The Impact of Individual Differences on Social Communication Pattern in Online Learning

The Impact of Individual Differences on Social Communication Pattern in Online Learning

Robert Z. Zheng (University of Utah, USA), Jill A. Flygare (University of Utah, USA), Laura B. Dahl (University of Utah, USA) and Richard R. Hoffman (University of Utah, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-392-0.ch015
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Abstract

This chapter describes the college students’ online social communication patterns and behavior with a focus on the impact of individual differences on learners’ online communication. The study consisted of 27 college students who engaged in an online discussion over a period of fourteen weeks as part of requirements in an undergraduate educational technology course. The findings indicated that cognitive styles such as field dependence and field independence played a critical role in forming learners’ online social communication. Based on social compensation theory and Witkin et al.’s theory of individual differences, the authors claimed that effective individual communication in an online community can be fostered through creating learning support, taking into considerations factors like cognitive styles, complementary personality, interest and motivation in the process of design. Suggestions for future online learning are made with an emphasis on creating an effective online community for learning.
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Cognitive Styles And Learning

In the last half century learners’ cognitive styles have been heavily studied; these studies encompass a wide range of topics: from brain hemisphere function (Samples, 1975; Springer & Deutch, 1985), to temperament (Gregorc, 1982), to impulsive/reflective cognitive tempo (Kagan, 1966), to field dependent and field independent theory (Witkin & Goodenough,1977), just to name a few. In an early study Kirby (1979) provided a comprehensive summary of 19 cognitive styles and concluded that all learners learn differently. According to Chinien and Boutin (1992), cognitive styles refer to “the information processing habits representing the learners’ typical mode of perceiving, thinking, problem solving, and remembering” (p. 303). They claimed that cognitive styles constitute important dimensions of individual differences among learners and have important implications for teaching and learning.

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