An investigation of the formation of learning community in Web-based distance education
Lisa Johnston O'Hara, University of Pittsburgh, United States
University of Pittsburgh . Awarded
This study examined the interactions that occurred in an on-line university course. The study used the verbal interaction categories identified in the Flanders Interaction Analysis Protocol (1970) and the Criteria for a Learning Community by Palloff and Pratt (1999). A qualitative research design was selected in order to analyze the content of the individual student posts, as well as to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the instruments used to measure interaction and community.
The NVivo7™ research software was used to categorize and analyze the content of student interaction in threaded discussions for four individual cases. The results showed that students did form community to varying degrees and that the degree of community formed differed based on developmental factors and previous classroom experience. From the Flanders protocol, Lecturing-Citing Opinions and Agreement-Building on the Ideas of Others were the most common types of interactions. The study also identified several types of interactions that the Flanders instrument did not classify, such as Relating Personal Experience, Reflective Comments, Use of Flames/Emoticons/Text Message Language, and Expressions of Courtesy.
The discussion text met many of the criteria identified by Palloff and Pratt (1999) for a learning community. The cases involving graduate students were more likely to meet the criteria for collaborative learning and socialization than the cases comprised of undergraduate students. None of the cases identified any instances of offers to evaluate the work of others, a Palloff and Pratt (1999) criteria.
Recommendations were made for improving the design on on-line courses to be more intuitive and to allow for visual reinforcement of interaction types. Additionally, training for faculty utilizing on-line courses that identifies strategies to encourage and develop different types of interactions in the on-line classroom was recommended. Other recommendations included development of a series of Indicators that signify the development of community in the on-line classroom.
O'Hara, L.J. An investigation of the formation of learning community in Web-based distance education. Ph.D. thesis, University of Pittsburgh.
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