Scholarly article on topic 'Didactic and Pedagogical View of E-learning Activities Free University of Bozen-bolzano'

Didactic and Pedagogical View of E-learning Activities Free University of Bozen-bolzano Academic research paper on "Computer and information sciences"

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{e-learning / "blended learning" / "online learning environments" / "e-learning activities" / "Universal Instructional Design"}

Abstract of research paper on Computer and information sciences, author of scientific article — Francesca Ravanelli, Ivan Serina

Abstract In the knowledge and communication age, the contribution of technology, especially web 2.0, has transformed the concept of distance learning into that of e-learning and online learning. These are based on the use of CSCL (Computer Supported Collaborative Learning) and characterised by a pedagogical approach focussed on the learner, cooperative building of knowledge, and increasing the diversity of its learner base. Online learning represents a considerable opportunity for universities to promote larger and more democratic access to intellectual resources, reducing the social gap that is often related to on-site learning. However, using e-learning educational methods require careful consideration of different aspects and problems. This paper starts with a description of the most widely used open source e-learning platforms in Italian Universities. Furthermore, it proposes an analysis of the pedagogical and didactic potential of the tools offered by the Moodle platform and a reflection about the need to use guidelines to evaluate accessibility, also with reference to the Universal Instructional Design principles. In the final part, a study about the concrete use of specific Moodle activities in some courses at the University of Bolzano (empirical research and verification on field) is presented with the purpose of identifying methodological indications that could help to implement the educational and inclusive value of the online contexts.

Academic research paper on topic "Didactic and Pedagogical View of E-learning Activities Free University of Bozen-bolzano"

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Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 116 (2014) 1774 - 1784

5th World Conference on Educational Sciences - WCES 2013

Didactic and Pedagogical View of E-Learning Activities Free University of Bozen-Bolzano

Francesca Ravanelli *, Ivan Serina

LUB Libera Universita di Bolzano, viale Ratisbona, 16, 39042 Bressanone, Italia

Abstract

In the knowledge and communication age, the contribution of technology, especially web 2.0, has transformed the concept of distance learning into that of e-learning and online learning. These are based on the use of CSCL (Computer Supported Collaborative Learning) and characterised by a pedagogical approach focussed on the learner, cooperative building of knowledge, and increasing the diversity of its learner base. Online learning represents a considerable opportunity for universities to promote larger and more democratic access to intellectual resources, reducing the social gap that is often related to on-site learning. However, using e-learning educational methods require careful consideration of different aspects and problems. This paper starts with a description of the most widely used open source e-learning platforms in Italian Universities. Furthermore, it proposes an analysis of the pedagogical and didactic potential of the tools offered by the Moodle platform and a reflection about the need to use guidelines to evaluate accessibility, also with reference to the Universal Instructional Design principles. In the final part, a study about the concrete use of specific Moodle activities in some courses at the University of Bolzano (empirical research and verification on field) is presented with the purpose of identifying methodological indications that could help to implement the educational and inclusive value of the online contexts. © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and/or peer-reviewunderresponsibilityofAcademicWorld Educationand Research Center.

Keywords: e-learning, blended learning, online learning environments, e-learning activities, Universal Instructional Design

1. The knowledge society and the necessity of lifelong learning

The contemporary society has been defined as the information society, "meant as a media global village" (Alberici, 2002, p.5). Its attention is focussed on information plurality, which is very prevalent in individuals' lives and in society. It is necessary to direct our attention to the real possibility of individuals accessing this information in order to include it into one's education in a productive way with the purpose of creating new knowledge. We talk about this with reference to the information society and the knowledge society. The knowledge society is characterised by the necessity of continuous, or lifelong, learning, regardless of time, space, age, gender or socio-cultural "distances".

