itself, is not a solution to educational woes nor is the investment in technology (Abrami, et al., 2006); research and training have to be a large part of an overall reforming of how technology is implemented in teaching.


Dron (2007) argues that self-organizing communities do not necessarily lead to learning environments which are valuable or effective. Educators challenge themselves to create “pedagogically sound” learning environments online (2007). When using Web 2.0 applications for educational purposes, as Abrami et al. (2006) argue, teachers must keep several things in mind in order to make the learning meaningful ; instructional practices must differ online from that of face-to-face instruction; when deployed in an appropriate way, technology may be helpful in the analytical and higher-order thinking skills of students; the teacher should present the technology to the students as a challenge and allow them to be the ones who make and alter the technology, in a hands-on approach to learning.

7 References

Abrami, P., Bernard, R., Wade, A., Schmid, R., Borokhovski, E., Tamin, R., Surkes, M., Lowerison, G., Zhang, D., Nicolaidou, I., Newman, S., Wozney, L., & Peretiatkowicz, A. (2008). A review of e-Learning in Canada: A rough sketch of the evidence, gaps and promising directions. Canadian Journal Of Learning And Technology, 32(3). Retrieved February 2, 2010, from 1


Ashcraft, D., Treadwell, T. & Kumar, V. (2008). Collaborative online learning: A constructivist example. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 4(1). Retrieved February 3, 2010, from 2


Choy, S. O., & Ng, K. C. (2007). Implementing wiki software for supplementing online learning. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology , 23(2), 209-226. Retrieved January 29, 2010 from 3


Crichton, S., & Kopp, G. (2009). The value of eJournals to support ePortfolio development for assessment in teacher education. Canadian Journal Of Learning And Technology, 34(3). Retrieved February 6, 2010, from 4


Capuruco, R., & Capretz, L. (2009). Building social-aware software applications for the interactive learning age. Interactive Learning Environments, 17(3), 241 - 255.


Dalsgaard, C., & Mathiasen, H. (2008). Self-organized learning environments and university students’ use of social software: A systems theoretical perspective. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 5(2). Retrieved January 30, 2010 from 5


Dewiyanti, S., Brand-Gruwel, S., Jochems, W., & Broers, N. (2007). Students, experiences with collaborative learning in asynchronous computer-supported collaborative learning environments. Computers in Human Behavior, 23(1), 496-514.


Dorninger, C., & Schrack, C. (2008). Future learning strategy and ePortfolios in education. International Journal Of Emerging Technologies In Learning (IJET), 3 (1), 11-14. Retrieved January 26, 2010 from 6


Dron, Jon. (2007). Designing the undesignable: Social software and control. Educational Technology & Society, 10 (1). Retrieved February 1, 2010, from 7


Frydenberg, M. (2008). Wikis as a tool for collaborative course management. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 4(2). Retrieved February 1, 2010 from 8


Henry, J., & Meadows, J. (2009). An absolutely riveting online course: Nine principles for excellence in web-based teaching. Canadian Journal Of Learning And Technology, 34(1). Retrieved February 3, 2010, from 9


Hughes, Gwenyth. (2009). Social software: new opportunities for challenging social inequalities in learning? Learning, Media and Technology, 34(4), 291 – 305.


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Johnson, D., Johnson, R., Smith, K., (1998). Cooperative learning returns to college: What evidence is there that it works? Change, 30(4), 26-35.


Koh, M. H., & Hill, J. R. (2009). Student perceptions of group work in an online course: Benefits and challenges. The Journal of Distance Education, 23(9), 69-92. Retrieved January 28, 2010 from 11


Kok, A. (2009). Understanding the wiki technology. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 6(10). Retrieved January 29, 201- from 12


Li, Y., Dong, M., & Huang, R. (2009). Toward a semantic forum for active collaborative learning. Educational Technology & Society, 12(4). Retrieved February 2, 2010, from 13


Lozano-Nieto, A., Guijarro, E. & Berjano, E. (2006). Critical assessments of the world wide web as an information resource in higher education: Benefits, threats, and recommendations. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 2(1). Retrieved February 1, 2010, from 14


Minocha, S. (2009). A case study-based investigation of students' experiences with social software tools. New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia 15(3), 245-265.


Rivera, B., & Rowland, G. (2008). Powerful e-learning: A preliminary study of learner experiences. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 4(1). Retrieved February 3, 2010, from 15


Selwyn, N., & Grant, L. (2009). Researching the realities of social software use - an introduction. Learning, Media and Technology, 34(2), 79-86.


Thorpe, M. (2002). Rethinking learner support: the challenge of collaborative online learning. Open Learning, 17(2), 105-119.