Co-operative and Interactive Distance Learning: Application
of Team-Oriented and Selective Learning Strategies in a European Bank
Joachim P. Hasebrook
(efiport AG, Germany
Abstract: Major companies, especially banks, invest in interactive
distance learning replacing face-to-face training. Research has shown learning
gains are mostly due to a shift in instruction. In this study, a WBT about
currency management of a major German bank was examined. The communicational
features of the WBT comprise a discussion forum, note taking, and automatic
messaging of questions and answers between experts and students. The experimental
design compared a face-to-face seminar with WBT learning. The results show
that WBT participants learned as much as the seminar participants, but
in about 70% of the seminar's study time. Young seminar participants performed
better than older ones, while WBT learning did not produce an age effect.
The results of the study demonstrate that the learners in the bank tend
to choose traditional learning strategies, they do not cope optimally with
co-operative and selective learning strategies, and they tend to appreciate
audio-visual media. Experts did not voluntarily play an active role in
the discussion processes. Communicational features, however, were used
quite frequently. The users who were experienced in using a CBT and showed
high self esteem gained most from WBT learning.
Keywords: computer mediated communication, Web based training,
computer supported learning strategies
Categories: H.5.1, J.4
Electronic performance support systems (in the form of on-line media
and self-directed learning environments) are among the most effective training
solutions in terms of cost, time and logistics [cf. McGraw
1994]. Therefore, some German banks have already reduced their face-to-face
training courses by approximately 30% p.a. and all major banks are now
introducing Web-based training (WBT) as a means for cost effective training
[Hasebrook 1999a]. During the same period of time,
German banks experienced a considerable increase in training costs: Major
German banks and bank associations spent between 88% and 136% more money
on training in 1996 than in 1989. A closer look at these data reveals a
dramatic increase in training costs between 1989 and 1993. It should be
noted that - in compliance with German laws - training costs are all direct
and indirect costs related to training, which has been jointly released
by the employees' work council and the employer. Since 1994, however, there
has been a decline in training budgets at the same rate as in other German
business sectors: About 75% of all employees participated in training courses,
this percentage increased about 10% from 1994 to 1997. At the same time,
the educational budgets were reduced by nearly 10% [Ausbilderhandbuch
Banks are spending 6% of their personnel budgets for training but 15-30%
of their administrative and operational budgets for information and communication
technology (ICT). For instance, the largest of German banks, Deutsche Bank,
spent US-Dollar 205 million on training and US-Dollar 1.3 billion on ICT.
This translates into approximately US-Dollar 2,500 for training and US-Dollar
4,000 for ICT per employee [Moormann 1999]. In 1997
Internet- and Intranet-based training accounted for only 2.4% of the total
cash flow of the educational market. Johnston & Moretti estimate the
annual increase in these training technologies to be 140% and 62%, respectively
[Johnston & Moretti 1998]. In 2002, Internet-
and Intranet-based training will represent about 40% of the educational
2 Co-operative Learning with Electronic Media
Meta-analyses of computer-based training show that multimedia and online
media are not overly effective. Kulik and Kulik examined 248 research studies
about computer-supported learning [Kulik and Kulik
1991]. 150 studies failed to show any significant effects. The other
studies showed only a slight advantage of multimedia over textbooks and
lectures: Error rates of simple retention tests were 5% to 15% lower than
before (Eta2=.15), problem solving was hardly enhanced and study
time was reduced from 100% to percentages ranging from 80% to 20%, with
an average reduction of time to 70% (Eta2=.35). Considering
all studies included in the meta-analysis, multimedia produced only a small
effect (Eta2<.01) [Hasebrook 1995]. Clark and
Craig investigated several meta-analyses [Clark and Craig
1992], including the studies of Kulik and Kulik [Kulik
and Kulik 1991; Kulik, Bangert-Downs & Williams 1983; Kulik, Kulik
& Cohen 1980]. They draw the following conclusions: (1) Multiple media
are not the factors that influence learning. (2) The measured learning
gains are most likely due to instructional methods. (3) The aspects of
picture superiority and dual coding have not been supported [cf. Paivio
Additionally, multiple media are especially helpful if a well structured
and fact-oriented subject matter is presented to the learners, different
perspectives are offered, and self motivation and self esteem are supported
[e.g. Hasebrook and Otte 2002]. Many other studies
have confirmed that multimedia applications enhance learning, only if the
individual skills and abilities match the demands of the learning task
and the functionality of the multimedia system [e.g. Reynolds
& Danserau 1990; Barba & Armstrong 1992;
Mayer & Sims 1994]. Therefore, it is necessary
to teach users strategies and concepts to use multimedia applications.
