Writing to share, sharing to learn: Computer-supported collaborative learning in
Health Education (2010-2014)


Practice in the health domain requires students to acquire formal conceptual procedural knowledge in order to perform correctly and safely, but also to be able to handle a large class of dynamic and complex situations, such as patients refusing their treatment. In order to develop such heuristics knowledge, students need to reflect on practical experience and relate it to conceptual or abstract knowledge discussed in school.

Together with teachers, we developed a computer-supported learning scenario based on writing and commenting critical experiences, to support apprentices’ professional development. An online collaborative writing tool (wiki) was used in order to facilitate and mediate participants’ interaction in the context of our studies. Typically the learning design consists in having students writing in the wiki about a critical experience encountered in the workplace, followed by a series of questions and comments provided by at least two other students. After classifying the stories into meaningful categories, the teachers lead the discussion with the students, who then write a novel solution to the situation described in their stories. Together these stories constitute a collective knowledge base constructed by the community of learners.

Empirical studies showed that such activity had beneficial impact on some aspects of apprentices’ declarative competence acquisition and improved self-efficacy beliefs of 1st year students (Ortoleva & Bétrancourt, 2014a). An in-depth analysis of the interactions among learners on the platform highlighted a high engagement of the participants in the activity proposed and in particular in the collaborative task (Ortoleva, Schneider, Bétrancourt, 2013). Finally, it was possible to identify the characteristics of “good” peer-comments that demonstrated a high level of elaboration and lead to higher transactivity (Ortoleva & Bétrancourt, 2014b). These results indicate the interesting potentials of writing and peer-collaboration in the context of vocational training, with computer support providing the capacity to revise, interact and co-construct knowledge.



Project members: Giulia Ortoleva, Mireille Bétrancourt and Daniel Schneider,
http://tecfa.unige.ch), University of Geneva

Main Publications:

Ortoleva, G., Schneider, D., Bétrancourt, M. (2013). Utilisation d’un wiki pour l’écriture collaborative et le partage d’expérience en formation professionnelle initiale. In C. Choquet, P. Dessus, M. Lefevre, J. Broisin, O. Catteau, P. Vidal Eds.) Environnement Informatique pour l’Apprentissage Humain. Actes de la conference (pp. 17–28). Toulouse: IRIT Press 2013.

Ortoleva, G. & Bétrancourt, M. (2014a). Computer-supported collaborative writing in vocational education: Effects of peer feedback on learning and self-efficacy. In M. Braaskma, & G. Rijlaarsdam (Eds.), Special issue: Intervention studies in writing to learn. Journal of Writing Research (in revision).

Ortoleva, G., & Bétrancourt, M. (2014b). Supporting productive collaboration in a computer-supported instructional activity: Peer-feedback on critical incidents in healthcare education. Journal of Vocational Education and Training (submitted).


The project members would like to acknowledge the participation of the School for Health and Social Care Assistants (ASSC) in Geneva, and particularly thank the teachers: Ms. Martine Coquoz and Ms. Béatrice Jacquier, for their kind and open collaboration in the design and implementation of this research project.