Our group project has now come to a close and there has been some time for reflection. In looking more closely at the community of inquiry framework (Garrison and Anderson 2003) has prompted further discussions from the participants on the course.
One of the themes was introduced by one of the group which looked at the emotional impact on learning in an online context. Stodel et al (2006) discussed that with a small group in their qualitative research students missed the face to face contact that they had been used to. Five themes emerged: robustness of online dialogue, spontaneity and improvisation, perceiving and being perceived by the other, getting to know each other and learning to be an online learner. As a student myself I can identify with some of these aspects particularly getting to know each other and perceiving and being perceived by the other.
In getting to know each other the teaching group put up different styles and used variable depths to demonstrate our “identities” and encouraged the participants to do the same. In the main the responses tried to be as detailed as they could be using the technology that they had and/or were comfortable with. Some added images, used audio etc. This would bear out Stodel et.al (2006) research that getting to know one another is important in online learning. Of course in blended learning you have the classroom contact so getting to know each other can be found in other ways that you wouldn’t get in an online context. These include tone of voice, eye contact and body language.
Online communities would therefore need role adjustments to account for the transmission from the familiarity of the physical classroom to the virtual environment. Palloff and Pratt (2007) have discussed the important of building a community online and that whilst that was once thought of as “fluff” it is now an important part of the course design as online communities need to know one another as effective learning communities are the vehicle through which learning occurs. It was certainly apparent that those that participated in our course chose methods of introduction that would give them an identity in their community of learning.
Student perceptions include those of self and others. Piccianno (2002) study on perception showed some variable results from the analysis of how many times students posted in the discussions. The findings showed that the amount of interaction had no real relationship to the performance but it had a significant impact in the written exam. In the survey indications showed that how the students perceived their interaction in the course had an effect on what they thought of the quality and quantity of learning. In other words, the more they felt able to join in the more they valued the learning. Stodel et al (2006) and Piccianno (20032) research demonstrate that being able to have an identity, feel connected and comfortable in the learning environment does have an effect on the learning and outcomes.
Cleveland-Innes and Campbell (2012) looked at research carried out on emotion and learning illuminating that the role of emotions in education has not gone without some inquiry. They took into account the range of emotions that students do have and would also suggest that their study is repeated to confirm results. They also advocate that the emotional response of online learners is part of their own learning by modelling, bring emotion to consciousness and make use of it in the learning situation. Providing environments that develop security, feelings of well-being and encouraging self-confidence is a challenge along with the original course design.
I am now looking at the design of my own VLE’s. Whilst I have mainly some face to face contact my work is moving more online and I have had a great deal of ideas and thoughts not to mention the technology that can be used to make my courses much more interactive, informative and involved for my students.
Cleveland-Innes, M. and Campbell, P. (2012) Emotional Presence, Learning, and the Online Learning Environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Volume 13. No. 4
Garrison, D.R., Anderson, T. (2003). E-learning in the 21st century. Routledge-Falmer.
Mezirow, Jack (1998) Learning as Transformation: Critical Perspectives on a Theory in Progress. The Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series.
Stodel, E.J. Thompson, T. L., MacDonald C. J. (2006) Learners’ Perspectives on What is Missing from Online Learning: Interpretations through the Community of Inquiry Framework. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Volume 7. No. 3
Palloff, R.M, Keith Pratt (2007) Building Online Learning Communities: Effective Strategies for the Virtual Classroom. Jossey-Bass
Picianno, A.G. (2002) Beyond Student Perceptions: Issues of Interaction, Presence, Performance in an online course. JALN Volume 6. Issue 1.