In an article published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, researchers studied whether online collaborative learning was more effective than in-person collaborative learning in middle school science classes in relation to students’ understanding of science concepts.
In the study, 90 eighth graders from five classes taught by two teachers at a Virginia public school participated over nine weeks. One teacher taught the experimental group and the other taught the control group. Following a pre-test using the Misconceptions-Oriented Standards-Based Assessment Resources for Teachers (MOSART), both groups were given traditional in-class instruction on the same science topics. At least twice a week, collaborative assignments were then given to the classes, the only difference being that the experimental group collaborated online and did not receive immediate teacher feedback on their theories, unlike the control group who collaborated in person. After nine weeks, the groups were post-tested using MOSART.
Results showed that the online group did not perform as well as the face-to-face group, increasing the amount of science misconceptions as compared to baseline.
Researchers reflected that online learning does not provide immediate teacher feedback and it is possible that students reinforce each other’s incorrect concepts when the teacher is not there to correct them.
Source: Wendt, J. L., & Rockinson‐Szapkiw, A. (2014). The effect of online collaboration on middle school student science misconceptions as an aspect of science literacy. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 51(9), 1103-1118.