Studies in Learning, Evaluation, Innovation and Development > Vol. 1, No. 2 (2004)

Online learning predicates teamwork: Collaboration underscores student engagement

Greg Whymark, Central Queensland University, Australia
Jim Callan, Central Queensland University, Australia
Ken Purnell, Central Queensland University, Australia


Much research into learning emphasises the scope of the learning experience and the nature of the learning environment. The issue of collaboration among learners is central to the concepts of learner engagement, authentic learning and cognitive load. While the impetus to deploy advanced technologies to support teaching and learning endeavours has not waned, it is increasingly evident that knowledge age learners must be appropriately supported to ensure that learning gains take place. The application of the Zing Team Learning System (ZTLS) in face-to-face learning appreciably enhances the scope for collaboration and sets the stage for information sharing, co-creation of meaning, problem resolution, creative thinking and decision making. However, the procedural and process dynamics of ZTLS are inherently complex and powerful, and they require skilled facilitation. The key questions stemming from the use of the ZTLS for teaching and learning relate to: (i) social purposes or outcomes; (ii) effective management of the team/group’s working rhythm or flow; and (iii) reconciling individual and collective desires to achieve particular educational outcomes. Ongoing interdisciplinary research at Central Queensland University encompassing action research and activity theory addresses these issues, and reports initial developments that provide insight into the efficacy of the ZTLS as a knowledge creation tool. We argue that a shift in understanding the learning context is required in order to appreciate that the ZTLS clearly secures a working basis for distributed cognition. Moreover, ongoing research seeks to explore how teachers of adult learners can stress the importance of a ‘knowledge-centric’ andragogy as the basis for implementing higher education curricula.

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