Portraits of the Activity Systems of International Higher Education Students in Online Learning

Portraits of the Activity Systems of International Higher Education Students in Online Learning

Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 33
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4590-5.ch008
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Abstract

This chapter presents findings of a study of the activity systems of seven international students enrolled in online learning at Memorial University of Newfoundland, in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. The seven students were interviewed using questions focused around the components of an activity system. Data were analyzed using a coding protocol designed for the study and based on Activity Theory. Findings are presented as seven individual portraits of the activity system of students. Each portrait is summarized according to the following components: subject, object, tools, norms, community, division of labour, outcomes.
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Methods

Recruitment and Selection of Participants

Participating students needed to be non-native speakers (NNSs) of English and have completed one or more online courses taken for credit as part of the requirements for completion of their university degree. Recruitment strategies involved posting and e-mailing flyers throughout the university as well as brief visits to English as a second language classes to present the study to potential participants. Participation incentives included a small gift package containing items such as a USB drive. The names of participating students were also included in a draw for three iPods.

Not all students who responded to the call for participation were included in the study. Some were not eligible to participate because they had taken correspondence distance courses that were not online, or they had completed online modules that were not part of a credit course, such as a module on ethics that the university required for all students conducting research with human participants. Other students were not included because they initially expressed interest in participating but did not provide consent to participate nor did they follow up, either by e-mail, telephone, or in person, to the initial recruitment e-mails.

Sampling was consistent with Sarantakos’s (2005) description of non-probability sampling whereby size is not determined statistically and small samples are used that can be selected before and during the research. We initially recruited eight participants from two different campuses of the university but eventually included only seven of the eight. This eighth individual had completed one online course at Memorial and that was in the context of a doctoral program. None of the other participating students were studying at this level so, rather than include this outlying participant, we excluded her.

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