The use of computers has become a medium of imparting education since its discovery in late 60s. The utility of the same as a part of the network has made it a more enabled device. The Network Based Learning is one of the various ways in which computer based approach can have a usage in imparting education. The potential and flexibility of computer network-based learning has made it a widely used entity all over the world. The learning opportunities can be expanded to the fore with facilities being made for enabling students to participate irrespective of time and distance. The class room in a virtual form can be equally effective with content being delivered to students with instructors using various IT enabled services like email, bulletin boards, conferencing system, whiteboards, chat rooms and videoconferencing to interact with each other as well as with students thereby creating an environment which is similar to the face-to-face classroom. The communication tool can be equally used to deliver contents in various forms of multimedia from a video on demand, audio clips to animations, simulations and movies. The most interesting part is the capability of computer network-based learning that can be used to support all educational levels including both formal as well as non-formal education. While computer network-based learning is the integration between computers, network computer and communication tools, technology alone can not makes an effective learning process and ensure learning quality. So learning activities are the important factor that all educators must integrate with technology and Collaborative Learning is the one method that’s appropriate and supports computer network-based learning activity with effective learning.
While imparting IT education to students, I have found that the enormity of the IT world requires exploration from various gateways and here the concept of Collaborative learning can make the most extensive impact. Collaborative learning based environment gets applied with an approach that focuses on to teach and learn things with students working together in the cumulative learning process with group tasks being accomplished through consensus and negotiations (McAlpine, 2000). Some important attributes include learner center, constructivist, and problems-solving activities that the students explore in order to create their own knowledge, meaning and solutions. The importance of collaborative learning as an instructional method has led to its application in situations in which computer network based is required by using computer network technologies for effective communication in learning activities (Hannafin & Land, 1997).
Moving on to IT education and development, the projects require involvement of a number of people with various modules being developed at various stages with contributions from everyone involved. The network enables resource sharing as well as sharing of information and results that can be used for further development. But the differences in student functioning styles are one of the major problems that affect all students since not everyone prefers to use the same style of activity for effective learning. With that in mind, the best method is to use specific activities designed for each student learning styles but this is difficult to do because there are a wide variety of student characteristics in virtual classroom. So, the best solution for this problem is to design a learning model which supports the learning methods of all students so that all students can learn satisfactorily, happily, and get high achievement. Collaborative computer network-based learning model for undergraduate students with different learning styles was developed for solve this problem.
Collaborative learning, cooperative learning and small group learning are terms that are often used interchangeably in the literature. However, it is important to differentiate collaborative learning from the other two. Collaborative learning differs from cooperative learning in that its emphasis lies in mutual engagement of learners in the learning process rather than on the sole division of labor to reach a common group goal (Bernard, Rubalcava & St-Pierre, 2000). In cooperative learning, the result may simply add up to collection or incorporation of each individual’s work into the final products based on collaboration should represent a synthesis of the whole. Some of the main advantages of collaborative learning that are often cited are that it encourages active and constructive learning and encourages deep processing of information, as well as evoking critical thinking, reasoning and goal-based learning (Brown & Parlinscar, 1989). In addition, collaborative learning requires less teacher role than cooperative learning and includes sharing the learning task, combining expertise, building or consolidating a learning community (Slavin, 1995).
In collaborative learning setting, the emphasis is placed on the interactions as common understandings are negotiated and developed across differences of knowledge, skills and attitudes. Indeed, collaborative learning should thrive on these differences. Motivation to participate and confidence, together, play an equally important role if benefits are to emerge from the experience. Moreover, participants need to assume a variety of functional roles as interchanges progress and involve question answering and explanations that are open to challenges and justifications (Bernard, Rubalcava and St-Pierre, 2000). So collaborative learning is the appropriated learning pattern for learning activity in modern age that needs students enhances knowledge, experiences and potentials for conducting their real life.
Collaborative Computer Network-Based Learning
Collaborative Computer Network-Based Learning is the computer-based variant of the classroom version and is coming to be regarded as one of the promising pedagogical approaches for distance education and it’s an integral component of higher education in the new millennium (Harasim, 1996; Riel, 1990). In addition, it will better prepare students for the requirements of today’s global industries where workers and consultants, and the effective use of collaborative computer network-based learning, will aid in acquisition of complex and higher-level concept and skills that has been claimed as a weakness of distance education, (Abrami & Bure, 1996).
In order for Collaborative Computer Network-Based Learning to take place successfully, it is crucial that the learner feels part of a learning community where his/her contributions add to a common knowledge pool and where a community spirit is fostered through social interactions (Palloff & Pratt, 1999). There are two methods for using collaborative network based learning, first one is group project method that supports students to do a project together by using group opinion in selecting topic and working with teamwork for learning goal. The second one is a debate or discussion method that supports students sharing and exchanging of individual ideas with group members for eventually concluding the group’s final opinion for problem solving or justification.
The activities of collaborative computer network-based learning use abilities and potentials of computer and network for communicating among students and facilitators for learning activities. The communication of computer networks can support student-to-student and students-to-facilitator by using communication tools such as e-mail, chat rooms, web boards, instant messaging, and desktop conferencing. When its integrated with the appropriate activities of collaborative learning, the result is a highly effective learning activity on computer network.
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