Internet-based learning environments for project-enhanced science learning

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  • Journal of Computer Assisted Learning (2002) 18, 232-236

    232 2002 Blackwell Science Ltd

    Research notesWhat the user log shows based on learning time distributionW-Y. Hwang & C-C. LiInformation and Computer Education Institute, National Kouhsiung Normal University, TaiwanThis research uses database technology to record the learning status and timing ofasynchronous learners from the log file, and uses these records to obtain the timedistribution of learning activities (Jonassen, 1996). This short note first discusses theinterval of access to the courseware, that is, the interval of login into theasynchronous teaching material server, and then, the reading duration of each login.The reading duration is studied in detail, including material selection and detailedtime distribution. A combination of the above two studies, provides the learningcharacteristics of the asynchronous learner.

    The time and status of login and the selection of content are recorded in the logfile. (Jones & Jones, 1997). It appears that there is always a pattern to learnerbehaviour over time and it is possible to identify characteristics of the learner.

    The course, Basic Computer Concepts was studied over 12 weeks with a certaintopic each week. Three weeks of face-to-face teaching, in the first, sixth and twelfthweek, were included in the 12 weeks, the other nine weeks being asynchronousstudy. The learning progress was monitored through homework. Student could onlymove to the next topic after handing in homework. There are 43 students involved inthe experiment and all of them were teachers in senior or elementary schools.

    For some students, logged-in for short periods and the reading time was shortduring each login between the second and third face-to-face session. This revealsthat the progress of learning was stimulated by the pressure of the face-to-facesessions. Consequently, the mechanism of face-to-face sessions in an asynchronouscurriculum is quite indispensable.

    However, some students followed a regular pattern with a batch of intensivelearning every three or four days before the due day of homework. Therefore, themechanism of week-by-week learning control mentioned above is indispensable.

    According to the data, more than a half (22/43) students kept to the studyschedule and finished the homework every week. With appropriate supervision, theykept up with the schedule and didnt fall behind by more than one week. About athird of the students hurriedly handed in the homework just before the face-to-facesessions. Also, there were a few students (four) who abandoned the course.

    Various kinds of encouragement and support need to be provided. For instance,the system should pay attention to the passive students and provide them withadequate support immediately. This can be provided by email when the students whofall behind the schedule are off-line and by the technique of pop-up messages whenthey are online. Hardworking students should be given additional materials orreferences at the right moment to inspire intellectual curiosity and promote learning.

    The data show that the reading period is a critical one. The asynchronouslearning time can be used as a basis to modify the learning material and to develop

    Accepted 26 June 2001

    Correspondence: Wu-Yuin Hwang, Information and Computer Education Institute, National KouhsiungNormal University, Kouhsiung, 802, Taiwan. Email:

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    2002 Blackwell Science Ltd, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 18, 232-236

    material that is adaptive to the individuals. For instance, if all the students spendmuch more time on a certain subject this might indicate that the material is toodifficult or inappropriate to this group. On the other hand, if students fail a test andthe log file shows that they seldom read the material of that topic, the system shouldautomatically remind and encourage him.

    It appears that learning assisted mechanisms are extremely important in anasynchronous learning environment because of the individual differences. Thisresearch is continuing and should produce deeper insights into asynchronouslearning systems.


    Jonassen, D.H. (1996) Computers in the Classroom-Mindtools for Critical Thinking. PrenticeHall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

    Jones, T. & Jones, M., (1997) MacSQEAL: A Tool for Exploration of Hypermedia Log FileSequences. In Proceedings of ED-MEDIA 97 and ED-TELECOM 97 (eds. T. Muldner &T.C. Reeves) pp. 539-544. AACE, Charlottesville, VA.

    Internet-based learning environments for project-enhancedscience learningP. HkkinenInstitute for Educational Research, University of JyvskylProject-enhanced work has been assumed to provide students with opportunities forcontext-based cognitive apprenticeships in authentic scientific inquiry, usingcomputers for data-collection, analysis and communication. Student teams aresupposed to work collaboratively on often long-term projects with teacher guidanceto develop their understanding of concepts and skills, e.g. through problem solvingand reflection. Through the use of technology, teachers now have new opportunitiesfor transforming learning to better resemble the authentic practice of science. Thereare attempts to build network-based systems for participants that provide a supportstructure for project-enhanced science learning (Pea, 1993; ONeill & Gomez,1994). These tools usually allow shared inquiry, communication and knowledge-building between project members through shared workspaces. However, it is oftenassumed that project-enhanced learning is automatically a good thing leading todeeper level learning, and only seldom describe the barriers for the promotion ofsuccessful learning. The aim of this study is to examine the possibilities andconstraints of project-based work in a networked science learning environment.

