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Designing for learning during collaborative projects online: tools and takeaways

Sreecharan Sankaranarayanan (Language Technologies Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)
Siddharth Reddy Kandimalla (Department of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)
Mengxin Cao (Language Technologies Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)
Ignacio Maronna (Language Technologies Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)
Haokang An (Department of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)
Chris Bogart (Institute for Software Research, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)
R. Charles Murray (Language Technologies Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)
Michael Hilton (Institute for Software Research, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)
Majd Sakr (Department of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)
Carolyn Penstein Rosé (Language Technologies Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)

Information and Learning Sciences

ISSN: 2398-5348

Article publication date: 25 June 2020

Issue publication date: 10 August 2020

1491

Abstract

Purpose

In response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, many universities have transitioned to online instruction. With learning promising to be online, at least in part, for the near future, instructors may be thinking of providing online collaborative learning opportunities to their students who are increasingly isolated from their peers because of social distancing guidelines. This paper aims to provide design recommendations for online collaborative project-based learning exercises based on this research in a software engineering course at the university level.

Design/methodology/approach

Through joint work between learning scientists, course instructors and software engineering practitioners, instructional design best practices of alignment between the context of the learners, the learning objectives, the task and the assessment are actualized in the design of collaborative programming projects for supporting learning. The design, first segments a short real-time collaborative exercise into tasks, each with a problem-solving phase where students participate in collaborative programming, and a reflection phase for reflecting on what they learned in the task. Within these phases, a role-assignment paradigm scaffolds collaboration by assigning groups of four students to four complementary roles that rotate after each task.

Findings

By aligning each task with granular learning objectives, significant pre- to post-test learning from the exercise as well as each task is observed.

Originality/value

The roles used in the paradigm discourage divide-and-conquer tendencies often associated with collaborative projects. By requiring students to discuss conflicting ideas to arrive at a consensus implementation, their ideas are made explicit, thus providing opportunities for clarifying misconceptions through discussion and learning from the collaboration.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This work was funded in part by NSF grants IIS 1822831, IIS 1917955, and funding from Microsoft.

This article is part of the special issue, “A Response to Emergency Transitions to Remote Online Education in K-12 and Higher Education,” which contains shorter, rapid-turnaround invited works, not subject to double blind peer review. The issue was called, managed and produced on short timeline in Summer 2020 toward pragmatic instructional application in the Fall 2020 semester.

Citation

Sankaranarayanan, S., Kandimalla, S.R., Cao, M., Maronna, I., An, H., Bogart, C., Murray, R.C., Hilton, M., Sakr, M. and Penstein Rosé, C. (2020), "Designing for learning during collaborative projects online: tools and takeaways", Information and Learning Sciences, Vol. 121 No. 7/8, pp. 569-577. https://doi.org/10.1108/ILS-04-2020-0095

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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