Determining sociability, social space, and social presence in (A)synchronous collaborative groups

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Kreijns, K. ; Kirschner, P.A. ; Jochems, W. ; Buuren, H. van (2004)

The effectiveness of group learning in asynchronous distributed learning groups depends on the social interaction that takes place. This social interaction affects both cognitive and socioemotional processes that take place during learning, group forming, establishment of group structures, and group dynamics. Though now known to be important, this aspect is often ignored, denied or forgotten by educators and researchers who tend to concentrate on cognitive processes and on-task contexts. This “one-sided” educational focus largely determines the set of requirements in the design of computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) environments resulting in functional CSCL environments. In contrast, our research is aimed at the design and implementation of sociable CSCL environments which may increase the likelihood that a sound social space will emerge. We use a theoretical framework that is based upon an ecological approach to social interaction, centering on the concept of social affordances, the concept of the sociability of CSCL environments, and social presence theory. The hypothesis is that the higher the sociability, the more likely that social interaction will take place or will increase, and the more likely that this will result in an emerging sound social space. In the present research, the variables of interest are sociability, social space, and social presence. This study deals with the construction and validation of three instruments to determine sociability, social space, and social presence in (a)synchronous collaborating groups. The findings suggest that the instruments have potential to be useful as measures for the respective variables. However, it must be realized that these measures are “first steps.”
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