Online Cooperative Learning and Key Interpsychological Mechanisms: An Exploratory Study through the Analysis of the Discourse Content


This research analyses the cooperative learning process in three groups applying the case study technique in a virtual university asynchronous communication context. The exploratory study was performed within a subject taught at a Master in e-learning programme. Based on a review of the theory and the current status of research, we delineate the concept of virtual cooperative learning and the main interpsychological mechanisms accounting for its effectiveness. Through a case study methodology and by means of discourse analysis, we identify the main interpsychological mechanisms involved in peer cooperation—positive interdependence, construction of meaning and psychosocial relations. We categorise the types of language involved in the process of joint construction of meaning all throughout the sequence of cooperative learning being studied.

Share and Cite:

Casanova, M. & Alvarez, I. (2012). Online Cooperative Learning and Key Interpsychological Mechanisms: An Exploratory Study through the Analysis of the Discourse Content. Creative Education, 3, 1345-1353. doi: 10.4236/ce.2012.38197.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Abram, P., Scarloss, B., Holthuis, N., Cohen, E., Lotan, R., & Schultz, S. (2002). The use of evaluation criteria to improve academic discussion in cooperative groups. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 22, 16-27. doi:10.1080/0218879020220103
[2] Alvarez, I. M., & López, D. (2010). Behaviour regulation during joint knowledge construction in cooperative tasks within virtual written and asynchronous learning environments. Cultura y Educación, 22, 419-438. doi:10.1174/113564010793351830
[3] Brewer, S., & Klein, J. D. (2006). Type of positive interdependence and affiliation motive in an asynchronous, collaborative learning environment. Educational Technology Research and Development, 54, 331-354. doi:10.1007/s11423-006-9603-3
[4] Casanova, M. (2008). Cooperative learning in a virtual university context of asynchronous communication: A study on the process of peer interaction through discourse analysis. URL (last checked 16 December 2012).
[5] Cazden, C. (1988). Classroom Discourse: The Language of Teaching and Learning. Portsmouth: Heineman.
[6] Chi, M. (1997). Quantifying qualitative analyses of verbal data: A practical guide. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 6, 271-315. doi:10.1207/s15327809jls0603_1
[7] Chou, C. (2003). Interactivity and interactive functions in web-based learning systems: A technical framework for designers. British Journal of Educational Technology, 34, 265-279. doi:10.1111/1467-8535.00326
[8] De Wever, B., Schellens, T., Valcke, M., and Van Keer, H. 2006. Content analysis schemes to analyze transcripts of online asynchronous discussion groups; A review. Computers, and Education, 46, 6-28. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2005.04.005
[9] Dillenbourg, P. (2002). Over-scripting CSCL: The risks of blending collaborative learning with instructional design. In P. A. Kirschner (Ed.), Three worlds of CSCL. Can we support CSCL (pp. 61-91). Heerlen: Open Universiteit Nederland.
[10] Dillenbourg, P., Schneider, D., & Synteta, P. (2002). Virtual learning environments. In A. Dimitracopoulou (Ed.), Proceedings of the 3rd Hellenic Conference on Information, and Communication Technologies in Education (pp. 3-18). Rhodes: Kastaniotis.
[11] Duran, D., & Monereo, C. (2005). Styles and sequences of cooperative interaction in fixed and reciprocal peer tutoring. Learning and Instruction, 15, 179-199. doi:10.1016/j.learninstruc.2005.04.002
[12] Edwards, D., & Mercer, N. (1987). Common knowledge. The development of understanding in the classroom. London: Methuen.
[13] Garrison, D., & Anderson, T. (2003). E-learning in the 21st century. New York: RoutledgeFalmer.
[14] Gunawardena, C., Lowe, C., & Anderson, T. (1997). Analysis of a global online debate and the development of an interaction analysis model for examining social construction of knowledge in computer conferencing. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 17, 395- 431. doi:10.2190/7MQV-X9UJ-C7Q3-NRAG
[15] Han, S., & Hill, J. (2007). Collaborate to learn, learn to collaborate: Examining the roles of context, community and cognition in asynchronous discussion. Educational Computing Research, 36, 89-123. doi:10.2190/A138-6K63-7432-HL10
[16] Hara, N., Bonk, C. J., & Angeli, C. (2000). Content analysis of online discussion in an applied educational psychology course. Instructional Science, 28, 115-152. doi:10.1023/A:1003764722829
[17] Henri, F. (1992). Computer conferencing and content analysis. In A. Kaye (Ed.), Collaborative learning through computer conferencing: The Najaden papers (pp. 117-136). Berlin: Springer-Verlag.
[18] Hogan, K., Nastasi, B., & Pressley, M. (2000). Discourse patterns and collaborative scientific reasoning in peer and teacher-guided discussions. Cognition and Instruction, 17, 379-432. doi:10.1207/S1532690XCI1704_2
