In this chapter, the collaboration principle was highlighted as a way of multimedia learning. There are three key points to consider to allow collaboration to be the most effective. First, tasks need to be cognitively demanding through group collaboration, while effectively using collective working memory. Secondly, cognitive processes and details needed for understanding must be productively shared among group members. Finally, multimedia surroundings must support and give the needed tools to allow communication regarding work, in order to collectively work together to complete tasks in the least amount of time. Therefore, as the authors of this chapter state, “The goal of multimedia in collaborative learning is the optimization of the relationship between transaction costs and distribution benefits” (Kirschner et al., 2014, p. 548).
The Collaboration Principle 1
The Collaboration Principle 1 states “collaborative tasks in a multimedia learning environment should be cognitively demanding enough to necessitate working” (p. 548). As educators, we can not go “simply placing learners in a group and assigning them a task” (p. 549) and tasks need to be beneficial to group performance. Research shows having students work on tasks that are problem-solving as a group rather than recalling, led to greater outcomes. Noted in an article “three-person, four-person, and five-person groups had significantly fewer trials to solution… than the best of an equivalent number of individuals” (Laughlin et al. 2006, p. 649). Therefore, working in collaborative ways can allow learners to look past their own working memory and experience a collective working memory, in order to understand more. An implication of Principle 1 is the task may be too difficult for one learner, making them rely consistently on collaboration with others. It can also lead to students feeling they must become an expert in their part of group work in order to share with others. Educators need to see these implications and adapt learning environments to support all learners.
The Collaboration Principle 2
The Collaboration Principle 2 states “multimedia should stimulate effective and efficient distribution of thoughts and cognitive processes while members carry out tasks” (p. 553). For this to be achieved, there are a few things needed to be considered and implemented when individuals work collaboratively. When individuals work together effectively, they end up investing less cognitive effort than those working alone since they are able to divide information across “a larger reservoir of cognitive capacity” (p. 553). Working in a group allows cognitive processing to work on both the individual and group levels. On the individual level, one learns by internalizing their thoughts. On the group level, one learns by externalizing their thoughts and communicating with others. Without the externalizing of one’s thoughts, collaboration cannot take place. To collaborate most effectively, group members should have a common goal and focus, be aware of each other’s prior knowledge and ensure tasks are not divided among group members. Group members need to depend on each other to successfully complete a task. As Wageman states in her research, dividing tasks reduces interdependency and such groups “often run into disasters” (1995, p. 158). Educational Technology tools such as Personalized Annotation Management System (PAMS) and Knowledge Forum (KF) can also be used to help group members communicate and share resources with each other.
The Collaboration Principle 3
To create an effective multimedia environment for collaboration, it must include tools all group members have access to in order to engage students with their interactions. The third collaboration principle states “multimedia should facilitate effective and efficient communication and regulation of actions” (p. 561). Successful collaboration requires learners to interact in two dialogical spaces: the content space and the relational space of collaboration. The content space is to further develop the task domain. The relational space of collaboration is establishing a shared understanding. Learners often face challenges with successfully collaborating in multimedia environments; however, these facilities can offer “opportunities to facilitate transactional activities” (p. 562), which can play a valuable role in learning outcomes and understanding. Collaborative multimedia learning can be split into two relationships. The first is a complementary relationship where people or media have significantly different functions or characteristics and can compensate for each other’s limitations. The other is a supplementary relationship where people or media have many things in common. For learners to engage in effective and efficient collaboration, they need to share their knowledge and opinions. Multimedia can support this through representational guidance and by participating in communicative activities that support shared understanding to limit group challenges, such as free-riding and social loafing. An implication of principle 3 would be to make sure there are opportunities for effective communication to foster discussion, as well as coordinating the group’s background knowledge to provide a holistic approach.
Research & Implications for Future Research
The limitations of current research and implications for future research regarding the collaboration principle in multimedia learning are extensive. The first limitation would be creating an ideal group size for collaborative learning. Expanding a group would increase the collective working memory of the group which would be beneficial, but the cognitive load goes along with social factors of collaborating with peers would also increase. Another limitation would be how to breakdown and study the cognitive perspective on collaborative learning in multimedia learning environments. The success of the learner and learners, in this case, depends on the interactions between cognitive, motivational, and social factors.
In Practice Connections
Some of our favourite edtech applications for communicating and collaborating are google docs, google classroom and microsoft teams. Make sure if you are using a new application, you discuss it with your District Instructional Technology Coordinator first to ensure it has the proper privacy settings.
A resource that we have also included to get a sense of collaboration in the classroom is a Grade 3 cross-curricular lesson plan involving English Language Arts and Drama.
In the article “Teacher Competencies for the Implementation of Collaborative Learning in the Classroom: a Framework and Research Review” by Kaendler et al., the authors state the effectiveness of collaboration is largely dependent on the “quality of student interaction” (2014, p. 505). As educators, to ensure collaboration among students is successful, it is important to plan student interaction, monitor it, support it, and consolidate it and then reflect on it (p.505). One way to do this is by fostering a positive classroom community from the beginning of the year. Activities such as the ones outlined in this website can achieve this.
We highly recommend giving this article a read for more information on how to foster student interaction that is beneficial for learning.
BookWidgets. (2020, March, 25). How to set up school communication from a distance- 9 communication apps for teachers. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jK7pt4TD-dk
Kaendler, C., Wiedmann, M., Rummel, N., & Hans, S., (2014). Teacher competencies for the implementation of collaborative learning in the classroom: a framework and research review. Educational Psychology Review, 27(3), p. 505-536. doi: 10.1007/s10648-014-9288-9.
Kirschner, P. A., Kirschner, F., & Janssen, J., (2005). The collaboration principle in Multimedia Learning. In R. Mayer (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning (Cambridge Handbooks in Psychology, pp. 547-575). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511816819.022.
Laughlin, P. R., Hatch, E. C., Silver, J. S., & Boh, L. (2006). Groups perform better than the best individuals on letters-to-numbers problems: Effects of group size. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(4), 644-651.
Plans, P. (n.d.) 5 ways to build classroom community. The Secondary English Coffee Shop. Retrieved from https://secondaryenglishcoffeeshop.blogspot.com/2017/02/building-classroom-community.html.
Wageman, R. (1995). Interdependence and group effectiveness. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40(1), 145–180. doi: 10.2307/2393703.