E-Social Constructivism and Collaborative E-Learning

E-Social Constructivism and Collaborative E-Learning

Janet Salmons (Vision2Lead, Inc., USA & Capella University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-503-2.ch713


Social constructivism is an established educational theory based on the principle that learners and teachers co-construct knowledge through social processes. This chapter proposes an updated theory, e-social constructivism, that takes into account the milieu of electronic communications in which e-learning occurs. Thinkers such as Dewey, Piaget, Vygotsky, and Bruner, who laid the theoretical foundations of social constructivism, wrote in a time when face-to-face interactions were the basis for instruction. The works of these writers are reviewed in this chapter. Together with the results of the author’s phenomenological study of collaborative e-learning, they form the basis of e-social constructivist theory. The author uses grounded theory and situational analysis to derive and support e-social constructivist theory. This chapter discusses the implication of that theory for research, teaching and instructional design.
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Employing phenomenological, grounded theory and situational analysis methods, this chapter meshes analysis of two sets of data. One set of data is derived from a theoretical sample of literature. A second set of data is drawn from in-depth interviews the author conducted with a purposeful sample of experienced online educators.

Phenomenological research methods provide a way to investigate human experience through the perceptions of research participants. Theorist Husserl distinguished between “noema,” the phenomenon which is experienced and “noesis,” the act of experiencing the phenomenon (Husserl, 1931) In the author’s study, phenomenological research methodology provided a structured approach for inquiry into the perceptions of success factors for instruction using collaborative e-learning. The four basic steps of phenomenological research described by Moustakas (1994) provided a methodological framework for the study. The author used in-depth dialogue with research participants at each of the four stages of the process: preparing to collect data, collecting data through in-depth interviews, analyzing data, and reporting outcomes. The study investigated noesis, the experiences of teaching with collaborative methods online, and noema, the organization and design of the learning activities participants used to promote collaboration.

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