A New Approximation to Collaborative Learning
N. Padilla Zea, J. L. González Sánchez, F. L. Gutiérrez, M. J. Cabrera and P. Paderewski
Videogames and E-Learning Research Laboratory (LIVE )-GEDES, University of Granada
Avda. Periodista Daniel Saucedo Aranda s/n,18071 Granada, Spain
Keywords: Educational Videogames, CSCL, Interaction Analysis.
Abstract: In this paper we point out the advantages of CSCL (Computer – Supported Collaborative Learning) and
technological media to improve the learning process. In particular, we are interested in using videogames as
complement to traditional education. So, our main proposal is intended to introduce collaborative activities
into educational videogames maintaining playability as pupils obtain benefits from both activities (play and
learn). We have named this proposal as VGSCL (VideoGames-Supported Computer Learning). One of the
biggest problems of including collaborative activities into learning process is assessing if collaboration is
being made in an efficient way. To do this we are working in a method to detect, analyse and adapt
interaction patterns. In this paper we present the first step in this process by proposing a messages
classification. This classification is intended to determine which messages are relevant to the study and how
important they are to the collaboration process. Also, we give some examples of using this categorization by
using the educational videogame with collaborative activities “Leoncio and friends”.
In recent years, New Technologies have been
incorporated into our everyday life: We work with
our PC’s or laptops and we work on-line from home,
we exchange information by e-mail, our opinions are
known by the world putting them in forums, maps
have became GPSs, PDAs have replaced agendas,…
In particular, it is worth mentioning the progress
of New Technologies into educational field and how
it is prove that by incorporating these technologies
into a pupil’s educational development, it is possible
to improve their cognitive skills, the time they spend
learning, their motivation to learn, their
concentration and their attention (Nussbaum, 1999).
Human beings are sociable for nature and this
interactive aspect allows us to get new and different
viewpoints and attitudes from our own. As a result,
different skills are acquired and developed and
attitudes of respect and tolerance are fostered. In the
particular case of education, social interaction allows
students to have different views about the concept
being studied. As consequence, students don not
simplify complex concepts during the learning
process (Mendoza, 1998).
Although educational videogames do exist, these
are often no more than “multimedia teaching units”.
While we can find many games which attempt to
teach in a fun way, these often do not live up to the
pupils’ entertainment expectations. So, the child’s
attention and motivation quickly decreases because
there is no game element in these educational
resources (McFarlane, 2002).
The rest of the paper is organized as follows.
First, we point out the difficulty of videogames
design and how this difficulty grows when we want
to introduce collaborative activities inside. The third
section presents the interaction analysis and the
fourth one shows how we can use this categorization
by means of the educational videogame with
collaborative activities “Leoncio and friends”.
Finally, we have some conclusions and further work.
Following Piaget’s theories (Piaget, 1971), thanks to
collaborative learning individuals can obtain certain
skills which they would not otherwise have due to
the positive imbalance which occurs between pupils
Padilla Zea N., González Sánchez J., Gutiérrez F., Cabrera M. and Paderewski P. (2009).
FROM CSCL TO VGSCL - A New Approximation to Collaborative Learning.
In Proceedings of the First International Conference on Computer Supported Education, pages 329-334
DOI: 10.5220/0001974603290334
and which enables students to develop individual
cognitive skills. In this sense, we can find research
which has studied the improvement in the pupils
ability to learn into collaborative environments.
These pupils learn from interaction with other group
members and by reaching consensus. Since group
members depend on each other, they help one
another and assume responsibility for common
success or failure (Jong, 2006). And according to
Vygostky (Mooney, 2000), if we use educational
videogames with group activities the game acts as a
“mediator” in the learning process: Educational
content is hidden in the game and the main activity
for the child is the action of playing. As result of this
process knowledge acquisition and cognitive skills
are developed.
