Analysis of Contradictions in Online Collaborative Learning using Activity Theory as Analytical Framework

Mohd Nihra Haruzuan Mohamad Said, Mike Forret, Chris Eames


While previous studies have cited the benefits of incorporating online collaborative learning (OCL) in teaching and learning, there are also shortcomings of OCL that should not be ignored. This study aimed to investigate the constraints of incorporating OCL in a Malaysian tertiary classroom using Activity Theory as analytical framework. Activity Theory proved to be useful, particularly for OCL, because it provided a structure for identifying internal contradictions, also referred as tensions or constraints as result of interaction by the components of the OCL. Hence, the objectives of this paper are twofold: to identify constraints of OCL as perceived by students; and to investigate their suggestions or recommendations for improvement of OCL. The findings indicated two keys constraints: technology-related contradictions, which are related to desire for synchronous feedback in forum discussions, cut and paste and plagiarism of ideas, and other technological distractions; and group discussion contradictions. These refer to repetitive and mixed-up postings, clashes on topics of discussion, and discussions being too formal. Suggestions for improvement are reported by students regarding aspects of personalizing an online collaborative learning template; and providing additional support for collaborating online.


E-learning; online collaborative learning; activity theory-based analytic framework

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