(Tech) Maintaining Uncertainty to Improve Learning

Today I attended a talk by Kati Makitalo about CSCL (computer support for collaborative learning). She investigates whether scaffolding the interactions through scripts impacts learning.Her starting point is that in online interactions, there is uncertainty at the cognitive and the socio-emotional level becasue immediate feedback and non-verbal cues are missing in online discourse. The uncertainty is due to the fact that participants are not sure about what is happening, about others' feelings, actions, reactions... Hence cscl is a highly uncertain communication situation.

She investigated whether providing scripts to reduce the uncertainty could have learning gains, which happen to be wrong.

Uncertainty reducing cooperation scripts in online learning environments Kati Mäkitalo1 2, Armin Weinberger2, Karsten Stegmann2, Sanna Järvelä3, Päivi Häkkinen1, & Frank Fischer2

1 University of Jyväskylä, Institute for Educational Research 2 Knowledge Media Research Center 3 University of Oulu

Abstract Online learning courses can create a new interaction situation for participants who had not previously worked with each other. There is typically some degree of uncertainty between participants in initial interaction situations. Berger and colleagues (Berger & Bradac, 1985; Berger & Calabrese, 1975) assume that low uncertainty increases the amount of discourse and decreases information seeking. Based on the theory, uncertainty can hinder or promote online discourse. Cooperation scripts may reduce uncertainty, and therefore enhance learning. A cooperation script, which aims to reduce uncertainty, was chosen for this study. The participants were 48 students in their first semester of Educational Sciences. The uncertainty reduction theory was applied in order to explore the amount of discourse, information seeking and the individual learning outcomes in two conditions (with uncertainty reducing script and without uncertainty reducing script). The results indicate that the uncertainty reducing script increased the amount of discourse and decreased information seeking. The results revealed, however, that unscripted and more uncertain condition led to better learning outcomes. The question arises in what extent uncertainty is beneficial to learning.