Using a Classification of Psychological Experience in Social-Networking Sites as a Virtual Learning Environment

Using a Classification of Psychological Experience in Social-Networking Sites as a Virtual Learning Environment

Joseph Onibokun (School of Social Sciences and Law, Teesside University, Middlesbrough, UK) and Paul van Schaik (School of Social Sciences and Law, Teesside University, Middlesbrough, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/jvple.2012100103
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Abstract

With over 800 million users worldwide, the global importance of Facebook as a social-networking platform is beyond doubt. This popularity, particularly among university-students, has encouraged research to explore ways in which social networking can be adapted into virtual learning environments. In particular, this study uses the think-aloud technique to explore university-students’ use of and interaction with Facebook. Twenty-six Teesside University students who were also Facebook users took part in a think-aloud study. Seven major categories of experience emerged during the coding and categorisation process of the think-aloud data. Further analysis revealed that six fundamental psychological needs were each related to particular themes of user-experience. Overall, the results demonstrate that psychological needs are particular qualities of students’ experience that are important in online social networking. Future research should investigate psychological needs in the context of virtual learning environments and ways in which these needs can be best supported for learning.
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Virtual Learning Environments

Virtual learning environments are defined as open systems that allow their users to interact with each other through synchronous or asynchronous electronic communication (Piccoli et al., 2001). Typically, a virtual learning environment is designed to facilitate teachers in the management of educational courses for their students and is characterised by a shared social space, a graphical user interface, real-time interaction, user-generated content, persistence, and active support for in-world social groups (Mitchell & Watstein, 2007; Book, 2004, as cited in Hayes, 2006). According to Dillenbourg et al. (2002), virtual learning environments can be identified by the following features.

  • A designed information space.

  • A social space where education interactions occur.

  • A virtual space which can be represented in forms of text to three-dimensional immersive worlds.

  • Students not only being active, but also as actors who co-construct the virtual space.

  • The potential integration of heterogeneous technologies and multiple pedagogical approaches.

The use of virtual learning environments has been shown to facilitate reflection and the communication between online learners, which can lead toward better building of communities of practice (Boulos et al., 2007). For example, reflective processes can be supported through the use of synchronous interaction or asynchronous discussion boards, and within visual range of all other contributors, providing users with a sense of closeness and engagement that can provide an experience matching that of a telephone- conference call (Boulos et al., 2007).

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