2. From distance learning to e-learning

* Corresponding Author. Francesca Ravanelli Tel.: +39-0472 0 14776 E-mail address: Francesca.Ravanelli@education.unibz.it

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Academic World Education and Research Center. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.01.471

The continuous development of communication technologies and the advent of the Internet, especially Web 2.0, have imposed a radical transformation of education demand and its supply. This involved both the school and other education institutions. The field that has undergone the most immediate changes is distance learning, which has been the first to benefit from distribution technology and knowledge sharing. Indeed, distance learning has developed parallel to the technological evolution it has been supported by: from the use of mail to deliver paper documents, to electronic technologies, radio, television, tapes and CDs. This has allowed learning to move away from the centred approach, in which the teacher arranges and shares the knowledge. The one-to-many learning model is gradually moving towards a learner-centred vision, a many-to-many model, in which the collaboration and active interactions of teacher-student and student-student are also made possible by the new tools of Web 2.0. The reference paradigm of this model derives from cognitivism (Piaget-Bruner), where the learner is the author of his own learning process and sets up the social construction of knowledge (Vygotskij)(Liverta Sempio, 1998)This means that the knowledge construction procedures do not only take place through the student's cognitive patterns, but also through the interaction with the others through mediation, negotiation and cognitive apprenticeship processes. We have moved from a web of documents to a web of data with tools that help us use the data with the purpose of reprocessing, aggregation, and recreation. These processes are carried out in a more and more collaborative manner. Online learning is becoming more and more similar to a platform like an interactive learning environment, in which knowledge can be constructed on the basis of shared interests and activities.

The above-described evolution has contributed to change distance learning into online, or e-learning, which is focused on the individual who learns in an environment that has been planned and designed according to methodological and educational criteria that meets the needs of a knowledge society. We moved from the Learning Object logic, i.e. a pre-established teaching "resource" that cannot stand a real learning process, to the Learning Environment logic, and more specifically to the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). This means an environment rich in resources where learners can work and learn, while adding to both individual and collaborative work (Marconato, 2009). Structured digital environments for learning activities are characterised by a range of resources and activities that learners can use and reprocess according to the needs of the project and of the learning community, the so-called CSCL (Computer Supported Collaborative Learning) environment.

It must be clarified that the term e-learning does not simply mean "electronic learning", i.e. a process that can be activated through electronic or telematic tools. E-learning is defined as the "use of new multimedia technologies and the Internet to improve the quality of learning and facilitate access to resources and services, as well as longdistance exchange and collaboration" (Galliani & Costa, 2005, p.10).

This is a situation in which "...the distinction between face-to-face teaching and distance teaching will be less and less relevant, because the use of telecommunication and interactive multimedia support will better complement traditional teaching forms" (Levy, 2001, p.166), as recommended by the Memorandum on Lifelong Learning. This promotes the necessity of a distance learning system (key messages no. 3 and no. 6: "bringing learning closer to home") that reaches all users, creating a lifelong learning net with the aid of new information and communication technologies (ICT). "ICT offers great potential for reaching scattered and isolated populations in cost-effective ways — not only for learning itself, but also for communication that serves to maintain community identity across large distances."

3. E-learning and university

E-learning and online learning represent important opportunities for universities to favour a more comprehensive, open and democratic access to learning resources, narrowing the social gap that is sometimes associated with face-to-face teaching. The university often chooses "hybrid" formats, in particular with regard to the pace of distance and face-to-face teaching. These solutions are described as "blended learning", and combine online researches and activities with in-classroom sessions.

Siemens (2009) grouped these modes into three main categories:

1. Augmented - the use of technology to extend a physical classroom. This may be as simple as incorporating web quests into a student's work, or the use of an online discussion forum.

2. Blended - technology partly replaces in-classroom learning. Part of the course is face-to-face and part is online.

3. Online - technology entirely replaces face-to-face classroom teaching or paper-based distance education.

As a result, the university meets the needs of new stakeholders by "virtualising itself", and thanks to the new technologies, is able to overcome problems related to space and time, as well as the dichotomy between internal and external, between face-to-face and distance. Lévy defined this with a forceful metaphor as the "Moebius effect" (Lévy, 1997, p.14).