Additionally, it is necessary to adapt the system to individual abilities
and the overall learning environment [Larkin & Chabay
1992; Hasebrook & Gremm 1999].
Little is known about the effects of co-operative distance learning
upon corporate culture, learning behavior, and communication processes.
Several studies compared computer conferencing via e-mail, video-conferencing,
telephone conferences and personal communication [Sproull
& Kiesler 1991; Kiesler 1992]. These studies
determined that video-conferencing is much more similar to telephoning
than to personal communication.
As Sproull and Kiesler discovered, simple e-mail conferences can provide
several advantages: Personal communication takes less time but electronic
mailing leads to agreements more frequently [Sproull
and Kiesler 1991]. Additionally, conferencing by e-mail allows for
a more symmetrical participation than personal discussions. Weisband &
Atwater, however, reported that self ratings of contributions were more
inflated and less accurate in electronic communication than in face-to-face
communication [Weisband & Atwater 1999]. The
biases mainly stem from liking or disliking peers in face-to-face groups
but not in electronic ones/groups.
Experts play an important role in online discussions. Ogata & Yano
found out that the presence of an expert led to more direct participation
in an online discussion, but also to a higher drop-out rate while peer-to-peer
discussions suffered from poor active participation if the participants
were not directly invited to join in the discussion by their peers [Ogata
& Yano 1998]. Bolling & Robinson compared three different learning
groups: (1) individual learning with printed matter, (2) co-operative team
learning with printed material and special instructions, and (3) team learning
without special instructions using multimedia courseware (Bolling
& Robinson 1999]. Taking into account the prior knowledge of the
participants, the authors found co-operative learning to be the most effective
training method. Individual and multimedia team learning did not differ
significantly. The best performance was observed among participants of
the co-operative learning group with high prior knowledge. These and similar
findings are in line with recent research results indicating that group
cohesion is enhanced when group members are actively managed and master
high performance barriers [Tesluk & Mathieu 1999].
Leader-Member-Exchange (LMX) produces higher follower performance as compared
to transformational leadership irrespective of physical distance [Howell
& Hall-Meranda 1999], and only content goals with a clear skills
improvement focus have been found to support performance in training programs
[Brett & VandeWalle 1999].
3 The Learning Environment
A WBT about currency management was developed by Bank Academy in charge
of a major German bank. The WBT is based on the Hyperwave information server
and its learning platform GENTLE [Maurer 1998].
GENTLE has now evolved into the commercial software package 'eLS' (eLearning
Suite). This software stores and maintains the user interface (e.g. buttons,
frames), the structure (e.g. links, hierarchy of pages) and the actual
content (e.g. HTML-pages, images) separately. Thus, all complete WBT pages
are composed on demand and may contain individual information, such as
notes and user defined links, without interfering with the contents of
the WBT delivered to other users. Special features of the learning platform
were used to automatically generate specific learning paths for two different
target groups and eight different experimental settings (see section
The study reported here was conducted with this WBT. The WBT consisted
of five modules comprising approximately 100 pages each. About one third
of the pages contained animations or interactive exercises, such as calculators
and interactive telephone orders. Important content areas, such as definitions,
examples, exercises, and team instructions, were marked by special icons.
Half of the participants were automatically pooled in learning teams
with five persons each by the system and the other half studied individually.
All participants were allowed to take notes and write contributions to
the discussion forum. All notes and contributions were typed according
to their contents, that is, the user decided whether she or he wanted to
type in a question, an answer, an agreement, a disagreement or a simple
remark. All notes were linked to a particular phrase or page in the WBT.
Additionally, different access rights could be attached to each note: Public,
learning team (if available), and private. Private notes were marked with
gray icons, public and team notes with green icons. All notes containing
questions were sent as an e-mail to an expert who decided whether he or
she wanted to respond to that question. The notes which had been responded
to by an expert were marked with a blue icon. All public notes were automatically
copied to the discussion forum with a link in the note enabling the user
to access the anchor of the note by clicking on that link.
