Dissertation Seminar Proposal-in-Progress

Qualities of Engagement of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning in the Media Arts: A Case Study in Higher Education


This study seeks to explore the nexus between CSCL and learner engagement in studio-based media art. The purpose of this study is to describe and elucidate the nature of undergraduate learner engagement with studio-based media art in a networked CSCL environment. Drawing on a qualitative single case analysis, I intend to gather details and interpret how undergraduate learners enter and sustain their involvement with studio-based media art — beyond the physical confines of an onsite studio — through CSCL. The problem to be investigated is the influence of CSCL on learner engagement in the teaching and learning of studio-based media art in higher education. (102 words)

An Overview of the Study

Situated at the School of Art, Design and Media (ADM), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), this study seeks to bridge the gap in CSCL research about how intensely networked interactive learning environments, can heighten collaborative engagement, and open new potentialities for collaborative research and peer-to-peer artistic praxis in the media arts.

The study proposed in this paper is an in-depth qualitative single case analysis that will describe and interpret learners’ response to a novel CSCL approach to teaching studio-based media art — the Open Source Studio (OSS). By exploring the context of an undergraduate studio-based media art course, the study can illuminate conceptual and pragmatic understandings of how sociable CSCL platforms can be used to engender and amplify collective processes of learning and creative activity. This inquiry could potentially yield new insights into the nature of undergraduate learner engagement, and the mediating role it plays in the CSCL of the media arts. This study aims to contribute to our understanding of how CSCL catalyzes and syncretizes the range of creative processes that unfold during artistic expression and representation within an intensely networked practice of the media arts.

To frame this research proposal, I shall commence with an account of its genesis, and the inception of the key exploratory research questions that ensued, guiding its development.


 Learner Engagement

Learner engagement is increasingly becoming a cornerstone in the coercive lexicon of neo-liberal reform in higher education. Referring to the “time, energy, and resources students devote to activities designed to enhance learning” (Krause, 2005c, p. 3), learner engagement describes, inter alia, a compendium of student attitudes, behaviours and social interactions undergirding collaborative learning. Major universities worldwide are keenly aware of the importance of learner engagement, and its ramifications on student satisfaction and student experience (Cluett & Skene, 2011, p. 248) in the marketplace of higher education. Used as a benchmark by international league tables such as the Centre for Higher Education University Ranking (DAAD, 2015a, 2015b), ameliorating student satisfaction, inter alia, is a key priority in enhancing student experience in an increasingly competitive higher education market (Marginson, 2007). High student satisfaction indicators can therefore give universities continuously in pursuit of improving their performance in the league tables, a marketing edge in the highly competitive global arena where major universities vie for top talent. Driving the accountability regime, are quality assurance mandates, compelling universities to constantly monitor, scrutinize, and evaluate learner engagement often perceived by their “customers” to be a reliable measure of undergraduate learning experience. Learner engagement and its concomitant impact on student satisfaction, are aspects of the undergraduate experience that include, inter alia, the quality of teaching, and the information and communication technologies (ICT) supporting enacted curricula — commonly deemed the core business of successful universities (Krause, 2005a, 2005b).

CSCL and the Media Arts

The creative arts is an understudied area within the field of CSCL, where the dominant focus has been on the high status subjects in the Sciences and Mathematics, and to a lesser degree, the Language Arts and Social Studies (Downton, Peppler, & Bamberger, 2011; Peppler & Kafai, 2007). There is a dearth of empirical data about how CSCL can be implemented in the media arts, despite the tremendous potential of CSCL platforms in bringing learners together and in offering “creative activities of intellectual exploration and social interaction” (Stahl, Koschmann, & Suthers, 2015, p. 480).

With the exception of four American studies in the creative arts — specifically in the visual (Kafai & Peppler, 2011; Peppler & Kafai, 2007, 2009) and performing arts (Downton et al., 2011) at the primary and secondary school levels — the corpus of CSCL research in the media arts is limited. This is surprising, given that the creative practice of the media arts is in the digital medium itself (Packer, 2015, personal communication), and that CSCL is, as Stahl et al. (2015) contend, premised on the “vision of software and applications that bring learners together and that can offer creative activities of intellectual exploration and social interaction” (p. 480).


Defining the Media Arts

The professional field of the media arts entails “all forms of creative practice involving or referring to art” using new communication technologies, electronic equipment and computation (Peppler, 2010, p. 2119; Poissant, 2000, p. 138) — not unlike CSCL. According to Peppler (2010), the emergent field of the media arts (which is synonymous with digital art or new media) “encourages designing, creating, and critiquing genres that connect to youth culture and engage youth in the process of learning more actively that what is traditionally offered” at schools (p. 2119).


In the media arts, technology and its various processes are used in unusual ways to produce works of art. Media artists work in, inter alia, experimental cinema, video, holography, computer graphics, copy art, wired art, creating multimedia and interactive installations using computers, fax machines, and satellites (Poissant, 2000, p. 138). Poissant (2000) adds that this genre encompasses avant-garde radio and television productions, as well as musicians whose compositions, recordings or concerts involve electronic or digital equipment.

[To be continued]


Cluett, L., & Skene, J. (2011). Using web 2.0 tools to enhance the student experience in non-teaching areas of the university. In M. J. W. Lee & C. McLoughlin (Eds.), Web 2.0-based E-learning : applying social informatics for tertiary teaching (pp. 247-266). Hershey Pa.: Information Science Reference.

DAAD. (2015a). CHE university ranking 2015/16 catalogue of criteria.   Retrieved from https://www.daad.de/deutschland/studienangebote/ranking/en/?a=info&t=catalogue-of-criteria

DAAD. (2015b). CHE university ranking 2015/16 FAQ.   Retrieved from https://www.daad.de/deutschland/studienangebote/ranking/en/?a=info&t=faq

Downton, M., Peppler, K., & Bamberger, J. (2011). Talking like a composer: Negotiating shared musical compositions using Impromptu. Paper presented at the 2011 Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) Conference, Hong Kong.

Krause, K. (2005a). The changing face of the first year: Challenges for policy and practice in research-led universities. Paper presented at the University of Queensland first year experience workshop 2005, Townsville, Cairns, Queensland,.

Krause, K. (2005b). The changing student experience: Who’s driving it and where is it going? . Paper presented at the Student Experience Conference: Good Practice in Practice, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW.

Krause, K. (2005c). Understanding and promoting student engagement in university learning communities. Paper presented at the James Cook University symposium 2005, sharing scholarship in learning and teaching: Engaging students, Townsville, Cairns, Queensland,.

Marginson, S. (2007). Rankings: Marketing mana or menace? Paper presented at the ‘The big oicture’ 16th annual New Zealand international education conference, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Peppler, K., & Kafai, Y. (2007). Collaboration, computation, and creativity: media arts practices in urban youth culture. Paper presented at the 8th International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA.

Stahl, G., Koschmann, T., & Suthers, D. (2015). Computer-supported collaborative learning. In K. R. Sawyer (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (2nd ed., pp. 479-500). New York: Cambridge University Press.