Investigating knowledge building dialogues in networked communities of practice. A collaborative learning endeavor across cultures

Elsebeth K. Sorensen, Eugene S. Takle


We have analyzed data from two online courses, designed to promote collaborative online learning, and in the contexts of two different cultures. Ongoing assessment (self, group, instructor) that actively engages students within the course (as opposed to instructor assessment at the end) is a central feature for achieving collaborative knowledge building in online dialog. Careful articulation and deployment of assessment criteria is a design feature that promotes meta-awareness, which, in turn, together with student-centeredness and operationalization of student experiences in the design of the curriculum, enhances student participation, motivation and ownership in the dialog. From eight years of experience with online dialog and two quite different implementations we offer a set of design principles, having a sound theoretical basis, that enhance the quality and quantity of online knowledge building. Our analysis suggests that the characteristics of the discussion threads emerging under these design criteria give evidence of true collaborative learning.

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