Therefore the university becomes an extended context for the learning experience (Ellerani, 2010), where the events that are proposed, created together and produced by the context emphasise the intentional, relational, metacognitive and co-constructing dimension of the learning process (Ellerani in Crestoni, 2008, p.71).

At any rate, the use of teaching modes in the e-learning requires a careful consideration of the aspects and problems of many different natures.

1. Technological choices. The actual functioning of all the resources and activities involved in an online course define the success of the teaching. Therefore, it is important that the institution makes use of its technical staff who are able to construct a high quality programme and support the teachers and students during the course (Campanella et al.). First of all, the planning will concern the choice of the LMS (Learning Management System) tool, its implementation according to the requests of the various stakeholders, and its continual updating.

According to a survey carried out by the University of Bari, some Italian universities are using business platforms, while others are using open-source solutions. A minority of universities used an ad hoc solution or no solution at all. Of the different platforms, Moodle is the most used, followed by Blackboard, IBM LMS and Oracle LMS. In a further study, the same university presented a classification concerning proprietary aspects vs. open source, and the function of the platforms currently used (from the content supply to the environments that support the collaborative learning). The study's conclusions highlighted that several e-learning platforms do not take into consideration the social networking aspects, and stressed the gap between proprietary platforms and open-source platforms. They noted that open-source platforms meet the users' needs very quickly and specifically as they are supported by development communities (Impedovo et al.).

Therefore, the university's task is to choose the technology that is the most suitable for its own e-learning strategy. This choice is made with the following factors taken into consideration: quality/expense ratio, quality and number of tools and environments available, frequency of updates, flexibility, customisation, and usability of the environment.

2. Pedagogical choices. The supply of an e-learning course must take into account the learning theories that are implied by each choice (Trentin, 2008), the features of multimedia learning (Mayer, 2005), the type of learners, their types of intelligence, their individual needs, and their learning styles (Gardner, 2002), in order to create accessible and inclusive environments (Elias, 2010).

2.a. Learning theories

According to Naismith et al. (2004), cited in Trentin (2008), it is possible to identify five main learning models:

• Behaviourist - based on a stimulus-response process: you learn because you are stimulated to.

• Constructivist - stresses the active role of the learner in organising/reorganising their own net of concepts on the basis of past and present knowledge/experiences.

• Situated - based on the dynamic adaptation or contextualisation of behaviours to the context and circumstances.

• Informal - develops outside of the courses and the environments specifically dedicated to the learning purpose.

• Collaborative - plays on the interaction and social dimension of learning.

The introduction of Web 2.0 and its CSCL applications enables the modulation of the choice according to the demands and needs of each course. In any case, the university didactics should head towards a direction that, starting from the optimisation of individual learning, involves the students in activities of collaborative exchange, comparison, negotiation, conception and planning of cognitive and/or real object.

It is about applying an approach that moves from a linear direction based on a one-way (teacher-learner) supply relationship to a participative and co-constructing dimension, which is typical of active learning and net-social learning.

It is possible to outline a further evolution of learning supported by technology as shown in figure 1, which highlights the progressive changeover from the TEL (Technological Enhanced Learning) approach to the WEL (Web Enhanced Learning) approach, and finally arriving at the NCL (Networked Collaborative Learning) approach.

Fig. 1 : The e-learning evolution

"In university education, as well as in the whole of higher education, networked collaborative learning is considered as the educational approach that is able to meet the most important sustainability parameters of e-learning ' (Trentin, 2008, p. 101).

2.b. Multimedia learning

In the building and choice of multimedia materials, and in the planning of a virtual learning environment, it is important to know and refer to the principles of "Multimedia learning", in particular to the theoretical model developed by Mayer (2005), who tries to explain the cognitive processes that underlie multimedia learning. These principles are: multimedia, spatial and temporal contiguity of the stimuli; relevance and consistency of the material; presentation mode, redundancy, and individual differences. They represent an integration of the previous theories on the double coding of information researched by Paivio and the concept of cognitive load deriving from the studies of Chandler and Sweller (Mammarella, 2005).

