Cross-Analysis of the Activity Systems of Higher Education International Students in Online Learning

Cross-Analysis of the Activity Systems of Higher Education International Students in Online Learning

Elizabeth Murphy (Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada) and María A. Rodríguez-Manzanares (Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5472-1.ch035
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This chapter presents the results of a cross-analysis of the seven portraits of the activity systems of higher education international students in online learning. The cross-analysis relies on Activity Theory as a tool to identify and sort patterns in the data, in this instance across seven portraits. The cross-analysis aggregates findings from across all seven portraits into the Activity Theory components of subject, object, tools, norms, community, division of labour, and outcomes. The chapter provides an aggregate portrait of the activity system of the seven students.
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The participants represented various sociocultural origins, disciplines, and personality traits. They are not representative of the wider variety that exists and that might have been portrayed if we had drawn on a broader sample. At the same time, the seven portraits provide insights into some of the different types of origins, disciplines, and traits. Beyond the aggregated portrait of the subjects themselves is how those traits, origins, and disciplines relate to other components in the activity system. For example, how is being shy relevant to learning in a context where the norm is text-based interaction and there is no voice or visual interaction?

One noticeable common characteristic is that all participants were relatively comfortable using computers and the Internet. Their portraits revealed that they regularly relied on computers and the Internet for communicating and accessing information. Albert and John were enrolled in a Bachelor of Technology program and John was a web developer and online video game player. Khalid and Rajesh were long-time Internet users. Rajesh, Albert, Ariene, and Vincent were experienced users. Dina had previously relied on the Internet for information searching. Their experience varied in relation to the number of online courses that they had taken. Ariene was the most experienced with 10 courses and Albert, John, and Vincent, with six, five, and four respectively, while Dina had only taken one online course at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Khalid and Rajesh two each.

In terms of their proficiency with the English language, there was variation in the types of skills with which they were most comfortable and in which they were most proficient. All participants described themselves as relatively proficient in English yet all experienced weaknesses with some aspect of the language. Rajesh, Dina, and Albert had difficulty with writing. Rajesh was not good at reading whereas Ariene, Vincent, and John described themselves as proficient in reading. Whereas Albert could speak without hesitation, Dina felt she was not as good at speaking.

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