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Developing an Online Learning Community: A Strategy for Improving Lecturer and Student Learning Experiences

Many researchers and practitioners are appealing for more innovative approaches where online lecturer use of technology is guided by a clear philosophy of learning to engage students in more meaningful learning. This research aimed to better understand teaching and learning in an online learning environment through the development and application of an appropriate pedagogical framework to facilitate successful learning experiences. To achieve this aim, a qualitative interpretive methodology was adopted to case study an online lecturer and his 14 students' experiences in a semester long fully online asynchronous graduate Research Methods course in a New Zealand tertiary institution. The study had three phases. Phase 1, the Review Phase, was a baseline survey to elicit the views of various online lecturers and their students on the nature of online learning and how learning can be successfully facilitated in such environments. The findings and recommendations from the literature led to identifying five guiding principles to frame the development of a pedagogical intervention. The principles, which map onto five key sociocultural ideas, depict learning as a mediated, situated, distributed, goal-directed and participatory activity within a socially and culturally determined learning community. Phase 2, the Designing the Intervention and Implementation Phase, concerned designing an intervention to facilitate student learning experiences. An emergent and iterative strategy, the negotiated intervention strategy, framed the collaborative design process used by the researcher to work with the case study lecturer. Teaching strategies supporting each of the guiding principles were shared with the lecturer, planned for and implemented in the case study course. Phase 3, the Evaluation Phase, examined how successful the intervention was in terms of three planes of participant development: personal, interpersonal and community. The key findings from this research highlight successful online teaching and learning experiences as involving active and changing participation in a learning community. This participation is framed and shaped by the use of authentic and relevant tasks that situate activity; interaction and teamwork to tap into cognition as distributed; goal-directed activities; and Web-based technological tools and activities to mediate action. Participation is realised through the kinds of roles members of the community adopt in support of intellectual, social and emotional development over time. Overall, the findings confirm the value of a sociocultural approach in the design and facilitation of online learning experiences. The notion of participation in a learning community through the adoption of different roles provides a useful orientation for understanding lecturer and student responsibilities and strategies to serve different purposes of teaching and learning. These ideas inform our understanding of appropriate conditions for successful teaching and learning and have important implications for guiding teaching-learning practices in online learning environments.
Type of thesis
Khoo, E. G. L. (2010). Developing an Online Learning Community: A Strategy for Improving Lecturer and Student Learning Experiences (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/3961
The University of Waikato
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