Mayer too distinguishes between two ideas of learning supported by multimedia: multimedia learning as information acquisition, and multimedia learning as knowledge construction. Applying the second concept means adopting a learner-centred design that begins with understanding how the human mind works and asking "how can we adapt multimedia to enhance human learning?"

2.c. The inclusion of the individual differences

The students of an online course may show many individual differences (physical, psychological, visual, auditory etc.), as well as different learning styles and different types of intelligence (Gardner, 2002). Additionally, e-students are scattered in areas that may be geographically very distant, have completely different undertakings and ways of getting organised, and a pace of learning that will depend on their own work or family life. Other differences may be noticed in their competencies and skills with regard to the use of the technological tools.

During the last decade, starting from the principles of Universal Design based on architectural accessibility, the principles of Universal Instructional Design (UID) have been developed to create and design learning services, tools and environments that may be suitable for the widest range of people (Burgstahler, 2001; Council per Exceptional Children, 2005, cited in Elias, 2010).

It is interesting to note that the virtual learning environments based on the LMS can also be analysed, reviewed and implemented on the basis of the principles of fairness, inclusion and accessibility, as it was done in a previous study on distance learning (Elias, 2010). Moreover, this analysis also includes the monitoring of support inside the learning environment and of the class atmosphere supported by the different tools and interactions.

In the planning of online courses it is necessary to take into consideration the possible psychological implications to avoid harmful frustrations that may arise during the distance learning process and that may lead to abandonment or failure. "Online learning has numerous benefits, but it is easy to forget that there are challenges for learners for learning online as well. We should reduce as many of these challenges as possible..." (Shank, 2007).

3. Didactics and methodological choices. One of the most relevant aspects with regards to the spread of e-learning is the real transformation of didactics for online courses.

It is necessary that the teachers adopt a learner-centred perspective, and that they are trained for the computermediated communication and the planning of their own teaching according to the principles of the Instructional Design (Trentin, 2008). They must also be trained for the arrangement and structuring of activities that involve e-learners in their individual learning and the following confrontation, negotiation and participation in collaborative activities. Furthermore, teachers should be able to use the tools offered by the CSCL environment to allow themselves to be available to stimulate, monitor and systematically provide feedback that constitutes, at least at first, a necessary scaffolding to the students' activities.

Choosing an active, collaborative teaching and methodological perspective based on dialogue requires very precise and scrupulous organisational and planning skills, while being able to manage the students' learning process flexibly in accordance with continuous feedback, which is made possible due to the history left behind in the online environment.

4. The field analysis

This part will present an analysis carried out in Autumn 2012 at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, at the Faculty of Education and Social Science of Brixen-Bressanone, and at the Faculty of Computer Science of Bolzano. This study considered five courses supplied in the extended learning mode (in addition to classroom activity) by means of:

1. monitoring the teaching structure and programme carried out, using a special grid created for the purpose;

2. the insight of the students, who were interviewed through an online survey about the same issues that had been analysed with the tool described in the previous point.

The results of the research intend to provide incentives to facilitate the creation of online environments that are more centred on the learner, their needs, and on a collaborative approach.

4.1. Structuring the monitoring grid

Starting from the assumption that online courses at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano are supported by the Moodle platform, we moved to the formation of a tool suitable for monitoring the virtual environments, making reference to the results of a survey and standardising some markers that characterise an optimal e-learning design. This makes clear that a strong correlation between software development and e-learning pedagogy, where Moodle proved to be successful, is necessary (Elias, 2010). We implemented the grid with information about the necessity of monitoring the possible frustrations deriving from the attendance of an online course in order to reduce them (Shank, 2007). The second part of the grid analyses the two UID principles concerning the positive teaching environment and the good student community, and refers to the Instructional Design principles and the management of the educational-collaborative environment with the purpose of improving learning (WEL, NCL Trentin, 2008). The grid is based on the UID principle (Burgstahler, 2012) and was adapted to distance learning in Elias (2010). "Only one of the original UID principles (size and space for approach and use) was removed from this list. Otherwise, the existing UID principles and their accompanying definitions required only minor revisions to reflect the types of diversity found among online distance learners" (Elias, 2010, p. 111).

