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Fischer, Frank and Mandl, Heinz (2005): Knowledge convergence in computer-supported collaborative learning. The role of external representation tools. In: Journal of the Learning Sciences, Vol. 14, No. 3: pp. 405-441




This study investigates how two types of graphical representation tools influence the way in which learners use knowledge resources in two different collaboration conditions. In addition, the study explores the extent to which learners share knowledge with respect to individual outcomes under these different conditions. The study also analyzes the relationship between the use of knowledge resources and different types of knowledge. The type of external representation (content-specific vs. content-independent) and the collaboration condition (videoconferencing vs. face-to-face) were varied. Sixty-four (64) university students participated in the study. Results showed that learning partners converged strongly with respect to their use of resources during the collaboration process. Convergence with respect to outcomes was rather low, but relatively higher for application-oriented knowledge than for factual knowledge. With content-specific external representation, learners used more appropriate knowledge resources without sharing more knowledge after collaboration. Learners in the computer-mediated collaboration used a wider range of resources. Moreover, in exploratory qualitative and quantitative analyses, the study found evidence for a relation between aspects of the collaborative process and knowledge convergence.