, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 27-37

Collaboration and Teamwork: Immersion and Presence in an Online Learning Environment

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Abstract

In the world of OTIS, an online Internet School for occupational therapists, students from four European countries were encouraged to work collaboratively through problem-based learning by interacting with each other in a virtual semi-immersive environment. This paper describes, often in their own words, the experience of European occupational therapy students working together across national and cultural boundaries. Collaboration and teamwork were facilitated exclusively through an online environment, since the students never met each other physically during the OTIS pilot course. The aim of the paper is to explore the observations that (1) there was little interaction between students from different tutorial groups and (2) virtual teamwork developed in each of the cross-cultural tutorial groups. Synchronous data from the students was captured during tutorial sessions and peer-booked meetings and analyzed using the qualitative constructs of ‘immersion’, ‘presence’ and ‘reflection in learning’. The findings indicate that ‘immersion’ was experienced only to a certain extent. However, students found both ‘presence’ and shared presence, within their tutorial groups, to help collaboration and teamwork. Other evidence suggests that communities of interest were established. Further study is proposed to support group work in an online learning environment. It is possible to conclude that collaborative systems can be designed, which encourage students to build trust and teamwork in a cross cultural online learning environment.

This revised version was published online in March 2005 with corrections to the cover date
Funded by the European Union through the TENTelecom programme.