Information technology and social networks are transforming practically all the aspects of the world we live in including interactive design and education. As Edwin Schlossberg, author of Interactive Excellence: Defining and Developing New Standards for the Twenty-first Century, said, “True interactivity is not about clicking on icons or downloading files, it’s about encouraging communication” (Schlossberg 1998). We live in an era of communication; thanks to the boom of social media and the advancements of technology learning has moved from the classroom to an online environment.
We refer to contemporary times as the “information age” or “knowledge based society”, characterized by the diffusion of information and communications technologies and the increasing demand for new educational approaches and pedagogies that foster cognitive thinking
(Fischer & Konomi, 2005). The shifts in views of what education is for, with a growing emphasis on the need to enable and support not only the acquisition of knowledge and information, but also to develop the skills and resources necessary to engage with social and technological change. (Owen, Grant, Sayers & Facer, 2006).
An online learning environment allows learners to get an education that work with their busy schedules. Online learning allows learners to connect from any place in the world and learn something new. But are online learners taking advantages of the full learning experience? Has the transition from the classroom into online environment effectively replicate all the important aspects of learning?
Currently, online learning tools for skill-based learning rely on copying mechanism of imitation and repetition resulting in a learned behavior that doesn’t warranty mastery over the subject. A user may repeat a task until achieving success; but this doesn’t warranty that the concept sink in. This is a vital factor when the skill trying to be learning is a new computer language. When facing real-life task, learners using online learning tools are unable to face the challenges at hand. Current online learning tools do not provide re-enforcement for acquired knowledge or points of reference leaving the learning on their own.
Learning by doing
Online learning tools for skill-based learning need to give learners the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with the things that they are learning about. And by this way promote cognitive thinking;
focus on helping the user gain mastery over a domain of knowledge by promoting a feeling of ownership of the subject matter.
With respect to ICT, we are witnessing the rapid expansion and proliferation of online learning tools that are less about the solo learner, and more focussed on creating communities in which people come together to collaborate, learn and build knowledge.
The concept of collaborative learning, the grouping and pairing of students for the purpose of achieving an academic goal, has been widely researched and advocated throughout the professional literature. The term “collaborative or peer-to-peer learning” refers to an instruction method in which students at various performance levels work together in small groups toward a common goal. The students are responsible for one another’s learning as well as their own. The shared learning gives students an opportunity to engage in discussion, take responsibility for their own learning, and thus become critical thinkers (Totten, Sills, Digby, & Russ, 1991).
Collaborative learning evolved from the works of Piaget (1926) and Vygotsky (1978) who contend that learning occurs more effectively through interpersonal interactions in a cooperative rather than competitive context. Compared to individual learning, research on traditional face-to-face collaborative learning revealed numerous benefits: better performance, better motivation, higher test scores and level of achievement, development of high level thinking skills, higher student satisfaction etc. (Johnson et al., 1981; Dansereau, 1983; Slavin, 1987; Sharan, 1990). More recent research on computer supported collaborative learning has confirmed these benefits and has shown that they can be enhanced even further through adequate technological support (e.g. Alavi, 1994; Hiltz, 1995; Huynh,1999). While these are important and very encouraging results, a deeper understanding of the ‘inside’ of the collaborative learning processes is still missing. The relative paucity of reported inquiry into the nature of collaborative learning within computer-supported learning situations, we believe, has militated against the wider up-take of collaborative learning pedagogies.
According to the works of Vygotsky, students are capable of performing at higher intellectual levels when asked to work in collaborative situations than when asked to work individually. Group diversity in terms of knowledge and experience contributes positively to the learning process. Bruner (1985) contends that cooperative learning methods improve problem-solving strategies because the students are confronted with different interpretations of the given situation. The peer support system makes it possible for the learner to internalize both external knowledge and critical thinking skills and to convert them into tools for intellectual functioning.
- Why peer-to-peer learning works
In the case of peer tutoring, a recent review identified 28 previous reviews and meta-analyses of evaluation research (Topping, 1992). Sharpley and Sharpley (1981) and Cohen, Kulik, and Kulik (1982) found strong evidence of cognitive gains for tutees and tutors and some evidence for improved attitudes and self-image (which are, of course, more difficult to measure). They also found that training improved outcomes, structured procedures improved outcomes, and that same-age tutoring was as effective as cross-age tutoring. (Ehly, 3).
- Murrad & Leppard’s theories on peer-to-peer learning
A cognitive apprenticeship supports learning in a domain by enabling students to acquire, develop, and use cognitive tools in an authentic activity. Cognitive apprenticeship methods try to enculturate students into authentic practices through activity and social interaction in a way similar to craft apprenticeship.
Similar to a traditional apprenticeship, a learner works under a teacher who models the behavior in a real-world context as well as explains the thought processes and actions behind those behaviors. As the cognitive apprentice listens, observes, and models those same behaviors, he or she identifies the relevant behaviors and develops a conceptual model of the processes involved. The apprentice is then given an opportunity to rehearse those behaviors and obtain feedback from the teacher, who provides coaching, tips, and pointers. The idea is that the apprentice learns to solve problems in the context that produced them. (Murrad, 33).
- Lepper Instructional Design Theories
Mark Lepper, a researcher from Stanford University, proposed a series of design principles for promoting intrinsic motivation in instructional activities to avoid having to rely on extrinsic motivational techniques. Lepper lists four principles:
- Control – Provide learners with a sense of control over the learning activity
- Challenge – Create an activity that is continually challenging to learners.
- Curiosity: Appeal to the learners’ sense of curiosity.
- Contextualization: Use an authentic context and environment to stress the utilitarianism of the learning.
- Johnson & Johnson’s approach to peer-to-peer online-learning
- Advantages of combining Murrad and Johnson’s approaches.
- Approachable and have insights into learning difficulties.
- Master of the subject may have difficulties seeing the novices’s obstacles.
- They call for independent preparation and critical thinking.
- Immediate feedback