Implementation and Outcomes of Scaffolding Cyber-Enabled Collaborative Learning in Multiple STEM Courses

Project No.
PI Name
Wei Zheng
Jackson state university

Abstract 1

Implementation and Outcomes of Scaffolding Cyber-Enabled Collaborative Learning in Multiple STEM Courses

Presentation Type
PI: Wei Zheng, Jackson State University; co-PI: Zhenbu Zhang,Jackson State University; co-PI: Sungbum Hong, Jackson State University; co-PI: Jianjun Yin,Jackson State University


Students may struggle in achieving the optimal benefit in learning from their interaction with their peers in their learning in STEM fields, because they may be not aware of effective social interaction strategies and cognitive strategies for the collaborative learning. In addition, coping with multiple different learning tasks and schedules, students may not be able to arrange time for the face-to-face discussion with all the team members. Therefore, online discussion may become a good platform for facilitating collaborative learning. The findings from cognitive science research could provide theoretical and methodological basis for STEM instructors to establish an effective scaffolding model to assist their studentsメ collaborative learning in STEM fields. Nevertheless, few research efforts have been made to examine effects of instructional scaffolding for cyber-enabled collaborative learning based on those findings on studentsメ learning in the authentic STEM education setting, particularly for African-American students.


The goal of this research is to investigate effects of the proper levels of scaffolding cyber-enabled collaborative learning on academic performance and skill development of African American students in their STEM learning, and identify social and cognitive factors that can contribute to their achievement gains through cyber-enabled collaborative learning. With collaboration among STEM faculty members and researcher from learning science, the project team will (1) develop the scaffolding based on the social and cognitive model and adopt cyber-technology tool for facilitating online discussion; (2) integrate the scaffolding and tool into collaborative learning assignments for student teams in STEM Gateway courses; and (3) investigate their effects on studentsメ learning processes and outcomes.


The intervention unitizes course assignments to engage students in collaborative learning, and provides scaffolding to scribe roles, activities, and sequencing of activities for the intellectual interaction and guide students to ask thought-provoking questions in the collaborative learning. The provided scaffolding is established based on educational research findings and is intended to provoke effective intellectual interaction that allows students to use othersメ explanations, ideas, or reasoning from multiple perspectives to co-construct their knowledge and skills.


Based on the analysis of available data collected from year one implementation , it may conclude that the presented instructional framework based on the proposed scaffolding may provide an platform for students to engage in collaborative learning with their team peers for co-constructing their knowledge. The social interaction scaffolding may enhance intellectual exchange among student team members, foster their social process for collaborative learning, and increase their intrinsic value on learning and learning performance. On the other hand, the social interaction scaffolding may also increase students' test anxiety. The cognitive process scaffolding may improve students' collaborative learning process, and self-efficacy, and also enhance students' learning performance. When both social interaction scaffolding and cognitive process scaffolding were provided to students, the scaffoldings may cause cognitive overload for students, and may not yield the desirable collaborative learning outcomes. The further evaluation should be carried out to further confirm the above preliminary conclusions based on more objective data collected from more samples without subjective biases. The other new measurements for improving students� learning engagement should be considered and included in the online collaborative learning.

Broader Impacts

The project outcomes can be used to guide the development effective scaffolding for building learning communities among diverse students and fostering effective intellectual exchange for supporting active learning. The scaffolding based on those outcomes could be transferred into both face-to-face and online courses in various STEM disciplines, and add new perspectives for STEM faculty within HBCUs and nationwide to maintain academic engagement and persistence of African American students, leading to their success in STEM learning. It could not only help low-achieving students through their questioning, which can provoke them to identify main ideas and knowledge gap and think about how those ides and knowledge gap related to prior knowledge, but also benefit high-achieving students through their explanation, which can extend their understandings by thinking and reorganizing their understanding.

Unexpected Challenges

Students did not strictly follow the instructional requirement and support to do the collaborative learning assignment. Their discussions through online learning system did not go thoroughly in depth as expected. Students may also have the face-to-face discussion that may facilitate their learning, but may not be recorded in their online discussion threads. Not all students participate in surveys to reveal their learning disposition change.


D-4. Zheng, W., and Cao, Y. H. (2015). モImplementation and Outcomes of Scaffolding Cyber-Enabled Collaborative Learning in Multiple STEM Courses.ヤ Proceedings of 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Paper ID #13967, June 14 - 17, 2015, Seattle, Washington.