UID PRINCIPLES Analysed items

Equitable use Possibility of choosing the language, translator is on, dictionary is on

Flexible use Audio-video resources, links to multimedia resources, use of slides, video conference tools, graphs, mind-concept maps

Simple and intuitive use Clear netsurfing instructions, the "search" option is on, orientation section, schedule with deadline notices

Perceptible information Screen preferences: enlargement or reduction of the fonts, colour choice, clear and understandable resource labels, starting survey or guide for students with particular needs

Tolerance for user error Possibility of sending back an assignment after the teacher's feedback, possibility of self-assessment by means of repeatable quizzes or tests, a technical support forum provided

Low technical and physical effort Clearly organised and easy to find resources, functioning of media and links, performing browser

Learning support Creation of groups by the teacher, students' forum to delve into the learning material collaboratively, forum or social environment for the community, feedback, questionnaires or choices sent to the students, use of the forum for teamwork, use of a wiki for collaborative writing, use of collaborative glossaries, use of a blog or external environment for discussions and group negotiations

Educational climate Orientation section with clear work instructions, regular teacher's or tutor's feedback in the discussion forums, communication with the teacher (forum or messages)

Fig. 2: The monitoring grid

4.2. The students' insight — The survey

The second part of the analysis considered the same areas in order to create a questionnaire aimed to listen to the students, who were asked to monitor the use of the tools and resources within the learning environment and to provide information about any possible supplementary tools.

4.3. The context

The Free University of Bozen-Bolzano operates in a trilingual context (Italian, German and Ladin); the knowledge of three languages (German, Italian and English) represents a prerequisite to access an academic course. The students of the analyzed courses differed in gender (92% female in the Social Science course of study, 100% male in the Computer Science course of study), native language, skills, and competences related to their course of study (Education Science, Social Science and Computer Science). They included a wide age range (20-50 years old).

During the survey, the reference platform was Moodle, version 2.3. The majority of the students (67%) had used the Moodle platform or similar platforms before. We underline that all the analyzed courses are structured as a supplement and extension of the classroom teaching, which can influence some of the answers regarding the information provided by the teacher about the course that could be provided directly during the face-to-face classes. 55% of the students log on from home to the virtual environment, 38% use the university network, and 7% log on from other workspaces. 9% of the students log on once a day or more than once a day, 57% log on once a week or more than once a week, and 34% of the students interact with the environment only rarely or near deadlines.

5. Educational Evaluation Results and Recommendations

Here we will explain the most significant results of both the monitoring of the course design and the insight and evaluation of the students on the same aspects.

5.1. Equitable Use: course design should facilitate equitable use. The design must be useful to and accessible by people with a diverse range of abilities and in diverse locations. Using the tools was not considered difficult by 80% of the students. It is important to note a user's request of tools may help in the resolution of certain problems.

Recommendations:

Include a translator and an online dictionary.

Even in a trilingual context, linguistic barriers may be a problem for many students. Including a translator and/or an online dictionary, according to the students' requests (fig. 3), may be a useful tool to both reduce the cognitive load and avoid divided attention (Mammarella, 2005).

Graphs and mind and/or concept maps can help the students in activities of synthesis and representation of the learning process.

5.2. Flexible Use: the course design should accommodate a wide range of individual abilities, preferences, schedules, levels of connectivity, and choices of methods of use.

