• Christina Lanzky Mortensen
  • Dorthe Lyk
The scope of this thesis is to explore a wicked problem: How to enhance collaborative learning in online courses at universities? And develop a platform that can address some of the difficulties. This thesis builds on John Dewey’s pragmatism and learning by doing. Thus, one of the hypotheses is that to engage actively in online courses the students and professors need to have social interactions. COVID19 accelerated universities’ digital conversion and as a result is it believed there will be more online courses in the future even after COVID19. Therefore, based upon explorative qualitative research, this thesis explores first reasons why online courses at universities lack interaction; second how a platform design can help foster social relations among students when they participate in online courses.
The purpose of this thesis is to develop a platform that can improve students’ social relations with each other and engage them in the research community. Through testing of existing platforms such as Gather.Town and Spatial, the thesis finds possibilities in using avatars as online representation which is also explored through Jeremy N. Bailenson’s works with avatar representation and through Slater and Sanchez-Vives’ study of presence. Furthermore, small-scale studies were conducted with interviews and tests with students and professors from different universities in Denmark to gain an understanding of a) how online courses are perceived by students and professors and b) what potentials students and professors experienced when testing the prototype, we found students saw different potentials in the developed concept.
The finished prototype exemplifies an online 3D break room, which can be accessed through multiple devices, as a way of giving students autonomy over which device they use. Through proximity audio chat the students can interact with the peers closest to them in the virtual environment.
The thesis is written as a design thinking (DT) project divided in three iterations. Three different methodologies have been used. First Lotte Darsø’ prejekt and innovation diamond, although it is not a DT method it is used as a preliminary study method, that enabled us to work in and out of non-knowledge and knowledge areas, combined with Donald Schön’s reflective practitioner. Furthermore, a prototype was developed using Jake Knapp’s design sprint, which allowed us to develop and test a prototype in just one week. Last iteration was inspired by the IDEO DT model and had a small-scale test with students to explore the social possibilities of Gather.Town.
This thesis is focused on design; thus, visualization was used frequently to convey ideas and present data. Elements of Glaser and Strauss’ grounded theory was used for coding data and presented in mind maps and moodboards.
Lastly design principles was used throughout the project to sum up the concept.
In conclusion we have developed a virtual breakroom concept, produced, and tested a prototype through the used methods. We consider the concept usable for universities and higher education to enhance collaborative learning in online courses. Even if the concept is not further developed it can inspire a change in the way online courses is conducted.
Publication date30 May 2021
Number of pages138
ID: 413356384