[19] Hung, D., & Der-Thanq, Ch. (2001). Situated cognition, Vygotskian thought and learning from the communities of practice perspective: Implications for the design of web-based E-learning. Educational Media International, 38, 3-12.
[20] J?rvela, S., & Hakkinen, P. (2002). Web-based cases in teaching and learning—The quality of discussions and a stage of perspective taking in asynchronous communication. Interactive Learning Environments, 10, 1-22. doi:10.1076/ilee.
[21] Jermann, P., & Dillenbourg, P. (2008). Group mirrors to support interaction regulation in collaborative problem solving. Computers & Education, 51, 279-296. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2007.05.012
[22] Johnson, D., & Johnson, R. (1999). Learning together and alone: Cooperative, competitive and individualistic learning. Needham Heights: Allyn & Bacon.
[23] Jonassen, D., & Kwon, H. (2001). Communication patterns in computer mediated versus face-to-face group problem solving. Educational Technology Research and Development, 49, 35-51. doi:10.1007/BF02504505
[24] Kanuka, H., & Anderson, T. (1998). Online social interchange, discord, and knowledge construction. Journal of Distance Education, 13, 57-74.
[25] Laurillard, D. (2009). The pedagogical challenges to collaborative technologies. Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 4, 5-20. doi:10.1007/s11412-008-9056-2
[26] Lipponen, L., Rahikainen, M., Hakkarainen, K., and Palonen, T. (2002). Effective participation and discourse through a computer network: Investigating elementary students' computer-supported interaction. Journal of Educational Computing Research 27: 353-382.
[27] Ludvigsen, S. R. (2011). What counts as knowledge: Learning to use categories in computer environments. Learning, Media and Technology, 37, 40-52. doi:10.1080/17439884.2011.573149
[28] Marcelo, C., & Perera, V. (2007). Communication and e-learning: Didactic interaction in new learning environments. Revista de Educación, 343, 381-429.
[29] Mercer, N. (2000). Words and minds: How we use language to think together. Londres: Routledge. doi:10.4324/9780203464984
[30] Mercer, N. (2004). Sociocultural discourse analisys: Analysing classroom talk as a social mode of thinking. Journal of Applied Linguistics, 1, 137-168. doi:10.1558/japl.2004.1.2.137
[31] Naidu, S., & J?rvel?, S. (2006). Analyzing CMC content for what? Computers & Education, 46, 96-103. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2005.04.001
[32] Onrubia, J., & Engel, A. (2010). Strategies for collaborative writing and phases of knowledge construction in CSCL environments. Computers & Education, 53, 1256-1265. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2009.06.008
[33] Panitz, T. (1996). Collaborative versus cooperative learning: A comparison of the two concepts which will help us understand the underlying nature of interactive learning. URL (last checked 16 December 2012).
[34] Perit, M., Zemel, A., & Stahl, G. (2009). The joint organization of interaction within a multimodal CSCL medium. Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 4, 115-149. doi:10.1007/s11412-009-9061-0
[35] Rourke, L., Anderson, T., Garrison, D., & Archer, W. (2001). Methodological issues in the content analysis of computer conference transcripts. International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education, 12, 8-22.
[36] Rusbult, C., & Van Lange, P. (2003). Interdependence, interaction and relationships. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 351-375. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.54.101601.145059
[37] Salmon, G. (2002). Mirror, mirror, on my screen. Exploring online reflections. The British Journal of Educational Technology, 33, 383- 396. doi:10.1111/1467-8535.00275
[38] Schrire, S. (2006). Knowledge building in asynchronous discussion groups: Going beyond quantitative analysis. Computers & Education, 46, 49-70. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2005.04.006
[39] Strijbos, J., Martens, R., Prins, F., & Jochems, W. (2006). Content analysis: What are they talking about? Computers & Education, 46, 29- 48. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2005.04.002
[40] Van Boxtel, C., Van der Linden, J., & Kanselaar, G. (2000). Collaborative learning tasks and the elaboration of conceptual knowledge. Learning and Instruction, 10, 311-330. doi:10.1016/S0959-4752(00)00002-5
[41] Volet, S., Summers, M., & Thurman, J. (2008). High-level co-regulation in collaborative learning: How does it merge and how is it sustained. Learning and Instruction, 19, 128-143. doi:10.1016/j.learninstruc.2008.03.001
[42] Wegerif, R. (2006). A dialogic understanding of the relationship between CSCL and teaching thinking skills. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 1, 143-157. doi:10.1007/s11412-006-6840-8
[43] Wertsch, J. (1985). Vygotski and the social formation of mind. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
[44] Yin, R. K. (1989). Case study research: Design and methods. London: Sage Publications.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.