Does Anonymity Matter in Collaborative Learning Environment?

Jean LAI
Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong
jeanlai@comp.hkbu.edu.hk

Dimple R. THADANI
Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong
dimplet@hkbu.edu.hk

Yi WANG
Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong
yiwang@comp.hkbu.edu.hk

Abstract

Collaborative learning has been proved as an effective way to invoke students' thinking process. Critical thinking skills are extremely important to University students as they are about to get into the job market. Group discussion is one key means to facilitate collaborative learning. The modes to conduct group discussion include both face-to-face conversations and computer discussions (e.g. social network forum, online forums, chatroom etc).

Most Chinese students are too timid to speak up in class, so classroom discussion is always ineffective in Asia. They think that answering questions wrongly in class might project a poor image to the teacher. Other students might think they are too aggressive if answering too many times. Young people are not really that shy when presenting themselves to peers virtually on the Internet. Most of them actively participate in online discussion forums, wiki and facebook pages etc. People who are shy in reality can present themselves not to be that shy in virtual world.

This project aimed to construct an online collaborative learning environment (system) to enhance students learning and get relief from worry. The major difference between the proposed system and the collaboration tools of the traditional E-Learning systems (e.g. Blackboard or Moodle) is that all users are anonymous to each other. In the proposed system, each participant registers a user name with an avatar without letting the teacher and/or other students know. The effectiveness of the proposed system is measured by a questionnaire and the transaction data in the proposed system.

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