Figure 1: The design of the learning environment: Navigation and
table of content (left), general tools (above), and an interactive audio
exercise (centre) are displayed by the Hyperwave system. .
The notes did not only support the learning process by motivating the
users to discuss the subject matter of the WBT. They also provided a useful
source of information for the adjustment and improvement of the system,
because the users took lots of notes which described technical or design
problems. Furthermore, a background library of encyclopaedias and news
services enabled the user to access a vast amount of background information
and most recent information without leaving the WBT environment.
Automatic control of access rights, automatic generation of learning
paths according to target groups and experimental conditions including
all material and media involved, support of individual anchored annotations,
typed links, and the integrated communication system including forum and
email are the novel features of the learning platform used in this study.
Outlets of the bank all over Germany were asked to nominate trainees
of their corporate finance departments for a two-day seminar about currency
management. Seventy persons were randomly assigned to the one-day WBT,
thirty persons to traditional face-to-face seminars resulting in 64 complete
data sets of the WBT users and 30 complete data sets of the seminar participants.
Only ten of these 94 persons were female; the mean age was 35.2 years (standard
deviation, SD, 11.8).
4.2 Material and Procedure
The WBT learners used the WBT described above. The WBT was completely
new developed and based on the printed material, such as papers and slides,
used in the seminar. Additionally, the trainer of the seminar groups served
as the subject matter expert of the WBT development. Thus, the instructional
methods were different but not the content bases of the training.
In the beginning, all subjects filled in a survey about personal data,
that is, gender, age, professional experience, prior knowledge, WBT experience
and their personal expectations. Furthermore, they responded to 16 multiple-choice
questions about currency management. While learning with the WBT, the users'
inputs were automatically recorded by the system. All WBT participants
learned about the WBT features conducting an introductory module which
took them about 20 minutes to complete. Each module started with a comprehensive
instruction according to the actual experimental condition, a brief overview
and offered a multiple-choice self test. After having finished a module,
the WBT offered an evaluation form with questions about the correctness,
job-relatedness and user-friendliness of the WBT module, which could be
After the training, all seminar and WBT participants filled in a second
survey about their experiences with the training course and responded to
a multiple-choice test with 24 questions: 16 questions were taken from
the pre-test, 8 questions were newly introduced. The survey was paper and
pencil work, all multiple choice questions were presented at the computer
and were rated by an expert team according to their difficulty (cf. figure
2). Test and survey were filled in anonymously and without observation
in order to avoid social desirability distortion [cf. Richman
et al. 1999]. It took the participants about 40 minutes to fill-in
the survey and respond to the multiple-choice test. The WBT course took
about 8.5 hours (SD=1.1) and the seminar about 12 hours of net study time
to be finished. Times were recorded automatically by the system (from log-in
to log-out) or reported by the on site trainer, respectively. All WBT learners
took part in a moderated team discussion about their experiences using
the WBT. The results of these discussions were recorded by the moderator.
Figure 2: The final examination (above) and self tests (below,
with solution and feedback) are displayed by a Java applet within the Hyperwave
The first experimental factor was the comparison of the between factor
'seminar vs. WBT learning' with respect to acceptance and performance criteria.
Another set of experimental factors was realised by a mixed design within
the WBT group. One half of the WBT group was automatically assigned to
a learning team resulting in the between factor 'team vs. individual learning';
the teams were automatically formed according to the login time of the
learners. In every second WBT module, the learners were instructed to read
the overview and to take the self test prior to the access of the module
and then to decide - based on the test results - whether they wanted to
go through all pages or only parts of the module. This instruction resulted
in the within factor 'complete vs. selective learning'. Each module contained
several audio and video files and a simple text version of the same content.
The system automatically assigned the WBT users to different groups
which had access to the audio-visual media in every second module. This
resulted in the within factor 'text vs. av media'. All factors were counterbalanced
by a Latin square procedure among the subjects. In summary, the experimental
set-up of the WBT system resulted in a mixed design with the between factor
'team vs. individual learning' and the within factors 'complete vs. selective
learning', and 'text vs. av media'. Additionally, qualitative data were
collected by interviews with the participating experts and by team discussions
after the training program.
All survey ratings range from 1 ('very good' or 'I totally agree') to
5 ('very poor' or 'I totally disagree'). As the scores of the multiple
choice items differ according to their difficulty, all test scores are
expressed as percentage of the maximum score (ranging from 0% to 100%).