We have analysed the advantages of CSCL into
educational videogames. One important conclusion
is that videogames development is complex enough
to need some specific guidelines (Mendoza, 1998;
González, 2007) that ensure educational capability
without losing playability. The use of guidelines is
more important in the development of videogames
with collaborative activities because complexity
grows and elements needed are more difficult to
design and to compose in the final game. Following
these ideas, we have developed a set of design
guidelines (Padilla, 2008; Padilla, 2009) in order to
make the development of educational videogames
with collaborative activities easier.
It is important to analyze the interaction during the
collaborative learning since several people around
the same table working in the same task don’t
involve that collaboration exists (Collazos, 2007b).
From this point of view, we need to know the
degree of collaboration occurring or that has been
occurred during the group activity in order to:
Determine if group is working collaboratively
or not.
Determine which messages are sent during the
process and which is their aim.
Find patterns in these messages that allow us to
determine collaborative attitudes of quality
and efficiency.
There are two main groups of methods which are
combined to obtain more powerful ways of
interaction analysis. These two methods are:
Qualitative: Data for these methodologies come
from questionnaires, interviews,
observations… carried out by observers at the
beginning, end or during the experience. In
this data we can find opinions about quality,
satisfaction, utility… referred to the
collaborative process. With these data
researchers can obtain results about the
method and the learning achieved.
Quantitative: In this type of methodologies
numeric results are the most important data.
By using them we can obtain one or more
values about the quality of interaction during
the experience.
We can find several methods according to these
global methodologies. We would like to highlight
several proposals that we find relevant to our
Into a quantitative framework we find works
carried out by Collazos et al. (Collazos, 2007).
These researchers have proposed a set of
collaboration indicators to assess several properties
of collaboration. Also, they have applied these
indicators to several games, pointing out Chase-the-
Chase (Guerrero, 1999).
Other very important approximations to
quantitative methodologies are these which use
Social Network Analysis (SNA). Social networks
represent interaction between group members both
numerical and graphically. Moreover, we can
operate with them easily because they have a broad
mathematical background. So, once we have
represented relations in a matrix or a sociogram,
several tools can be used to obtain results. Several
researchers have used SNA to analyze interaction in
several situations. Some of them are (Nurmela,
1999; Palonen, 2000; Avit, 2003; Welser, 2007).
Joining both quantitative, qualitative and Social
Network Analysis, we highlight the proposals made
by researchers at the University of Valladolid
(Martínez, 2006, 2008; Harrer, 2009), including
some tools that support the research (Martínez,
Following this ideas, we can find other proposals
where SNA is used as checking method (De Laat,
2007) or as main tool to assess interaction in the
collaborative process (Dawson, 2008). Usually,
these proposals use SNA as triangulation method.
In a last group of approximations, we find
Artificial Intelligence (IA) as a supporting tool in the
interaction analysis. Some of these proposals use
fuzzification processes to establish values for
variables (Barros, 1999; Molina, 2003), although the
most important contributions are intended to
CSEDU 2009 - International Conference on Computer Supported Education
introduce intelligent agents (Soller, 2001; Duque,
2007) into the collaborative learning, in order to help
pupils automatically and to send information /
suggestions to the teacher.
In our opinion, for the analysis to be effective,
indicators must be as quantitative as possible.
However, collaboration is complex and it affects
many aspects of learning process. So, it is necessary
to start from a deep analysis of collaboration
assessing and a categorization of activities that can
take place during the process.
We think that the best way to assess
collaboration is to analyze messages sent between
partners. These messages are not only those written
by players and sent by communication systems
(chat, e-mail…), but those hidden in actions and
decisions taken during the process.
Following this line of thinking we propose a
messages categorization from a general point of
view to include complex collaboration processes.
The first categorization level is made according
to the classic classification of messages in CSCW
(Computer – Supported Collaborative Work):
communication, collaboration and coordination.
Then, we have sub-classifications according to
activities observed into a collaborative videogame
process. Next you can see this categorization:
Communication: These messages are used by
group members to interchange general
information, related to the learning / playing
process. With these messages we can evaluate
active participation of group members.
