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3.2 Task features

The effects of collaboration vary according to the task. Some tasks prevent the activation of the mechanisms described above, while other tasks are appropriated. For instance, some tasks are inherently distributed and lead group members to work on their own, independently from each other. Interaction occurs when assembling partial results, but not during each individual's reasoning process. Without interaction, none of the described mechanisms can be activated. Some tasks are so straightforward that they do not leave any opportunity for disagreement or misunderstanding. Some tasks do not involve any planning and hence create no need for mutual regulation. Some tasks cannot be shared, because they rely on processes (e.g. perception) which are not open to introspection or on skills (e.g. motor skills) that leave no time for interaction.

If distance teachers want to take these features into account, a first attitude would be to use only collaborative learning for tasks for which it will get its optimal efficiency. Another solution is to modify the task, as explained in the previous paragraph, to make them more suited for collaboration. For instance, the 'jigsaw' method consists of providing group members with partial data. This method artificially turns a monolithic problem into a task which requires collaboration.

Task features also include the environment in which the task has to be performed. This is especially important in computer-based tasks. The software features may modify interactions among learners. For instance, if a computer-based task provides the learner immediately with a feed-back on their actions, it may prevent them to discuss the consequences of their action

ICCAI 95 article - 08 FEB 95
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