Online Interaction Between On-Campus and Distance Students: Learners’ Perspectives

Online Interaction Between On-Campus and Distance Students: Learners’ Perspectives

Nobue Miwa (Griffith University, Australia) and Yuping Wang (Griffith University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1855-8.ch009
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This paper addresses postgraduate students’ perspectives toward online interaction between on-campus and distance students through online collaboration tools such as online discussion boards and Wikis. Data were collected from eight interview participants and 29 written survey respondents. Seven interrelated categories capturing the main features of on-campus students’ perspectives were generated from the data using a sequential mixed method approach, namely, a quantitative survey approach both preceded and followed by qualitative interviews. Among these categories, on-campus students’ “unwillingness” to participate in online interaction with their distance peers emerged as the core phenomenon. Drawing on the analysis of these data, this article identifies the major impediments to active online interaction and collaboration and puts forward three recommendations for promoting more frequent interaction between distance and on-campus students.
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Recent advancements in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have fundamentally transformed the nature of interaction at a distance. Modern higher education seems to have reaped more benefits from these advancements than other sectors as an increasing number of students and educational programs have adopted ICT to facilitate learning (Williams & Fardon, 2007; Woo, Gosper, McNeill, Preston, Green, & Phillips, 2008). In particular, Web 2.0 tools such as discussion boards, Wikis and blogs are fast becoming an indispensible means of interaction and collaboration in higher education today. Existing research has established the pedagogical values of these tools in supporting more interactive and collaborative learning environments (O’Reilly, 2005), providing feedback in a timely manner, encouraging students’ social interaction (Chu, Hwang, Tsai, & Chen, 2009) and facilitating students’ active participation in learning (Underwood et al., 2009). As more flexibility and more equal options and opportunities are being provided for both on-campus and distance students through advanced technologies, the term ‘distance education’ has almost been replaced by ‘online education’. As a result, the boundary between on-campus and distance learning is blurring and widely overlapping (Spector, 2009). However, little appears to be known with regard to the use of Web 2.0 tools in facilitating interaction and collaboration between these on-campus and distance students. The current research will bridge this gap by investigating this issue from students’ perspective.

First, the importance of interaction and studies on online interaction and distance education will be reviewed to provide a theoretical framework and a backdrop for this study. This will then be followed by an outline of the methodological approach of this study with regard to its procedures, participants and data collection and analysis. We present a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the data collected from eight interview participants and 29 survey respondents in relation to their perceptions of the interaction between on-campus and distance students. Drawing on this analysis, the impediments to active interaction between the two groups of students will be identified and recommendations for promoting such interaction will be proposed. We will then briefly discuss the significance and limitations of this study in the concluding section.

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