COLLABORATION IN VIRTUAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

ABSTRACT

This study comes from the need to overcome a gap that gradually expands between two worlds that should complement: the interests / needs that impel the new generation of students attracted by the technological development and the educational syllabus. The involvement of students in their own learning, their pro-activity, the investigative work will undoubtedly portray themselves as major educational goals to pursue. However, it is essential to combine the needs arising from the new world economy - the knowledge society and those that truly inspire our young people which in essence, converge substantially to the current demands of the labor market: the virtual communities, collaborative work production and instant sharing of information, navigation without borders, instant production and access to information, all based on constant technological development. It urges thus a quick turnaround within education. New skills must be promoted in our young people and school is responsible for their growth: to promote creativity; the ability to innovate; the increase of social skills which are essential in the development of teamwork based on collaborative methods; and to motivate students in a lifelong learning life.

The interactive systems of communication are becoming more attractive and allow a diverse range of educational potentialities. If it is known the poor technology investment in the classroom, it is also generally agreed that most homes are investing in the acquisition of technologies as it is the case of personal computer and internet access. These circumstances allow the expansion of formal education which until then was confined to the classroom. The content, the teacher and peers can interact without time and space boundaries in virtual learning environments, such as dokeos. In fact, the issue that drives this work is the measurement of the potential that comes from blended learning. How collaboration can be enhanced in AVA, the skills which are developed, as well the cognitive and motivational improvements which are generated in digital learning environments, are guidelines for this research. Dokeos was the learning platform selected to develop the course Geogr @ fia. Through this learning environment, individual and collaborative learning methods of knowledge were developed, focusing mainly on the latter. Students could interact collaboratively with innovative learning tools such as forums and wikis; could answer questions and develop collaborative work via e-mail and chats; interact with interactive content and could share the knowledge achieved.

The individualization of the teaching-learning process gets a new life through virtual environments, responding more directly to the specific characteristics of each student. Participation and collaboration are encouraged by the simultaneous presence of several elements of the virtual community of learning that encourage social contact, discussion and sharing.

Through this learning environment it lasted outside walls of the classroom and confirmed the potential arising in the virtual learning in terms of motivation, achievement of collaborative work acquisition of new data and reinforcement of study habits.

KEYWORDS: Learning, virtual learning environment, learning platform, collaboration, technological development.