In-person vs. online collaboration in science education 1-0

There is a new edition of Best Evidence in Brief and with a study that possibly will stir some discussion: what’s best in-person or online collaboration to study science:

In an article published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, researchers studied whether online collaborative learning was more effective than in-person collaborative learning in middle school science classes in relation to students’ understanding of science concepts.

In the study, 90 eighth graders from five classes taught by two teachers at a Virginia public school participated over nine weeks. One teacher taught the experimental group and the other taught the control group. Following a pre-test using the Misconceptions-Oriented Standards-Based Assessment Resources for Teachers (MOSART), both groups were given traditional in-class instruction on the same science topics. At least twice a week, collaborative assignments were then given to the classes, the only difference being that the experimental group collaborated online and did not receive immediate teacher feedback on their theories, unlike the control group who collaborated in person. After nine weeks, the groups were post-tested using MOSART. Results showed that the online group did not perform as well as the face-to-face group, increasing the amount of science misconceptions as compared to baseline. Researchers reflected that online learning does not provide immediate teacher feedback and it is possible that students reinforce each other’s incorrect concepts when the teacher is not there to correct them.

The experiment is rather small in n and was based on a convenience sample, still:

“…the control group showed a significant increase in mean scores from pretest to posttest; whereas, the experimental group demonstrated a significant reduction from pretest to posttest.”

Abstract of the study:

This quantitative, quasi-experimental pretest/posttest control group design examined the effects of online collaborative learning on middle school students’ science literacy. For a 9-week period, students in the control group participated in collaborative face-to-face activities whereas students in the experimental group participated in online collaborative activities using the Edmodo educational platform. Students at a public middle school in central Virginia completed both a pretest and a posttest consisting of the Misconceptions-Oriented Standards-Based Assessment Resources for Teachers (MOSART) assessment to measure science misconceptions as an aspect of science literacy. Results indicated that the students who participated in collaborative activities in the traditional classroom had fewer science misconceptions than students who participated in collaborative activities in the online environment. Moreover, from pretest to posttest, the students in the experimental group increased in their science misconceptions. Suggestions for practice and future research are discussed in light of these results.

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