The monitoring highlighted a predominant use of text materials compared to the audio and video resources: according to 61% of the students, the presentation of resources occurs in text format. 21% record the use of text and video resources, whereas only 15% is supplied in text and audio mode (fig. 4). The students' insight is confirmed by the graph in figure 5, which represents the average value of the type of materials used for the research: here it is clear that the students use mainly texts, documents and presentations (slides), complemented by links to web resources of multimedia materials.

Recommendations:

Provide asynchronous multimedia materials: the use of resources in different formats can be useful to meet the different learning styles of different students. It is a good example to implement accessibility to the contents (e.g. for students with a sensory disability, different abilities, or different learning styles). It is important that these resources are available directly in the learning environment in order to avoid technical retrieval problem and frustrations. Ebooks may represent a good alternative to the necessity of using paper materials and may offer flexible access and enable an easy online consultation.

5.3. Simple and Intuitive Use: unnecessary complexity should be eliminated and course design should be simple and intuitive.

The survey intended to underline the need to offer environments that are simple in their design and comprehensive from an informational point of view. The most important options (search, schedule, latest posts) appear to be included in all courses. The survey carried out among students shows that 73% of them find it easy to navigate through the course because they note that they find the assignments and resources very easily.

Recommendations:

Simplify the Moodle interface and offer only the information that is strictly necessary. Where possible, the links and buttons should be directly linked to the contents or the activities. Use an orientation section at the beginning of the course, where the course structure and requests are specified clearly: this can be an effective way of communicating, in order to avoid further cognitive loads. The introduction of an index could further simplify navigation.

Other | 2% None

Online dictionaries Google Transaltor

Google maps 3% C-map or other 14%

text/au/video

tex and audio

text and video

text only

Fig 3: Equitable use and useful tools

Fig. 4: Types of resources

internet links poadcast e-book video lectures texts and documents videos slides

I did not need it 56%

not, I was not able yes, with difficulties yes, easily

Fig. 5: Most used resources Fig 6: Assistive technology

5.4. Perceptible Information: Screen and font preferences, text-to-speech, screen readers and captions can ensure that all learners have access to information.

The aim of inclusion and removal of useless obstacles is very important: the survey shows that it is necessary to take into account this dimension when planning an online course, even if there are a limited number of requests for it. The graph in the figure 6 stresses that the majority of students did not require this, although 8% of the users were not able to activate modalities to improve their way of working inside the environment.

Recommendations:

Introduce assistive technology: font enlargement or colour and contrast improve the usability of the contents for the students with different types of abilities.

An alternative could be the introduction of a tutorial/guide for students with particular needs.

5.5. Tolerance for User Error: UID principles minimise hazards and adverse consequences of errors in software operation by designing learning environments with a tolerance for error.

The default Moodle interface enables text to be corrected within a certain amount of time after typing. This is an example of anxiety reduction and gives an opportunity of improvement. Figure 7 highlights a still limited use of some potentials of mistake reduction: in only one case the assignment submitted repeatedly with the interaction of the teacher's feedback is used more frequently.

Recommendations:

Using tools and modalities to self-assess one's own learning, or the possibility to submit assignments repeatedly, enables students to think about their mistakes, deepen their study and increase their level of competency and reduce the anxiety of a single test.

A technical support forum may help manage the mistakes deriving from the use of technology.

5.6. Technical and Physical Effort: Ideally, online learning should require a low level of technical and physical effort compared with on-site learning. Issues related to physical effort, however, should still be considered when designing online learning.

In the monitored courses some malfunctions were pointed out: not working or poorly working links (35%) and navigation difficulties with the browser (36%). 76% of the students thought that they were able to benefit from the technical support during the courses since a specific forum is provided.

Recommendations:

Pay attention to the course design: organise the resources clearly, using explanatory labels. Check the operation of the media and links included.

If necessary, provide the students with a Moodle guide containing an indication of a suitable browser and the necessary plug-in or software in order to help them manage the necessary technological aspects.

