The effects of online collaborative learning activities on student perception of level of engagement



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As online learning becomes more popular, higher education is becoming more interested in this new medium of learning. However, attrition has become a developing problem for colleges and universities that offer online classes, as some students found it was difficult to stay engaged in their online courses. From the literature, it was hypothesized that instructional designs that incorporate collaborative activities will lead to higher perceived engagement levels than those that incorporate individualistic learning. An exploratory study used a self-report survey instrument to measure students' perception of level of engagement in six graduate-level online classes (n=66). Half of the courses in the study integrated formal collaborative activities as a significant component of the course and half represented learning environments characterized by whole group and individualistic learning. The results showed a significant positive relationship between classes that used collaborative activities and engagement levels. However, the coded responses of the participants showed that while classes that use such activities had higher levels of engagement, it is possible that this may be attributable to other factors external to the formal elements of collaboration in the course. Recommendations are offered for future research that may help identify the elements that contribute to engagement in online courses.