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Inter-university telecollaboration to improve academic results

UPV/EHU researchers have designed a distance, collaborative work experience

Ana Sánchez and José Miguel Blanco, lecturers in the Department of Computer Languages and Systems of the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country, together with Arturo Jaime and César Domínguez, lecturers in the Department of Mathematics and Computing at the University of La Rioja, have developed an experience between the two universities by systematically incorporating telecollaboration. The project has been developed in the ambit of two database subjects, one at each university, where the similitudes and differences between them produce heterogeneous teams. The results of the research have been published in the journal Computers & Education. The publication deals with the results and conclusions obtained in the course of a collaboration experience spanning two years. “Our proposal,” explains Ana Sánchez, “has pursued three objectives”. The first is to improve the academic performance of the participants (increase in the number sitting the exams and the number of passes, and the raising of the final exam marks in the two subjects). The second is the acquisition of transversal competences (capacity to work in a team and distance collaboration). The third is to study the tools used by the students for telecollaboration purposes. Each team, formed by one student from each university, worked on different phases of a simple project to create a database, from the conception of certain requisites to the carrying out of enquiries. The physical distance between the members of each group (about 150 km) forces them to use online means in order to collaborate. The same thing happens with the participating lecturers. This fosters the development of transversal competences linked to telecollaboration. 36 students from each university participated as telecollaborators. Virtual Moodle classrooms deployed on a server were used and this setup allowed access for the lecturers and students of the two universities. Control groups of the University of La Rioja were used in the study and they did teacher-led tasks with their classmates at their own university. Positive academic results “The improvement in the participants’ academic performance, which was our first objective, was significantly met. It was proven that this type of collaboration calls for more work and reflection,” adds Sánchez. Probably, for this reason too, it was confirmed that the face-to-face collaborators are more satisfied with the work done. “To a certain extent it’s normal, because telecollaboration requires greater effort; those who participated in the telecollaboration could also see that the face-to-face students were spending less time on carrying out a similar piece of work,” she says. “The question about the satisfaction of the work carried out was independent of the mark they got, as the students did not know their marks when they were asked about this.” The students undertook the teleworking by exchanging knowledge and carrying out the scheduled tasks. That way they were putting the transversal competences proposed into practice, which was the second objective. Despite the fact that we offered them tools for telecollaboration (an institutional email and an institutional platform so they could work with each other), we saw that the institutional email and the forums regulated by the two universities were not used very much for the telecollaboration. “The students preferred to use their usual tools in the web world, like their personal email and the Tuenti social networking site, in this case,” adds José Miguel Blanco.