An Investigation into Real-time, Small-Group, Student-Centred Engagement on Mobile Devices in Lectures.

Author: Mark Damian Reilly

Reilly, Mark Damian, 2016 An Investigation into Real-time, Small-Group, Student-Centred Engagement on Mobile Devices in Lectures., Flinders University, School of Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics

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This thesis investigates the engagement of students in the lecture environment, with a student-centred approach, using mobile devices. The lecture is not, and cannot be, a one-size-fits-all solution to the delivery of content due to the globalisation of university education. The lecturer and student body are drawn from many cultural identities and bring with them, different knowledge, skills, abilities and other attributes, in addition to their social and cultural norms. For many students the ability to engage, or remain engaged, in a lecture is beyond their own ability, or that of the lecturer, even with the best of intentions from both. If the lecturer and the student cannot provide, or maintain, the necessary engagement the only remaining avenue for engaging the student in the lecture content is their fellow student; someone who is, or should be, in attendance at the same lecture.

The solution proposed in this thesis, GroupNotes, uses mobile devices that are likely already in the possession of the student to provide silent, fast, written interaction, and allows small groups of students to cooperate in meeting the shared goal of increasing their own knowledge. GroupNotes allows each group member to dynamically limit their real-time exposure to the content generated by the group without affecting the ability of any other group member to do the same; while at the same time making available for review, after the lecture, a full capture of all content generated during the session. The results from testing GroupNotes suggest that students, during the lecture session, prefer collaborative to individual note-taking, sharing virtual workspaces in a quiet environment to tangible workspaces in an audible environment, and to sharing spatially separated workspaces over a constrained common workspace, either physical or virtual. The students also report being more engaged with collaborative than with individual note-taking, and when sharing spatially separated workspaces over sharing a common workspace. GroupNotes testing also provided results that indicated a positive impact on engagement outside of the lecture session in two areas. The use of GroupNotes encouraged students to revise their lecture notes, and to discuss them with at least one other person, however a third area, that of increasing preparation before the lecture, was not confirmed.

The contribution of this research is that it identies a student preference for collaborative over individual note taking during a lecture and that this cooperation takes place in a spatially separated virtual environment. With access to this form of cooperation, students reported increased educationally meaningful engagement both during the lecture and in post-lecture activities, over their current practice of note taking in isolation. The capability of modern mobile device technology, combined with the desirability of these devices for use in everyday activities, afforded an opportunity to examine an alternate method of engaging students in those lectures where neither the individual student, or the lecturer, is capable of providing the required level of engagement.

The findings from this research invite further investigation to determine where this type of interaction is most effective; technical or social science disciplines?, local or foreign students?, paired or larger groups?, or all disciplines evenly? A further direction for research is to determine what use can be made of the ready availability of the notes taken by students during a lecture. How can this information be used to inform the lecturer of their success, or otherwise, in achieving the knowledge transfer they are attempting.

Keywords: Computer Supported Collaborative Learning, small group cooperative learning, social learning, mobile learning, engagement, multi-user interface

Subject: Computer Science thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2016
School: School of Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics
Supervisor: Dr Haifeng Shen