    The subjects of the study were two classes of primary school students and theirteachers participating in a science learning project. One pair of 1011 year-old girls(n = 2) was chosen for detailed analysis and case description in this pilot phase of theproject. The goal of the learning project was to gather, analyse and share ideasrelated to properties and recycling of plastics. The project lasted for three months,and the time spent on the project varied between three and eight hours per week. Aparticular pedagogical model was designed to support both individual and sociallyshared reflective thinking as well as reification of previously completed work(Lehrer et al., 1994). The model focused on planning, problem framing and

    Accepted 20 November 2001

    Correspondence: Pivi Hkkinen, Institute for Educational Research, University of Jyvskyl,P.O. Box 35, FIN-40351 Jyvskyl, Finland Email:

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    2002 Blackwell Science Ltd, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 18, 232-236

    monitoring, and it was integrated into the use of a collaborative discussionenvironment called HyperNews. In this environment students could communicatewith other students, teachers and experts by posting messages that could be labelledand linked to other messages. The HyperNews environment was used particularly inthe planning and evaluation phases of the project work.

    The results of the case study indicate that although spontaneous reflection wasrather common in the face-to-face situations of the Plastics project, it was rather rarein the network discussions in the HyperNews environment. In general, the networkdiscussions were descriptive rather than exploratory and reflective in nature. Itseemed that stronger support, such as cognitive scaffolding and mentoring towardsreflection, was needed. However, some crucial episodes involving reflectivediscussion did occur during the projects. A typical feature of these episodes was thatthe teacher supported the students towards more reflective knowledge articulationactivities and externalisation of their own thinking, especially during the planningand evaluation phases of the learning project. It was noted that, by making thestudents working processes explicit, the asynchronous discussion environmentprovided the teacher with the opportunity of following that working from phase tophase in order to assess adequately how to scaffold learning processes.

    Based on these initial results of the project, it seems evident that project-enhanced learning sets new demands on students and teachers by challenging thetraditional practices and support structures of schools. Learning from doing complex,challenging and authentic projects requires resourcefulness and planning by thestudent, new forms of knowledge representation in school, expanded mechanisms forcollaboration and communication, and support for reflection and authenticassessment (Laffey et al., 1998). It can be argued that although research results havedemonstrated computers can play a central role in restructuring social interactionand knowledge construction, the realisation of this potential is still not so self-evident in institutionalised schooling (e.g. Pea, 1993; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1994).As Windschitl (1998) has stated, in order to realise this potential we need tounderstand better the relationship between technology, pedagogy, project-orientedcurricula and student learning (p. 28).


    Laffey, J., Tupper, T., Musser, D. & Wedman, J. (1998) A Computer-Mediated SupportSystem for Project-Based Learning. Educational Technology Research and Development,46, 1, 7386.

    Lehrer, R., Erickson, J. & Connell, T. (1994) Learning by Designing Hypermedia Documents.Computers in Schools, 10, 12, 227254.

    ONeill, D.K. & Gomez, L. (1994) The Collaboratory Notebook: A distributed knowledge-building environment for project-enhanced learning. In Educational Multimedia andHypermedia, Proceedings of Ed-Media94 (eds. T. Ottmann & I. Tomek), pp. 416423.AACE, Charlottesville, VA.

    Pea, R.D. (1993) Learning scientific concepts through material and social activities:Conversational analysis meets conceptual change. Educational Psychologist, 28, 3, 265277.

    Scardamalia, M. & Bereiter, C. (1994) Computer support for knowledge-buildingcommunities. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 3, 265283.

    Windschitl, M. (1998) The WWW and Classroom Research. What Path Should We Take?Educational Researcher, 27, 1, 2833.

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    Excessive Internet usage or Internet Addiction? Theimplications of diagnostic categories for student usersS. HansenSchool of Psychology, Murdoch University,The new psychological disorder of Internet Addiction (IA) is fast accruing bothpopular and in some circles professional recognition. This pathology claims tomake sense of excessive Internet use, which is considered a behavioural addictionakin to pathological gambling. Indeed, the diagnostic criteria for Internet Addictionhave been cut and pasted in advance of the conduct of any substantialresearch from the criteria for pathological gambling contained in the APAsDiagnostic and Statistical Manual (Goldberg, 1996; Young, 1998).

