Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.567003
Title: The development of collaborative learning practices in an online language course
Author: Chang, Hee-Jin
Awarding Body: University of Newcastle Upon Tyne
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2012
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Abstract:
The success or failure of a course is, to a great extent, dependent on the level of motivation and commitment of the learners. Such motivation and commitment are, however, difficult to establish and maintain, especially in an on-line course. Social relations within a class, and the willingness of learners to collaborate with each other, have an important role to play, but the constraints of time and distance are obstacles to fostering such social relations among students enrolled in on-line courses. It is not easy to encourage students to be collaborative when they are accessing the course at different times, from different locations. This thesis, however, seeks to demonstrate that the variety and complexity of the technologies used to deliver an on-line learning experience can help to overcome these challenges. When introduced and used in appropriate ways, the software, internet tools, even the data collection program used for statistical analysis can actually encourage and enhance participants' motivation to interact and learn in collaborative ways. This thesis is concerned with an on-line course created and delivered by the researcher, the aim of which was to foster a collaborative learning environment in which participants felt confident enough to share their work with others, and to offer and receive comments on their assignments. The primary aim was therefore not the direct teaching and learning of language, but the fostering of an environment in which the students felt comfortable working with the technology and with each other, as a pre-requisite for the acquisition of language through content-based activities. The study did not dwell on the effects of collaboration on language development but focused, rather, on how individual students collaborate in an online, e-learning course, what forms this collaboration takes, and how the pattern of collaboration changes as the course progresses. This focus allowed the researcher to look at ways collaboration affected the persistence and retention challenges of on-line learning experience. The course was designed for students learning EFL at a university in Korea. It lasts one semester, and is delivered using a virtual learning environment (VLE) program developed by the university. The course consists of 15 units to be completed at the rate of one a week. Each unit focuses on a different topic and consists of a reading passage and a listening exercise. This is followed by some writing activities, including a weekly written report, and recording assignments. The researcher was the instructor for this course, and made special interventions using appropriate technology (sometimes e-mail, other times Skype to make it more personal) to encourage students to work in pairs, and in group discussions, and to post their work in the VLE so that others could read and comment on it. The current study reports on the experience of running the course with one group of 47 Korean university students. Data was gathered from the learners‟ journals, their assignments, feedback and comments posted on the web board, and emails to the instructor. The VLE also recorded statistics showing the students‟ usage of the different components of the course, and how their use of these components changed and fluctuated as the course progressed. The results showed that in the process of completing the course the majority of the learners reported a strong sense of “belonging” to a learning community, developing a close rapport with other learners by sharing their work, exchanging comments and taking part in discussions. Students felt proud of their work as well as of the process of working together with other learners. In particular, the results suggest that opportunities for social interaction and feedback play a crucial role in developing the emotional connection which helps to create a collaborative learning environment and support an effective learning community. The evidence suggests that the appropriate use of technology when delivering an on-line course may, in fact, encourage collaboration because of two phenomena that are not always evident in a traditional, place-based classroom. These are anonymity and reciprocity. Anonymity makes it easier for students to share their work and ideas because, if a contribution is embarrassing, it may have less negative effect than in a face-to-face exchange. Reciprocity refers to the natural inclination of a student, having learned from others in the VLE, to give something back to the community.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.567003  DOI: Not available
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