Due to the variable cell frequencies of the design and some missing data,
the General Linear Model (GLM) procedure of the SPSS statistical software
package was used to analyze the data. A GLM is comparable to a normal mixed
5.1 Comparison of WBT and Seminar
The study time of the WBT and the seminar differed significantly (8.5
vs. 12.0 h; F[1,92]=319,9; p<.001). The statistical analyses showed
main effects of the learning group in the pre-test (F[1,80]=9,3; p<0.01)
and the post-test for the 16 old items (F[1,80]=5,1; p<.05), but not
for the 8 new items (F[1,80]=1.7; n.s.): The WBT group started with higher
test scores and showed better performance for the items from the pre-test.
But there was no significant difference concerning the new items. Taking
into account the pre-test scores as a co-variant, the main effect of the
learning group is reduced to a weak tendency for the post-test results
(F[1,80]=1.7; p<.2) and the co-variant is highly significant (F[2,90]=29.1;
The test results showed no significant differences for female and male
participants due to the small number of women, although they did slightly
better than men (75.0 vs. 73.3% in the final test). The participants were
grouped into four categories according to their age: 20 to 35, 36 to 45,
46 to 55, and 56 to 65 years. There is a tendency that young participants
performed better in the final test than older ones (F[194,3]=2,4; p<0.1),
but there was no significant difference in the pre-test results (cf. figure
2). Most importantly, there was an interaction of learning group and
age group: Young seminar participants learned more than older ones, but
there was no such difference within the WBT group (F[194,3]=3,2; p<.05).
Table 1 and figure 3 summarize
the results of the pre- and post-test as a function of gender and age.
All learners judged their prior knowledge to be on a medium level (WBT
3.5; seminar 3.6). After the training, the judgement of WBT participants
concerning their knowledge was improved, but the judgement of the seminar
learners was significantly better (2,7 vs. 1.3; F[1,80])=39.0; p<.001),
although their test results were lower than those of the WBT learners.
There were no more significant differences in the individual judgements
of the WBT and the seminar group. Table 2 summarizes
the scores of the individual judgements.
Table 1: Test results in % of the pre-test (16 items) and
the post-test (16+8 items) as a function of learning group (seminar vs.
WBT), gender and age.
Figure 3: The age effect of face-to-face training (cf. table
1): Test results (in %) are lower for elder persons who attended traditional
seminars instead of WBT.
5.2 Factors of Online Learning
Team vs. Individual Learning. There was no significant difference
of the pre- and post-test scores between team and individual learning.
There are only two tendencies: Individual learning leads to slightly better
acceptance of the WBT than team learning (F[1,57]=1.7; p<.2), and to
a better judgement of the knowledge acquired during the training (F[1,57]=2.8;
p<.1). In general, two co-variants affect the post-test results, but
not the pre-test results: A high judgement of prior knowledge and experiences
using a CBT lead to better post-test results (F[1,59]=13.9; p<.001 and
F[1,59]=6.2; p<.05, respectively). Experienced users of the corporate
Intranet, however, did not show significantly better test results (cf.
Table 2: Individual judgements and acceptance ratings in the pre-
and the post-test as a function of learning group (seminar vs. WBT); scores
are ranging from 1 (very good) to 5 (very bad).
Complete vs. Selective Learning. Once again, complete and selective
learning strategies did not lead to significant differences in test results
and acceptance ratings. Therefore, we checked the number of page and function
calls as a function of the different learning conditions. On average, 35
notes were read, seven taken and the forum was accessed 31 times per module.
Each user took an average of five notes per module and additionally wrote
two messages to the forum. Most of the notes were public. Selective team
learners tend to use the note function more frequently than the other learners
(F[1,60]=2.1; p<.2). Complete learners accessed 398 pages of the WBT
and selective learners 411, group learning led to 395 page accesses and
individual learning to 412 page accesses. There were no significant differences
in the number of function calls and page accesses in all groups. Table
3 summarizes the data for the factors team vs. individual and complete
vs. selective learning.
Effects of Audio-Visual Media. There is a tendency that learners
with audio-visual media did better in the post-test with 24 items than
learners without (77.3% vs. 74.7%; F[1,63]=2.7; p<.1). And there is
a tendency for better acceptance of the modules with audio-visual media
than those without (F[1,41]=3.2; p<.1). Table 4
summarizes the test results and acceptance data of the modules with and
without audio-visual media.
