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Symposium: An institutional voice to support teachers and learners in blended and distance education


A Symposium presentation by Dr Dolene Rossi a symposium member from CQUniversity for the DEHub/ODLAA Education 2011 to 2021- Global challenges and perspectives of blended and distance learning the (14 …

A Symposium presentation by Dr Dolene Rossi a symposium member from CQUniversity for the DEHub/ODLAA Education 2011 to 2021- Global challenges and perspectives of blended and distance learning the (14 to 18 February 2011)

Published in Education
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  • This presentation offers a report of research which was undertaken to examine the processes of and relationship between learner interaction and knowledge construction in online contexts. Due to the time limitation the focus of this session will be upon the interactions among learners rather than the knowledge constructed as a result of those interactions. The principle finding from the investigation is reflected in the concept that learning relationships are both a condition and a consequence of learner-learner interaction in online contexts.
  • It will be apparent, from yesterdays keynote and panel presentations that there are particular issues associated with learning and teaching in online contexts. Some of these issues are reiterated within this slide. For example you may recall that change was referred to as a constant, attention was drawn to institutional attempts to promote consistency in online offerings, that policies are being implemented which govern the availability of online courses prior to the start of term and the demand and challenge presented by the need for new educational skills .
  • A typology of learning interactions is apparent within educational literature . The first 3 on this slide list were identified by Moore. The following three were subsequently added by Anderson and learner interface was identified by Hillman, Willis and Gundawardena who recognised that learners have to interact with technology in order to access content educators and peers in online learning environments. Although traditionally learner-learner interaction has been downplayed in distance education this particular type of interaction provided the focus of analysis within the research reported here . An online undergraduate communication course was selected as a case for the study and the embedded case design reflected the social structure of the course.
  • SNA and constructive grounded theory were used to analyse data collected from the case. This side shows learning relationships as the core category which emerged from the analysis. It also provides an overview of the results of the study and offers a model with which to visualise the substantive theory which was constructed to explain the conditions, interactions and consequences of learning relationships in online contexts. Textual communication and groups were contextual conditions within the online course . The course had been designed to promote learner engagement with course content through weekly pre-reading material PPT presentations, and a range of individual, large group and small group activities. Participation was constituted 25% of the assessment for the course. 21 students completed the course, 20 of whom agreed to participate in the study. Differences were discerned in the types, degree and frequency of learner-learner interaction.
  • One of the more surprising benefits of mediated interaction related to the absence of non-verbal cues…These are more often cited as a limitation within online learning contexts.
  • A comparative analysis revealed that individual contributions to small groups discussion exceeded those contributed to large group discussions. Therefore despite being more densely populated the number of connections between learners was greater in small groups. Groups also demonstrate preferences for particular forms of interaction given the group 6 and group 4 were the most prolific users of Asynchronous communication and group 3 used this form significantly less than other small groups.
  • Some explanations for the differences observed are offered in the content of learner contributions to large and small discussion groups.
  • This slide emphasies the importance of relationships among learners
  • And here the commitment to and investment in small group activites.
  • The findings of the research have implications for educational practice as they reveal conditions conducive to learner-learner interaction, dialogic learning and the development of a sense of community within online courses.


  • 1. Learning relationships: A condition and consequence of learner-learner interaction in online contexts Dr Dolene Rossi [email_address]
  • 2.
    • Rapid evolution of distance education
    • Change: In pedagogy, curriculum, infrastructure, policy, organisation and governance
    • Demand for new skills: Educators and learners
    • Capacity versus capability
    • Opportunities and unrealised potential
    Online learning contexts
  • 3.
    • Learner-content
    • Learner-teacher
    • Learner-learner
    • Teacher-teacher
    • Teacher-content
    • Content-content
    • Learner-interface
    A typology of learning interactions
  • 4.  
  • 5.
    • Fiona (W3LGD) …There are distinct advantages to communicating online because the noise factors are reduced through lack of physical/environmental interference to the "conversation". Visual and non-verbal distractions are non-existent allowing a clearer, uncomplicated climate for discourse...
    Mediated interaction
  • 6.   Asynchronous communication Group 2 (n=3) Group 3 (n=4) Group 4 (n=5) Group 6 (n=3) Group 9 (n=5) Total Small group posts Total Large group posts (n=20) W1 3 4 11 16 8 42 55 W2 12 11 10 43 13 89 49 W3 18 13 14 29 26 100 38 W4 12 14 38 23 15 102 49 W5 31 12 52 55 11 161 72 W6 15 5 38 52 8 118 107 W7 18 10 33 34 20 115 59 W8 29 10 37 32 28 136 66 W9 22 8 26 19 16 91 45 W10 12 4 40 14 23 112 50 W11 10 1 49 38 29 127 57 W12 20 5 28 30 21 104 56 Total learner posts 221 97 376 385 218 1297 703
  • 7.
    • Jane (W8SG6-AS) ...This is definitely a good example of increase in size = decrease in participation...A lot of the things that I want to say are already said...hence participation in my case has decreased.
    • Avril (W8LGD)... I feel no cohesion within a group this large as nothing seems personalized or related to me. There is less contribution from each is not worth the effort when trying to learn in the class discussion board...
    Social structure
  • 8.  
  • 9.  
  • 10.
    • Kelsie (W8SG9-AS)... Although I am a member of two groups for this online course I feel I have only experienced a bonding with my smaller group with which I conduct my group activities... In this small group we have worked together and communicated towards reaching a mutual goal ... The small size of the group has allowed our communication to flow beyond our task topic and include personal information that has highlighted our differences and similarities...
    Actions and interactions
  • 11.
    • Kirin (W8LGD) ...I am keeping up to date with my readings and trying to have the weekly tasks finished on time, I am putting so much effort into this subject, mainly because I don’t want to let my group down...
    • Jenny (W8SG2-AS) I know that we are classed as a group (of) ladies but do you think that we are evolving into a team, due to the intimate knowledge we are collecting of each other, achieving more independence as our abilities grow and not needing as much tutor help, the ability for us to co-ordinate ourselves and resolve issues to achieve the end goal and work as a unit? If we were disbanded and made to reform to other groups we would not have the cohesion required to work as well as we do…
    Actions and interactions con’t…
  • 12.
    • Learner-learner interaction
      • Instructional design: Required participation and the size of learning groups
    • Dialogic learning
      • Textual communication
      • Learner control and responsibility
    • Development of a sense of community
      • Learning relationships: personal knowledge investment of time and commitment to group goals
    Conditions conducive to: