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Penn State, Carnegie Mellon U Team Up To Research Online Collaboration

Researchers at Penn State's College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) have received a $500,000 grant to study online collaboration among students.

The funds will be split evenly between the two institutions and will be used for a three-year project designed to "merge what we know from the fields of human computer interaction, the learning sciences, and computational linguistics to support an online collaborative learning environment," said Marcela Borge, senior research associate and instructor at the College of IST, in a prepared statement.

In an effort to develop "a collaborative environment to support the development of students' understanding of what high quality collaborative knowledge building entails and how to monitor and regulate it," Borge and Carolyn Rose, an associate professor at CMU, will build an online space where students can store media such as videos, documents, links, and more. The system will then interpret what students are posting "and will evaluate their ability to plan, build on ideas, evaluate ideas, and make progress."

Based on those results, students will receive prompts through chat to encourage such things as thinking more deeply or trying different strategies. Instructors will also be able to turn features on and off to see how teams interact.

"The goal is to develop a system that can be used to support collaborative learning in any educational context," Borge said, in a news release. "This poses many challenges, but we are confident that our team can come up with innovative solutions.

The grant is the first major award for Penn State's Center for Online Innovation in Learning (COIL). COIL was launched in "2012 to support faculty research on inventing, implementing, and investigating new ways to use technology to improve online education," according to information released by the school.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at

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