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Learning together: Understanding the cohort experience of an online graduate degree program

, Fielding Graduate University, United States

Fielding Graduate University . Awarded


This study was undertaken to understand the experience of students in an online Master's Degree program. Thirteen graduates of the selected program were interviewed and analysis was conducted using a phenomenographic research method. Phenomenography is an empirical research approach that explores the personal recollections and descriptions of a specific shared experience. The data extracted from the in-depth interviews is then categorized according to qualitatively different variations in the perceptions of that experience by the participants and then mapped into a finite number of variations and ultimately depicted in a graphical chart known as a phenomenographic outcome space.

The most significant finding in this study was that the individual perception of this shared experience was reliant on the direction and strength of commitment that was engaged in by the participants. Those who had a profound commitment to the cohort learning group found a high degree of cohesion with their colleagues in the group. They experienced strong group identity, overwhelming willingness to support and be supported by the group members and surprisingly strong and lasting relationships with some of their cohort colleagues. On the other hand the cohort members, who appeared less bonded with other cohort members, did not pursue offline communication and felt less engaged with the cohort as an intact learning group were also the ones who developed broader relationships with classmates from other cohort groups. They present their experience as being more committed to learning with a group.

The overall recommendation emerging from this study for those who design and facilitate online programs that utilize a cohort learning community is to support the natural tendencies of online students to build a viable learning community.


Arduengo, N.J. Learning together: Understanding the cohort experience of an online graduate degree program. Ph.D. thesis, Fielding Graduate University. Retrieved March 24, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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