Understanding College Students’ Cognitive Engagement in Online Collaborative Problem-Solving: A Multimodal Data Analysis

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Laboratory experience is critical to foster college students’ collaborative problem-solving (CPS) abilities, but whether students stay cognitively engaged in CPS tasks during online laboratory sessions remains unknown. This study applied multimodal data analysis to examine college students’ (N = 36) cognitive engagement in CPS during their online experimentation experience. Groups of three collaborated on CPS tasks via shared worksheets and computer-based simulations on videoconferences. Portable electroencephalogram instruments were used to determine students’ levels of cognitive engagement in CPS activities. The multimodal data analysis (e.g., electroencephalogram, surveys, and artifacts) results showed a significant difference in students’ cognitive engagement between different phases of CPS. The students’ cognitive engagement significantly differed between groups who did and did not complete the task. Additionally, intrinsic motivation predicted students’ cognitive engagement in the completion groups while self-efficacy was the primary predictor of cognitive engagement for the groups who did not complete the task.