Learner Engagement in Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning Environments: A mixed-methods study in postgraduate education

Andriani Piki

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The thesis draws on a mixed-methods study which empirically and theoretically investigates the ways in which postgraduate students engage in collaborative learning activities
facilitated by technology. The research is both significant and distinct in its
approach towards understanding how learners engage in real-life
computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) settings; what enables or
hinders learner engagement; and how engagement shapes the learning outcomes.
The ensuing findings indicate that learner engagement is embodied in human
behaviour, emotions, and reflection and therefore it is described as a
multi-dimensional concept. Learner engagement also appears to be a socially
distributed phenomenon – rather than a stable student characteristic –
influenced by various personal, group-level, and other situational factors, the
most prominent of which are captured by the Hierarchical Model of Enablers and
Barriers. The study also reveals that learner engagement presupposes purposeful
interaction which is presented as an integrative theme capturing the impact of
pedagogical design on engagement. Another observation is that particular combinations
of student actions, perspectives, and characteristics tend to resurface and
therefore may be considered as strong predictors of potential engagement (or
disengagement). This finding led to the development of the WISE Taxonomy of
Learner Engagement Archetypes which portrays the most universal engagement
approaches that emerged within the studied context. Finally, findings seem to
suggest that the way students envisage their learning outcomes is driven by the
engagement approach each student adopts, and vice-versa. When combined, the
proposed model, taxonomy, and conceptualisation of learner engagement
collectively define a holistic analytical framework labelled Distributed
Engagement Theory. The purpose of this mixed-methods study is to explore,
understand, and subsequently explain learner engagement aiming at making an
original contribution to existing CSCL literature as well as informing the
design of pedagogical models for enhancing learner engagement in CSCL
environments within postgraduate education.

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
Award date1 Apr 2012
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012


  • CSCL
  • Learner engagement
  • Postgraduate education
  • Collaborative Technology
  • Collaborative learning
  • Mixed methods

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