Out of sight, out of mind : how proximity influenced access during computer supported collaborative authoring



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In spite of the popularity of technologies that facilitate distance learning, institutions still educate students who gather together in shared physical spaces. But now even these traditional settings for learning are more collaborative and technology-rich environments. Qualitative methods in the sociolinguistic tradition allowed me to attend carefully to the vocal and non-vocal interactions of students engaged in a computer supported collaborative authoring assignment. Three research questions guided my inquiry: 1) In what ways did students negotiate roles and responsibilities?; 2) In what ways did students negotiate access to their assignment?; and 3) what was the nature of discourse in computer supported collaborative authoring? I conducted microanalysis of the communication in online discussions and face-to-face discourse throughout an entire semester of one graduate level course entitled The Psychology of Teachers and Teaching. My data revealed that the online discussion forum, physical proximity to the computer during face-to-face collaboration and instructor influence shaped the students’ roles and responsibilities as well as their entry into the assignment. I propose a model illustrating how students negotiate entry into computer supported collaborative authoring assignments and discuss its implications for teaching and learning.