Published July 7, 2021 | Version v1
Conference paper Open

The Show Must Go On: Active Online Collaboration during COVID-19 – Mathematics Students Solving Real-World Problems

  • 1. Unit for Self-Directed Learning, North-West University, South Africa


The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic caught the world off-guard, and the impact of the pandemic is unprecedented.
Consequently, universities were closed, and lecturers were forced to adjust their teaching and learning practices and to
shift their courses to online learning. This paper reports on Mathematics education students’ active practices, experiences
and reflections on their online collaboration regarding real-world problems. The aim was to determine how active group
work could contribute to students’ ability to solve such problems during the pandemic in an online environment. Although
a mixed-method approach was employed, the emphasis in this paper is only on aspects of the qualitative phase. A cohort
comprising 52 BEd students participated. They worked in 13 groups of four members each. Before students began with the
assignments, they were introduced to active teaching–learning approaches, such as problem-based learning and
cooperative learning. Group members were required to complete two assignments and submit them on the learning
management system. Upon completion, randomly selected students completed task-based questions about their
experiences of the assignments, mathematical skills and the type of thinking that they used. Students also had to reflect
on the nature of their collaboration, personal interaction, and challenges they experienced. Students further assessed
themselves as well as their peers regarding their active involvement and commitment. The data were manually coded and
main themes emerged. The findings indicate that students initially experienced challenges with online learning. This
learning mode forced them to take responsibility for their assignments, to assist each other in their learning processes, and
to work closely as a group to ensure that they solved the problems correctly. The value was that students learned from one
another, reflected on their efforts, and developed essential skills. The students enjoyed to work on real-world problems as
they could identify with such problems. Social and teacher presence was crucial in the online learning environment. Some
insights were gained regarding active online collaboration.



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