    More recently, five subtypes of IA have been proposed (Young, 2000). Theseextend the reach of the disorder from excessive (and nonproductive) use-in-generalto encompass a range of different online activities. This research project is primarilyconcerned with the effects of two of these categorisations: cyber-sexual addictionand cyber-relationship addiction. These new variants of Internet Addiction appear tohave been formulated in recognition of the Internet as a social space, whererelationships may be conducted. However, these subtypes also link the disorder tothe (popular) psychological literature on sex and relationship addiction. Thisconnection to the self help market arguably makes Internet Addiction a morelucrative form of psychological disorder. The understanding of addiction alluded toin many of the popular texts (e.g. Carnes, 1982) explicitly referenced by InternetAddiction researchers (e.g. Young, 2000) is rather different from that contained inthe more established psychological literature on pathological gambling, or problemdrug use -in which the term addiction itself has fallen out of use.

    This research questions the utility of construing excessive and nonproductivestudent Internet use as symptomatic of Internet Addiction.

    The online behaviour of institutional users is particularly vulnerable tocategorization as pathological. Universities and colleges which provide studentInternet accounts routinely form policies to regulate the Internet usage and onlineconduct of their students. The introduction of Internet codes of conduct, andcharges for excessive Internet use are amongst the strategies that have been adoptedto curtail time spent online. Such policies ultimately reflect economically drivenconcerns. Students have access to limited resources, and, in the interests of others,should refrain from exceeding their allocated online time. Codes of conduct ofteninclude clauses concerning the kinds of activities that may be conducted whilstonline, in addition to agreements about time and download limitations. At a certainlevel, these also reflect economic concerns: The viewing of online pornography, insome states is patently illegal and when considering a pool of potentiallyunderage users, prohibition is often deemed necessary. Social use of the Internet in chat rooms, in Multi-User Domains, or on Internet Relay Chat may besimilarly restricted. Cases of students falling behind in their studies due to excessiveinvestments in online relationships have been documented as cases of Internetaddiction (e.g. Young, 1998).

    Accepted 1 November 2000

    Correspondence: Susan Hansen, School of Psychology, Murdoch University, Western Australia, 6150

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    However, other social researchers have noted a range of potentially positivebenefits for such invested student users (e.g. Turkle, 1995). Not least amongst theseare the series of generalisable technological skills that come with a familiarity withcontemporary Internet applications.

    The current project aims to disentangle these diverse interests from thepsychological concerns of those who would render the excessive social Internetuse of students as symptomatic of Internet addiction and thus as requiringpsychological intervention and management.

    To this end, it will include: a critical overview of contemporary research on Internet addiction in student

    populations (e.g. Griffiths et al., 1999); an analysis of student attitudes toward the Internet as a social technology, and/or

    as a tool for learning; and a critical interrogation of the available strategies for the regulation of student

    Internet use.Data has been drawn from a variety of sources student discussions of the

    Internet; the popular and academic psychological literature; and the formal codes ofconduct, and regulative strategies of a number of tertiary institutions. A combinationof discourse analytic and ethnomethodological techniques will be used to analysethis data.

    This research will provide a critical balance for the existing literature on Internetaddiction in student populations, and relevant considerations for the formulation ofnon-stigmatising policy for the regulation of institutional Internet usage.


    Carnes, P. (1982) Out of the Shadows. Hazenden Educational Materials, Minnesota.Goldberg, I. (1996) Internet Addiction Disorder. (URL checked 10 March 2002), M., Miller, H., Gillespie, T. & Sparrow, P. (1999) Internet usage and internet

    addiction in students and its implications for learning. Journal of Computer AssistedLearning, 15, 8990.

    Turkle, S. (1995) Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. Simon & Schuster,New York.

    Young, K. (1998) Caught in the Net. How to Recognize the Signs of Internet Addiction and aWinning Strategy for Recovery. John Wiley, New York.

    Young, K. (2000) The Legal Implications of Cybersexual Addiction. Poster presented at the108th annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Washington DC, 4August, 2000.

    Research underway?

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    Do not wait to submit a final paper to JCAL but write a short (500-word) Research Notewhich will be published on the website and will appear in an issue of JCAL as soon as spaceallows.

    Research Notes should be send as email attachments to the Research Notes Editor:Dr. Andy Tolmie


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