Use of a Collaborative Learning Environment to Support Cross-Faculty Problem Based Learning in Undergraduate Design Education

Jennifer McDonnell

Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT)

The scope of applications of computer supported collaborative learning (CSCL) has grown exponentially in recent years.  This paper describes the first implementation of such a computer supported collaborative project in Year 3 of Dublin Institute of Technology’s (DIT) BSc. in Product Design programme. Of particular concern to the cross Faculty lecturing team was the concept of supporting students to use group work as a true leverage to greater learning rather than the traditional ‘cut and paste’ approach of the past. The paper will detail the process and the motivation behind its implementation, the initial hurdles encountered, approaches taken to resolving the issues, learning about the process of using technology for collaborative work and conclusions for future implementations. The specific tool of Wikis was chosen as it was felt that this would best provide the students with a platform which would allow them to unlock the true learning potential of collaborative work at Under Graduate level. As the course is delivered in a single semester the use of a Wiki would circumvent the necessity to devote valuable class-time in monitoring group progress as it could be done on-line by the lecturing team. This was particularly useful as the lecturing team are located in two different sites in Dublin city. Due to the existence of an Evaluation tool within the technology, the Wiki potentially provided a valuable conflict resolution tool for groups where work was not progressing or team members not fully contributing. Of particular importance is the ‘voice of the student’ in this paper. It includes a survey of students’ views on collaborative learning and their technology literacy prior to implementation. A follow up reflective investigation was conducted on their experience of technology supported collaborative learning at Undergraduate level.

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