The VCL framework consists of four dimensions, which can be seen as interlocking gear wheels of a COIL project. It was developed during various practical study methodologies and extensive expertise (Clauss et al. 2021). The four essential dimensions set the whole design process in motion and offer precise guidelines for creating situation-specific arrangements (Clauss & Fischer, 2020).
- Realistic cases and work tasks – VCL setup should allow students to engage in genuinely prepared case studies with the focus on a scenario that is as close to reality as possible. The goal is to promote the interaction between platform participants. Also, in addition to problem-based learning and project-based learning, active learning approaches, such as peer reviews between students, feedback sessions, and joint solving of the tasks, must be implemented. Furthermore, participants in VCL arrangements should pursue both informal (e.g., social, and personal abilities, the use of social software) and formal learning goals (e.g., acquiring information in the different scientific areas). Below you will find an overview of recent case studies that were developed at the Chair of Information Management, Dresden University of Technology.
- Professionalized pedagogical support – learners in VCL arrangements are accompanied by qualified student e-tutors, who follow the group in the VCL approach, but they do not engage in the team task solutions. The task range of e-tutors is varied, covering functional support, personalized individual and group support, technical support, and organizational assistance. Therefore, student e-tutors must complete a professional qualification that allows them to better understand group and work processes in virtual collaboration, develop knowledge on how to support individual and collaborative virtual work processes, and how to motivate group members and recognize conflict potential. (Clauss et al. 2021)
- Technical platform – the primary technical requirement for the implementation of VCL arrangements is an online platform that facilitates collaborative work as well as social sharing and coordination (Clauss et al. 2021). According to Tawileh et al. (2013) such platform should encompass such features as synchronous and asynchronous possibilities to communicate via text, video and audio, shared file storage, and coordination and planning tools, and should possibly also include mobile devices. From the higher education viewpoint, platforms that are widely used in the economy provide a high motivation to be used, as the practical effect of detailed skills in the VCL project are obvious for later job acquisition.
- Learning analytics & information visualization – in the context of VCL learning analytics attempts to improve learning and support processes by providing meaningful, data-driven indicators for the organizational and didactical evaluation of team and of individual performance. In a methodical manner activity traces are followed, project-specific content analyzed, and information dashboards generated, which can be used for quantitative and qualitative reviews and analysis to interpret students’ behavior. This allows e-tutors to give more personalized feedback and ensure that team members are heading in the right direction. (Lenk & Clauss, 2020)
The VCL framework’s four dimensions ensure a comprehensive management of collaborative learning processes in small groups over varying periods of time (from 1-2 weeks up to 2-3 months in an academic semester) and allow the best possible quality assurance.