In an article published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, researchers studied whether online collaborative learning was more effective than in-person collaborative learning in middle school science classes in relation to students’ understanding of science concepts.
In the study, 90 eighth graders (Year 9) from five classes taught by two teachers at a Virginia school participated over nine weeks. One teacher taught the experimental group and the other taught the control group.
Both groups were given traditional in-class instruction on the same science topics. Collaborative assignments were given to the classes at least twice a week. The difference was that the experimental group collaborated online and did not receive immediate teacher feedback on their theories, unlike the control group who collaborated in person.
After nine weeks, results showed that the online group did not perform as well as the face-to-face group, increasing the amount of science misconceptions as compared to baseline. Researchers reflected that online learning does not provide immediate teacher feedback and it is possible that students reinforce each other’s incorrect concepts when the teacher is not there to correct them.
Source: The effect of online collaboration on middle school student science misconceptions as an aspect of science literacy (2014), Journal of Research in Science Teaching