The nature of class interaction in online classes is a research topic that is written about in Greg Kearsley’s Online Education. The biggest part of this issue is how students and teachers go about forming meaningful dialogue and communication with each other. Kearsley states that all of this depends on the type of class, tools used, role of the teacher, students’ preparation for the class, and the level of the class.
Kearsley cites the research of Ruberg, Taylor, and Moore into the social framework of an online class. The research revealed that the peer review activity used for the study did yield a great deal of participation, and that the same students who regularly participated in the classroom performed the same way in online classes. An interesting facet of this study to me and something that I had not thought about before reading this book involves the following conclusion, “Student dominance in the online discussion was exhibited in several ways: (a) in overall volume the students outnumber the teacher, and student comments dominated the discourse in quantity: (b) in some interchanges students took on more active roles of regulating the discussion by reacting to comments by their peers with agreement, evaluative comments, and follow-up questions and / or comments to peer responses.” I had not given much thought to how much control students might exercise in the direction of an online class due to the fact that an open dialogue leads to many differing opinions wherein a discussion could conceivably never end as new ideas are introduced and perspectives grow and change. This is quite a departure from the traditional classes of the past wherein the teacher is usually considered the author and authority in classroom.
Another study by Hartman et al. was cited. This study involved students in a college freshmen writing class. The main mission of the class was for students to help each other improve their writing skills. Two sections used online tools and two did not. In the end, students who used the online tools improved student-teacher interaction, but not student-student interaction – all this is compared to traditional classes. Interesting the study found that the students who needed more help contacted teachers and classmates more than students who did not need as much help. The Hartman study concluded that use of online tools “allowed a more equitable distribution of attention, especially from the more experienced teacher.”
Collaboration is another facet of online class interaction that is covered in this section of the book. A research project entitled COVIS, a project of the Learning Sciences program at Northwestern University, has as one its goals the aim of trying to improve science learning through computer networks. This project has revealed computer use in urban schools focuses on the value of access to the enormous amount of information available on the internet. In contrast, suburban schools are interested in using computers primarily for helping students to learn better. Also, students from poorer school districts don’t have as much opportunity to take part in open-ended research projects and need more methodical types of tasks.
While writing this blog, I kept thinking about this comment from barbarntz:
“Online Education Learning and Teaching in Cyberspace
by Greg Kearsley, I thought came to me. I realized that this is Nate’s Bible. Ok, I am just joking, but it does seem that almost everything that I read is covered in this class. I have realized that Nate is trying to create a learning community for us to use in our endeavors through the educational technology program. This means that we are able to use our aggregates and still work and discuss together our problems and triumphs for years to come. Of course that is if we continue to blog.”
The thought occurred to me that we, students of EDUC 685, could actually be part of a research project. We are on the cutting edge of changes in the way that people communicate with each other, are taught, and learn. If we take advantage of our blogs and the learning environments that we have created, with Nate’s help, for ourselves – we will continue to be viable research specimens and contributors to the whatever is to come.