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Evaluating the extent to which sociability and social presence affects learning performance

Lookup NU author(s): Terry Charlton, Emeritus Professor Lindsay MarshallORCiD, Dr Marie Devlin


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Active Learning in Computing (ALiC) is the first Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) project for Computing Science in England. Funded by HEFCE, the initiative seeks to prepare students for the realities of working in their chosen field by aligning their learning experiences and transferable skill sets with those sought by today's software engineering industry. One way ALiC achieves this is by introducing cross-site, collaborative group-programming tasks into the curriculum. Running over an academic year, this approach encourages active interaction and dialogue between student teams at Newcastle and Durham universities, and develops strong, real-world problem solving skills in participants. The ALiC project has thus far generated a great deal of positive feedback from undergraduates, and we feel our approach to inter-institutional teamwork offers students a realistic and relevant "real world" experience [2]. However, we are also becoming increasingly aware that time and resource pressures can make it difficult for students to maintain adequate levels of communication for any length of time [4], and once a team disperses it becomes dfficult for its members to preserve the channels needed to interact and collaborate effectively. Consequently, an emerging area of research at Newcastle University concerns how learning can be enhanced through the use of computer-mediated social networking environments online communities such as Facebook, Friendster and Bebo through which registered users connect with friends and colleagues to explore similar interests and activities. In a collaborative educational context, these online social networking services offer an attractive means to foster student interaction and community building by providing a means to explore the common ground that exists between participants [1]. To that end, we intend to embed the communication and "social awareness" affordances - profile creation, synchronous and asynchronous chat, status updates, etc. - of popular social networking sites into our undergraduate, cross-site software engineering projects [3). Social network analysis will be used to identify, map and analyse the flow of information and resources between distributed team members. The pedagogic motivation behind this work is to foster greater group-oriented interaction by filling the communication void that often arises between face-to-face meetings [5]. By reducing the geographic and temporal barriers to interaction and community formation (especially where 'peripheral', passive team members are concerned), team members will become increasingly aware of each others' skills, personalities, work rhythms and needs - both online and off - within a pre-existing, persistent: convenient infrastructure.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Charlton T, Marshall L, Devlin M

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 13th Annual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education (ITICSE 08)

Year of Conference: 2008

Pages: 342-342

Publisher: ACM

Notes: Poster session

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9781605580784