Challenges of Effective Collaboration in a Virtual Learning Environment among Undergraduate Students


Web-based technology has influenced the way we perceive and use computer devices. One effect of the increasing variety of online web services has been a move away from “personal” computing toward networked or “social” computing. In this paper we discussed a research project which explored the potential in using a purpose-built social-networked environment to support learning in undergraduate education. In particular, we were interested in which tools would be adopted and the collaborative manner which would be used. A prototype web-based networked environment was built that allowed each student a personal space with their profile, access to resources and a group-project work space. The network incorporated a people-centric paradigm that integrated networking across a range of collaborative tools to support course activities. The system embraced an “open” philosophy where all students and staff were linked to all members and work- group areas. Each work-group area consisted of a number of web-based tools that included a group wiki, group blog, file repository, weblink tool, discussion area, and calendar. The site allowed for both synchronized and asynchronized communication via messaging and chat facilities. The results showed that students did not work collaboratively and struggled to use the web-based tools to advance their learning. Further investigation revealed that students preferred individual offline approaches to the more demanding processes required in a collaborative online environment.

Share and Cite:

Butson, R. and Thomson, C. (2014) Challenges of Effective Collaboration in a Virtual Learning Environment among Undergraduate Students. Creative Education, 5, 1449-1459. doi: 10.4236/ce.2014.516162.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Arrow, H., McGrath, J. E., & Berdahl, J. L. (2000). Small Groups as Complex Systems: Formation, Coordination, Development, and Adaptation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
[2] Barab, S., Dodge, T., Jackson, C., & Tuzun, H. (2007). Our Designs and the Social Agendas They Carry. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 16, 263-305.
[3] Bell, P. (2004). On the Theoretical Breadth of Design-Based Research in Education. Educational Psychologist, 39, 243-253.
[4] Cavallo, D. (2000). Emergent Design and Learning Environments: Building on Indigenous Knowledge. IBM Systems Journal, 39, 768-781.
[5] Joiner, R. (2004). Supporting Collaboration in Virtual Learning Environments. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 7, 197-200.
[6] Lewin, K. (1948). Resolving Social Conflicts, Selected Papers on Group Dynamics (1935-1946). New York: Harper.
[7] Oblinger, D., & Oblinger, J. L. (2005). Educating the Net Generation Retrieved from
[8] Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9, 1-6.
[9] Salomon, G., & Perkins, D. N. (1998). Individual and Social Aspects of Learning. Review of Research in Education, 23, 1- 24.
[10] Sandoval, W. A., & Bell, P. (2004). Design-Based Research Methods for Studying Learning in Context: Introduction. Educational Psychologist, 39, 199-201.
[11] Tapscott, D. (1998). Growing up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.