, Volume 56, Issue 2, pp 101-124
Date: 21 Jun 2007

Computer-mediated instruction: a comparison of online and face-to-face collaboration

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This study investigated the effects of collaboration mode and group composition during a computer-mediated collaborative (CMC) program. Six intact sections of a computer literacy course were assigned to either a face-to-face or a virtual, online collaboration treatment condition. Groups consisted of homogeneous lower-ability, homogeneous higher-ability, or heterogeneous-ability pairs. The study examined the effects of collaboration mode and group composition on individual posttest performance, group project performance, collaborative interaction behavior, and attitudes towards the instruction. Results indicated that virtual dyads exhibited significantly more questioning behaviors and significantly better project performance than those who collaborated face-to-face. By comparison, students in the face-to-face condition performed significantly better on the individual posttest than those in the virtual online condition. Findings suggest that both virtual and face-to-face collaboration can be effective in achieving learning goals. However, consideration should be given to the collaborative structure of the lesson and the type of task in the design of CMC environments.

The findings reported in this paper were part of a dissertation study the first author conducted while a doctoral student at Arizona State University–Tempe. The authors wish to thank Howard Sullivan and Willi Savenye for their assistance in planning the study. We also acknowledge the contribution of Steve Ross and the anonymous ETR&D reviewers for their useful comments on an earlier draft of the paper.
An erratum to this article can be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11423-008-9092-7