5.7. Learner Community and Support: the use of discussion forums in LMS-mediated online courses results in a sense of community and support for learners.

As described in the first part of the article, the collaborative tools become of central importance within a method that intends to follow a constructive dimension. The monitored courses showed that they were mainly orientated towards the interaction modality "student-teacher-materials", as illustrated in the graphs in figures 8 and 9. These show that the use of the forum is mainly oriented towards the learning of the materials and the request of explanations, whereas discussion and collaborative work were very infrequent.

60% of the courses introduced a social space for activities that are not connected to the learning themes. Furthermore, the students provided information about some external tools that might be useful during the communication and negotiation work phases (fig. 10).

Recommendations:

Plan activities and introduce tools and environments that may facilitate the discussion, negotiation and collective construction of products (forums, wikis, blogs, collaborative glossaries etc.). This creates a feeling of belonging and mutual collaboration, and it can be very important to the development of positive interdependence. A social space, separated from the learning problems, can represent a further opportunity to build a community. Another possibility would be an external social network.

Considering the students' choices and options through feedback or surveys creates a sense of participation and helps listening (fig. 7).

5.8. Educational Climate: the environment concentrates specifically on the impact of the teacher or tutor delivering a course.

The analysed courses show a high level of student-teacher communication: 97% stated that it was easy to contact the teacher, whereas the part concerning orientation towards activities and requests of the course has not yet been implemented.

The students underlined that in 33% of cases they did not receive clear and precise instructions from the teacher about activities, assignments and requests.

Recommendations:

Encourage the teachers to communicate in a clear and effective manner about the goals, time and working methods to support the students' orientation in the activities. Furthermore, the active participation of teachers or tutors in the discussion forums with questions, suggestions or incentives represents an input for the students' participation and creates mutual trust.

Use easy tools to communicate in a direct way with the teacher, as it reassures the students and improves the overall feeling about the platform and its environment.

survey/feedback quiz/assessment test self assessment test Homework assignment Wiki

Collaborative glossary Forum

the course does not provide L any forums f | 4%

teamwork 1 | 12%

elaborate and reflect on the L | 61%

resources and teaching

chat with your colleagues 24%

answer precise questions | 57%

made by the teacher

Fig 7: Average values of the most used activities

Fig. 8: Use of forums

teamwork 1.89

discuss with colleagues 2.21

ask explanations 1 2.15

other materials 2.31

teacher's material 3.41

Other — 9%

shared board 15%

social bookmarks 1%

Twitter 1%

Facebook 31%

blog 11%

Skype 35%

Fig 9: Average value of the common forum activities Fig. 10: Useful collaborative tools

6. Conclusions

The survey intended to provide insights to consider and reflect on and factors to take into account when planning inclusive and collaborative learning environments that make use of LMS.

The most evident point from this analysis is the necessity to always consider the active and participatory teaching dimension, which needs to be supported by suitable environments and tools. It should adopt an approach that includes all the students' differences, in order to remove the barriers that might compromise the full usability of the online system.

On the one hand, the monitoring underlines the possibility, found in many courses, to reduce any frustrations deriving from work in online environments through positive communication between teachers and students and the providing of forums for technical problem solving. Furthermore, it records a significant multimedia implementation of the learning resources offered.

On the other hand, it proves that the environments and activities aimed to increase interaction and co-construction of collaborative projects must be increased. Moreover, the environment must be structured clearly, both through the introduction of tools that meet the problems of different kind of students and through a preliminary communication from the teacher that may support and guide the students' activities. This can reduce the cognitive load in online environments in order to try to equalise them to the onsite learning environments.

The work that has been carried out is still in progress, since the main aim is teaching-inclusive improvement of those environments. It is therefore necessary to return the data to the players involved in the learning process (technicians, teachers, students). This will allow the technicians and teachers to find significant synergies during the

planning phase. Students will be required to provide further feedback about the improvements in progress, with the purpose of realising collaborative management of critical situations and the search for shared solutions.

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