There are some interesting additional results concerning the module
surveys: Module 3 and 4 contained many calculations as interactive exercises
while module 2 and 5 did not. Thus, module 3 and 4 got worse acceptance
ratings than module 2 and 5, especially concerning their user friendliness
and their job-relatedness (F[1,41]=5.2; p<.05). Furthermore, only half
of the module surveys contained a direct feedback summarizing all user
inputs in simple bar charts. These surveys with direct feedback collected
372 user inputs while the surveys without direct feedback collected only
312 inputs. Thus, providing direct feedback to the users of surveys seems
to be an easy way to improve compliance.
Expert Participation. The experts received about ten e-mails
per day during the learning phase. The questions ranged from serious questions
to complaints, e.g. about the number of calculations which had to be performed
by the learners. The experts wrote only 20 answers reviewing the questions
they had got via e-mail and via the forum of the WBT. The average length
of such an answer was about two to four sentences (40 to 80 words). In
professional virtual seminars the input of experts is much higher, e.g.
in a virtual seminar at the University of Maryland with 15 sessions the
experts wrote about 8,000 words and the participants about 2,750 words
(cf. Bernath & Rubin 1998]. However, all experts
claimed to have given strong support to co-operation and team learning
based on electronic discussion forum or e-mail messaging. However, there
was no clear organizational procedure that enabled the experts to withdraw
from their normal duties and work on the WBT, instead.
Table 3: Acceptance ratings (1 to 5) and system calls per module
as a function of learning strategies within the WBT (team vs. individual
learning and complete vs. selective learning).
Team Interviews and Discussion. In the team sessions after the
WBT training positive and negative aspects of the WBT were collected and
discussed. All participants indicated on a board whether they considered
the WBT to be a very negative, negative, neutral, positive or very positive
means for training. As in the surveys, the individual judgements summed
up to a neutral attitude towards the WBT. Positive aspects discussed by
the participants were (1) self paced and self directed learning, (2) free
choice and access to information, (3) direct feedback for tests and inputs,
(4) fast and efficient learning, and (5) opportunity for distant communication.
Negative aspects were (1) too many and too difficult calculations, (2)
too much content not directly targeted at the different departments of
the company, (3) difficult handling of the calculation forms, (4) too many
overviews and indices, (5) a too restricted learning time, and (6) not
much input from experts.
Figure 4: The impact of learning strategies: Test results
(pre and post tests in %) as a function of selective and team learning
Table 4: Test results in % and acceptance ratings (1 to 5)
as a function of media use (text vs. audio-visual media) in the WBT.
One of the major conclusions of this study is that success does not
come simply by using the latest online techniques: The learning culture
of the participants and the experts involved in the WBT clearly did not
support the success factors of online learning. Although the participants
used navigational and communicational features quite frequently, they did
not receive much input from the experts, and they did not pick up new learning
strategies, such as team and selective learning. This line of reasoning
is supported by strong impact of self esteem (judgement of prior knowledge)
and of CBT experience on test results. The age effect indicates that WBT
is offering a more equal opportunity for learning than seminars. Additionally,
seminar participants considered their learning results to be better than
WBT learners did, although objectively it was not.
A future study will examine a similar WBT environment. However, there
will be a variable learning time which is not going to be restricted to
a single day, clear instructions for the corporate departments how experts
should be involved, and the introductory module will not only give a brief
overview of the WBT features. The introduction will actively train communicative
skills and the selection of information from comprehensive online learning
environments [cf. Hasebrook 1999b].
In summary, the WBT at least reaches the performance of face-to-face
seminars within a shorter period of time. Audio-visual media does not improve
performance measures, but they improve acceptance ratings. WBT works fine
for young and old people whereas face-to-face training does not. Although
instructed to do so, WBT learners stick to traditional learning methods
and have to be guided and trained to pick up new ones, such as co-operative
and selective learning methods. Experienced CBT users - but not Internet
users - as well as learners with high self esteem profit most from WBT
I would like to thank the subjects of these/this study/ies for their
active participation, the development team of the Hyperwave learning suite
for their technical support, and my colleagues and five anonymous reviewers
for their critical and helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.
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