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Mäkitalo-Siegl, Kati and Weinberger, Armin and Häkkinen, Päivi and Järvelä, Sanna and Fischer, Frank (2005): Epistemic cooperation scripts in online learning environments. Fostering learning by reducing uncertainty in discourse? In: Computers in Human Behavior, Vol. 21, No. 4: pp. 603-622
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Abstract

Using online learning environments in higher education offers innovative possibilities to support collaborative learning. However, online learning creates new kinds of problems for participants who have not previously worked with each other. One of these problems is uncertainty which occurs when participants do not know each other. According to the uncertainty reduction theory, low uncertainty level increases the amount of discourse and decreases the amount of information seeking. Therefore, uncertainty may influence online discourse and learning. This study investigates the effects of an epistemic cooperation script with respect to the amount of discourse, information seeking and learning outcomes in collaborative learning as compared to unscripted collaborative learning. The aim was also to explore how and what kind of information learners seek and receive and how learning partners react to such information exchange. The participants were 48 students who were randomly assigned to groups of three in two conditions, one with and one without an epistemic script. The results indicate that the epistemic script increased the amount of discourse and decreased the amount of information seeking activities. Without an epistemic script, however, learners achieved better learning outcomes. The results of two qualitative case-based analyses on information seeking will also be discussed.