There is a research expressed a belief that distance learning is inferior to face to face learning (Allen and Seaman, 2006).However, we cannot denying the fact that now more and more students are taking online learning. Actually, one in four American students is now at least having one course online. On the other side, there is a great number of online learners are not belonging to the “traditional age”. They are over the age of 25, which means they have abundant work experience, more motivated and have the self-discipline to manage effectively the unstructured nature of the distance learning environment (Didiase, 2000)
According to a survey conducted by Chen, Gonyea, and Kuh (2008),
"Distance learners participate at least as often, and at times more often, than campus-based students in three activities: (a) asking questions in class and contributing to class discussion, (b) participating in community-based projects as part of a regular course, and (c) discussing ideas from readings or classes with others outside of class. However, distance learners are less engaged, on average, in two areas: (a) working with other students on projects during class, and (b) working with classmates outside of class to prepare class assignments.”
Thinking about my online experience, distance learners do perform more active than campus based students, they talked a lot on our weekly chatting section, usually it is connected to their work experience, and they always come up with unique idea.
However, in group work, I find different results. My online group work is a little bit different from other groups, the majority of our group members are all campus-based learners, and there is really a problem when we communicate with our off-campus member. We-campus based students always prefer to have a synchronous chatting. We all expect to get a prompt answer from others. However, according other group’s experience, distant learners perform actively during their group work. Because the majority of their group members are all distant learners, they are get used to use email to contact with each other, their group work is asynchronous.
Other finding in Chen, Gonyea, and Kuh (2008) includes:
“Older distance learners differ from younger online students in noteworthy ways. Older students report greater gains and are more likely to engage in higher order mental activities such as analysis and synthesis as part of their studies. However, they are less involved in activities that depend on interacting with others, such as working with other students on problems or assignments.”
In my opinion, if there are clearly group guidelines, situation might be different. Anyway, I still have big confidence about online collaborative Learning.
Chen, P., R. Gonyea, and G. Kuh (2008). Learning at a distance: Engaged or not?. Innovate 4 (3). Retrieved on June 25, 2010, from http://www.innovateonline.info/pdf/vol4_issue3/Learning_at_a_Distance-__Engaged_or_Not_.pdf