The study of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) is a challenge with regard to producing an environment conducive to mutual learning among learners using computers. Recent researches in e-learning have highlighted the significance of building an online learning community, which plays a role in the sustenance of a fruitful online learning experience (Palloff and Pratt, 1999). The significance of promoting communication among learners via the computer-mediated communication (CMC) is rapidly increasing at present.

However, there are some difficulties faced by learners in mutually recognizing the status of a learning activity in the CSCL environment, which constitutes the most important research issue (Gutwin et al., 1995; Kato et al., 2004). Japanese communication researchers, Kimura and Tsuzuki (1998), pointed out that group communication in the CMC tends to be disorganized and to lack cohesion due to decreased interpersonal pressure, given the nature of the CMC. Briefly, learners are sometimes confused about what they should and should not discuss. This raises the question of how CSCL environments assist learners in assessing their commitment and reorganizing their discussion in a content-wise manner? – if not, it may lead to a failure in the organization of a fruitful discussion for learning.

Messages exchanged in the electronic forums are useful in the assessment of collaborative learning given the fact that they are visualized resources of interaction among learners in a collaborative learning setting. In other words, the messages exchanged in a discussion are reflective of the learner’s ability in the context of the activity (in situ) (Pea, 1993; Palincsar, 1998) — according to the social constructivism perspective, the learner’s ability in a collaborative learning setting emerges socially; therefore, the ability should be assessed on the basis of a visualized interaction among learners and the circumstances including artifacts and social factors. However, a manual assessment of these messages by the learners is not practical given the tremendous effort that is required of them.

This study describes a method of self-assessment for learners in a collaborative discussion in electronic forums. We propose a method of self-assessment in an online discussion using corresponding analysis (Greenacre, 1984), which is a graphical method to visualize the relationship of individual keywords to the whole, and examine its effectiveness through the development and evaluation of a software program to visualize the discussion on a Bulletin Board System. The software, referred to as “i-Bee” (Bulletin board Enrollee Envisioner), can visually display the co-occurrence relation between keywords and learners. Thus, the i-Bee can display the content-wise contribution made by each learner to the discussion. In addition, the i-Bee can display the recent level of participation of each learner and the frequency of each keyword used by the learners.

i-Bee introduction

When a learner logs onto the BBS on exCampus, the i-Bee pops up as an additional window (Figure 1). The i-Bee displays participating learners (bees) and keywords (flowers) selected by teachers. The distribution of the bees and flowers is based on the result of the CA conducted at that time. Each bee and flower is drawn with its name, which represents what is being described. The i-Bee refreshes the status not only when the learner logs in but also when the learner accesses every article; therefore, the i-Bee can display as new a status as possible. While visualizing the coordinates, the i-Bee displays each bee turned toward the flowers as an indication of the number of times a learner uses the corresponding words. The angles of the bees are calculated based on the frequency and location of the flowers.

The i-Bee was developed for learners to recognize their status in the forums. Furthermore, it aimed at having learners reflect over their attitude in a discussion in a content-wise manner. In order for learners to appropriately assess their discussion, it is necessary to design a visualized image for them to easily recognize the overall image and their involvement in the discussion. In order to address this issue, the authors adopted the “bees and flowers” metaphor to explain the cooccurrence relation between the learners and keywords in the discussion. Based on the algorithm of CA, strongly related elements should be located as coordinates in close proximity to each other. A comparison of the algorithm with the metaphor exhibits quite a resemblance – bees get drawn toward attractive flowers in order to suck their nectar, while flowers require the bees to distribute their pollen. Thus, the learners can view the content and status of their discussion in the forum.

According to the classroom evaluation, the i-Bee enables students to assess and reflect over their discussion, to understand the condition, and to reorganize their commitment in a discussion reflecting their learning activity.

This project was received the Best Paper Award and an Outstanding Young Researcher Award from the Japanese Society for Educational Technology in 2005, and 2004, respectively, and was a candidate for the Best Paper Award in the CSCL2005 conference.


A part of this research has received the assistance of Grant-in-Aid for JSPS Fellows for Toshio Mochizuki (AY2003 only), Grant-in-Aid for Exploratory Research (No. 15650171, Representative: Hiroshi Kato), Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (B) (No. 16300280, Representative: Hiroshi Kato), Grant-in-Aid for Specific Field (No. 15020103, Representative: Mariko Suzuki), and Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientist (B) (No. 16700560, Representative: Tomoko Nagata) from the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.


  • Toshio Mochizuki (Principal Researcher, Concept making, System Architecture Design & Evaluation): JSPS Research Fellow; Ph.D. candidate, The Graduate University for Advanced Studies.
  • Hiroshi Kato (Director, Supervisor, Learning Theory, Evaluation): Associate Professor, National Institute of Multimedia Education / The Graduate University for Advanced Studies
  • Satoru Fujitani (Concept making, Algorithm Development, Mathmatical Theory): Assistant Professor, Mejiro University
  • Kazaru Yaegashi (Information Design): M.A. candidate, Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies, The University of Tokyo
  • Mio Katayama (Information Design): Undergraduate Student, Musashino Art University
  • Shin-ichi Hisamatsu (Development): M.S. candidate, Graduate School of Media and Governance, Keio University
  • Jun Nakahara (Coordinator): Assistant Professor, National Institute of Multimedia Education
  • Tomoko Nagata (Field Coordinator, Evaluation): Assistant Professor, Hyogo University of Teacher Education
  • Mariko Suzuki (Field Coordinator, Evaluation): Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, Shiga University
  • Toshihisa Nishimori (Technical Supporter): Assistant Professor, National Institute of Multimedia Education


References in English

  • Mochizuki, T., Kato, H., Hisamatsu, S., Yaegashi, K., Fujitani, S., Nagata, T., Nakahara, J. Nishimori, T. & Suzuki, M. (2005). Promotion of Self-Assessment for Learners in Online Discussion Using the Visualization Software. In T. Koschmann, D. Suthers & T.W. Chan(Eds.) Computer Supported Collaborative Learning 2005: The Next 10 Years! (pp.440-449). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Mochizuki, T., Kato, H., Fujitani, S., Yaegashi, K., Hisamatsu, S., Nagata, T., Nakahara, J., Nishimori, T., & Suzuki, M. (2006). Promotion of Self-Assessment for Learners in Online Discussion Using the Visualization Software. In Niki Lambropoulos and Panayiotis Zaphiris(eds.) User-Centered Design of Online Learning Communities. pp.365-386. London: Idea Publishing, Co.