- Question / Answer: Partners ask questions
to the group and they must answer. Some
questions and answers can be found until
the question is completely solved. If a
new conversation is derived from this
one, this sub-conversation has less
- Sharing information: A learner shares
information discovered about the game
process with the group. This type of
message can produce a conversation
about that scope. An evaluator can assess
the degree of engagement and the success
of the sender by using this kind of
Error detection: It is a particular case
of sharing information in which a
group member points out that a
mistake has been detected: a bad
solution, a wrong plan
- Checking: These messages are intended to
check if group members are working well
or if they have some problem. These
messages will occur when group score
does not enhance, group life is decreasing
too quickly or they cannot find a resource
- Social context: They are not related to the
task but they are used to interact during
the learning process. For example, they
are messages like “After class we could
go to the bar to have meal”.
Collaboration: They are messages occurred in a
situation that requires collaboration. In these
messages collaboration is proposed or
- Proposal: They are messages in which
users propose something to the rest of the
group members, if the proposal is related
to the task which the group is facing.
Posing the proposal: It is the first
message about the collaboration
Negotiation: Group members use this
type of messages to discuss about the
actions they must carry out. All group
members must take part in order to
participate in the group task
Counteroffer: It is a message where a
new proposal is made, related to the
previous one, but with some
conditions or changes.
- Help: A group member uses these
messages when he/she cannot carry out
the task he/she must face to.
Asking for: It is the first message, sent
by the pupil in difficulties.
Negotiation: Messages sent during the
negotiation of help. Partners must
offer solutions and help.
Solution: By using this type of
message partners agree what they are
going to do and how is going to help
in the task solution.
- Resources: These messages appear when
a group member needs a tool to face the
task and he/she does not have it. Then,
he/she needs to ask for it to the rest of the
group in order to know if some of them
have it or they must obtain it to solve the
Asking for: It is the message starting
the search of the resource needed.
Owner / user identification: Users who
have the tool must send messages to
FROM CSCL TO VGSCL - A New Approximation to Collaborative Learning
tell the previous one that they have
this tool.
Negotiation: These messages are
produced to decide who is going to
lend the tool, if there is more than one
who has the tool needed. Also, they
must discuss about when the tool will
be available and the order of use, if
there is someone more waiting for this
Solution: It is the final message in
which group members finish the
conversation and agree if the user can
use the resource or not.
Coordination: The group uses this kind of
messages to decide strategies and methods
that will be used during the collaborative
learning process.
- Making decisions: They allow group
members to decide what, when and how
they are going to carry out group actions
along the learning process.
Identification: It is the first message,
in which a user indicates to the group
that a decision must be taken.
Negotiation: They are messages that
each pupil/player sends to the group
showing his/her opinion about the
discussion. In these messages group
members try to persuade the rest.
Voting: Each member has a vote about
the discussion. If agreement is not
achieved, they can vote again.
Agreement: The message in which
result is announced.
- Group identification: Group members can
send messages to identify the rest of the
group, to know their skills, interests…
The group must be aware of itself.
- Planning tasks: When a group of tasks
must be carried out, in a sequence way or
not, group members decide who is going
to do anything, which is the best order to
achieve the best result, who is the most
capable to do something,…
Identifying tasks: They messages are
sent by any group member to point out
the tasks found.
Negotiation: In these messages the
group members tell the rest of the
group which their preferences and
skills are, or any other relevant
information. During this process a
vote can be started if group members
cannot achieve consensus.
Distribution of tasks: This kind of
messages can appear during the
negotiation process. They will be
messages in which an assignment is
made, whether it is about order or the
person who must take it.
All these types of messages must be detected in
the activities generated during the learning process.
To do this, it is important to analyze videogames and
to find mechanisms that provoke messages
activation. As an example, we can think in a player
who has to solve a challenge and need a resource he
has not. Then, he looks up to the common inventory
to check if it is there. If tool needed is there, he
checks if it is being used by some partner. These
actions can be interpreted as messages of asking for
and owner/user identification of resources.
