Developing Learning Communities: Improving Interactivity of an Online Class

Developing Learning Communities: Improving Interactivity of an Online Class

Pawan Jain (Fort Hays State University, Hays, USA) and Smita Jain (University of Wyoming, Hays, USA)
Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-753-4.ch019
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Abstract

This study concerns the design and development of online instruction and specifically targets interaction and communication between online learners. Facilitating appropriate and meaningful interactions in designing instruction is a major goal for anyone developing an online class. The guiding question of the study was: how do the instructional design elements and discipline area impact the quantity of learner-learner interactions? The data for this study came from the online courses offered at one of the major Rocky Mountain University. The research subjects and courses were taken from the College of Education, College of Business, College of Arts and Sciences and College of Health Sciences. Forty graduate online classes, 10 from each college, were analyzed. The findings of this study suggest that the interactivity in an online class depends on group size, grade weight for discussion, use of web 2.0 technologies and multimedia and the discipline it belongs to.
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Background

As access to the Internet and World Wide Web has continued to grow, Web-based learning has continued to expand. With approximately half of the households in the United States (or 150 million people connected to the Internet), an estimated 2 million students are taking post-secondary courses that are fully delivered online (Galt Global Review, 2001). Millions of other students at all educational levels (primary, secondary, post-secondary, continuing education) participate online in hybrid, mixed mode, and Web-enhanced face-to-face courses (Picciano, 2002).

Interaction has been recognized as one of the most important components of learning experiences both in conventional education and distance education (Vygotsky, 1978; Holmberg, 1983; Moore, 1993). Gunawardena and Zittle (1997) revealed that social presence contributed more that 60% of learner satisfaction with computer conferencing courses. A common element for learning in a typical classroom environment is the social and communicative interactions between student and teacher, and student and student (Stubbs, 1976). The ability to ask a question, to share an opinion with a fellow student, or to disagree with the point of view in a reading assignment are all fundamental learning activities (Picciano, 2002). In online education, it is particularly important to provide an environment in which meaningful interaction can occur (Collins & Berge, 1996).

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