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Collaborative Learning in Classroom Project Proposal

Team Description:

[Team Members]

  • William Beachley (william.beachley@Colorado.EDU)
  • Jun Chen (jun.chen@Colorado.EDU)
  • Huda Khan (
  • Sarah Kim-Warren (
  • Scott Zweig (
[Individual Contributions]

(1) Investigation of existing related systems(Jun & Bill)

(2) System design (Bill & Jun & Huda)

(3) Implementation and initial system testing (Jun & Huda & Bill)

(4) User testing with instructors and students (Scott)

(5) Documentation (all)

(6) Presentation (all)

(7) Project management (Sarah)

(NOTE: Our group final project contributions may appear skew, but the workload is evenly distributed between the independent research and the hands-on project.)


1. Statement of Problem

1.1.Traditional education within undergraduate college level courses is usually centered around lecture-based teaching methods, where information is presented by the teacher to the students, and collaboration and interaction between the teacher and students during class-time is fairly restricted. Most traditional lecture-style classes neither allow for students to be more actively engaged in discussing or understanding the topic during class time nor allow for explicitly gauging students?level of interest in the topics taught during class time.

Certain technological feedback systems, such as the "Clicker" or "ClassTalk" systems, attempt to facilitate a greater amount of in-class interaction between the teacher and students than provided by traditional education. The "Clicker" system allows the teacher to post questions related to the topic being discussed and students to register their responses by using the answer options on their "clickers". The teacher can then view statistics on the responses entered by the students relative to the correct answers. In this manner, students are given the opportunity of discussing answers and posting their responses to the teacher, while the teacher is given information on how well the students are answering the questions. The "ClassTalk" system allows students to give their feedback to the teacher regarding the pace of the course. In both these systems, the teacher initiates the opportunities for feedback by posting questions or requesting student responses during a certain time interval in class (5.2, 5.3).

Inspired by the use of these in-class feedback systems, for our Semester Project, we will focus on designing and implementing a web-based feedback tool that can allow students to provide feedback, comments, and ask questions during class time without interrupting the lecture flow. The student responses will be recorded and stored, allowing the teacher to access student feedback and questions both during and after class. Unlike the "Clicker" and "Class-Talk" systems where feedback is teacher-initiated, our proposed web-based system will allow for both students and teachers to initiate opportunities for feedback and interaction. Students will be able to post responses to the teacherís questions and post their own questions using the system at any time during class. Additionally, unlike the existing feedback systems, our system will be extensible and end-user modifiable, where both teacher and student will be able to specify additional questions or topics for feedback. The teacher will be able to view the responses and statistics for the entire class both during and outside class. Creating this expanded window of interaction between the teacher and student will help further empower the students to provide information and comments that will help the teacher to modify their teaching style to better suit the students' learning needs.

2. Rationale

2.1. Per our previous class experiences, we believe that asking questions and getting immediate feedback from instructors helped us more than we expected. Students learn more easily and produce better results with effective collaboration in class. However, collaboration in larger classes can be difficult because the lecture becomes the primary focus in this setting. We want to design technology to enhance and promote collaboration in larger classes. We will learn how to design a system for a specific domain, how collaboration can be enhanced and promoted in college classes, and how to collaboratively get our project implemented successfully. In order to achieve our objectives, we will examine existing tools and techniques that may provide a foundation for collaboration within traditional classrooms.

4. For implementation Projects:

4.1. Outline and justification of technical approach:

The system supports two kinds of users: teacher and student. Students give simple feedback by clicking buttons (e.g. "too slow", "too fast") or submit a question. Teachers see the statistics of the number of button clicks from students as well as questions. Users must login before using the system. First, this allows system to tell who this user is and then provides respective user interface. Second, system can identify who gives which feedback.

We plan to implement the system as a web service because: (1) it is easy to access given that Internet is widely available today and (2) no software has to be installed in the client machine. Users access the system through a laptop with wireless connection. We will use Apache Tomcat as web server, MySQL for data storage, JSP for web page implementation and Eclipse as IDE. We will take advantage of Jakarta Struts, a framework, which makes the Model-View-Controller design paradigm much easier to use. The reason we choose these technologies are: (1) it is very easy to write extensible and readable code with them and (2) these are popular open-source technologies.

4.2. Implementation Plan:

A wide variety of technologies can enhance classroom collaboration. The system implements various technologies for enhancing the interaction between teachers and students, with an emphasis on technologies that allow students to be more active in giving feedback to the teacher. Although the functions of this system are limited, the system itself is very generic and provides a good foundation for future extension. Some future works we are envisioning include:

  • PDA access to the system
  • Lesson plan specification: a teacher can specify a lesson plan, which is a schedule of a set of topics a teacher covers during a lecture.
  • Student profile creation: by linking feedback with the particular topic when this feedback is given, we can create a profile for each student.
  • Student-to-student collaboration promotion: utilizing information contained in student profiles, system can promote various forms of collaboration, e.g. putting students who have difficulty with a same topic together for a group study.
  • Monitoring of feedback over time: system displays how a studentís or all students?feedback change over time, either within a lecture or cross-lecture.
  • System customization and extension: system provides functions that allow a user to modify the system, e.g. a teacher can add a new button.

5. References:

5.1. (Apache Server Reference)

5.2. (Clickers, current system)

5.3. (ClassTalk, current system)

5.4. Bennis, W. and Biederman, P. W., (1997) Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration, Perseus Books, Cambridge, MA.

5.5. Cooper, J., Robinson, P., "Getting Started: Informal Small-Group Strategies in Large Classes"

5.6. Cooper, J., Robinson, P., The Argument for Making Large Classes Seem Small,

5.7. Coutin, Susan, "Tips Gleaned from the Literature on Collaborative Learning",

5.8. Drury, H., Kay J., and Losberg, W., "Student Satisfaction with groupwork in undergraduate computer science: do things get better?"

5.9. Dugan, Robert Jr., Breimer, Eric A., Lim, Darren T., Glinert, Ephraim P., Goldberg, Mark K., Champagne Matthew V., "Exploring Collaborative Learning in Rensselaer's Classroom-in-the-Round",

5.10. George, Pamela G., "Using Cooperative Learning in the College Classroom" The NEA Higher Education Journal

5.11. "In defense of cheating",

5.12. Joseph, A., and Payne, M., "Group Dynamics and Collaborative Group Performance"

5.13. LeJeune, N., "Critical Components for Successful Collaborative Learning in CS1"

5.14. Scharffe, Eric. "Applying Open Source Principles to Collaborative Learning Environments",

5.15. Smith, Barbara Leigh and Jean T. MacGregor., "What is Collaborative Learning?",

5.16. Smith, Karl A., "Going Deeper: Formal Small-Group Learning in Large Classes"

5.17. Smith, Karl A., "Inquiry-Based Collaborative Learning",

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