Another example: If characters in our videogame
have additional information that can be read by
placing the stylus on it, we can take this action as an
identification of the group message.
Once we have presented the message categorization,
we want to show how we can use it. To do this, we
are going to use the educational videogame
“Leoncio and friends” (Padilla, 2009; González,
2007) as starting point. In any case, this messages
categorization can be used in any educational
videogame, whether it is purely collaborative or with
some collaborative activities inside the individual
learning process.
4.1 “Leoncio and Friends”
“Leoncio and friends” is an educational videogame
with collaborative activities to learn the vowels.
In this videogame, Leoncio is the main character
which pupils identify with. Their friends have been
kidnapped and he has to travel from an island to
other to rescue them. The name of each of Leoncio’s
friends starts with a different vowel. So, the
activities linked with each friend’s rescue will be
related to this vowel. Leoncios’ team has 5 players.
The team’s goal for this videogame is to rescue
Leoncio’s friends by defeating evil Perfecte.
In order to maintain group awareness each
needed tool is filled up with colour gradually,
CSEDU 2009 - International Conference on Computer Supported Education
according to the degree of achievement. Background
colour is according to T-shirt’s colour of each
Leoncio. We can see it in Figure 1a, upper screen.
At the end of each phase of the game the group
must win a Perfecte’s friend jointly. To do it, each
member of the group must prove what he/she has
learnt along the levels. By doing this, we expect to
evaluate the individual learning process: each player
must write his/her vowel taking into account the
randomly proposed sequence. Moreover, the
members of the group must “validate” their tools in
order to contribute to the common work. In this
videogame, the members of the group must build
together a means of transportation to travel to the
next island. To do this they have to decide in which
order the tools must be used. Then they must use
his/her own tool when corresponding. When this
common challenge is overcome, the phase is
overcome too. Then, the group travels to the next
island. See Figure 1b.
Figure 1: (a) Group feedback. Writing ‘a’ vowel. (b)
Building the bridge to the next island.
4.2 Identifying Messages
Against one could think and according to our
theories, messages do not need to be written, overall
if we are working with children: We can take into
consideration the intention of the actions carried out
by the players as implicit messages. In this section
we show some examples about this communication
by using the videogame “Leoncio and friends”.
Let’s think about a player who has lost all his
hearts (lives). We know group must achieve
common goal together, so here we have an implicit
ask for help from this player to all group members.
In this case, it is more important the answer of group
member, because the request is implicit in the game
process. We can show answers to the help requested
when a pupil gain access to the menu to share
his/her life or go to voting menu to participate in a
decision about this issue.
In a similar way, we can find messages about
making decisions during a process of asking for help
or resources. When the player has formulated the
request, group members can vote if there is no one to
share the requested object (lives, tools…). A voting
in this videogame is quite simple, because there is
not negotiation process. Group members only have
to vote yes or not about the question made. The
result from the voting is the agreement.
Finally, we can take into account the time taken
to start the challenge resolution and the time taken to
solve it to assess the quality of the interaction.
In this paper we have shown several items
encouraging the use of educational videogames with
collaborative activities in classrooms. As part of our
work, we have presented a message categorization.
This categorization is intended to help the
researchers to assess the interaction occurred during
the learning / playing collaborative process. We
have used this proposal in the videogame “Leoncio
and friends”.
Finally, we want to remark our future lines of
work. Now we are working on an interaction
analysis method that can be used in VGSCL. One of
the systems of this method is the message
categorization. The first step to achieve our goal is
to study how these messages can be found into
videogames and which actions we have to take into
account during the learning / playing process. We
think that information must be presented in an easy
way. So, SNA (Social Network Analysis) can be a
good choice to get measures and present results
This research is financed by the Ministry of Science
and Innovation, Spain, as part of DESACO Project
(TIN2008-06596-C02-2) and the F.P.U Programme.
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