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Title: Immediacy practices in a virtual learning environment : perceptions of tutors and female students at a Saudi university
Author: Alharbi, Samar
ISNI:       0000 0004 7966 7472
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2018
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With the exponential growth of web-based learning technologies in Saudi higher education, online teaching methods have become increasingly important for enhancing the learning of female students. However, most Saudi institutions for female students depend mainly on asynchronous learning tools, such as discussion boards, blogs or email, which are used in virtual learning environments (VLEs) to deliver online courses and communicate with students. While these innovations offer a wide range of teaching and learning experiences - for instance, increased access to and interaction with rich content - they also pose a number of challenges, for example a failure to overcome the sense of physical and psychological distance between the students and tutors. This potentially leads to poor interaction and hinders what is essentially the core of online learning. The literature review for this study revealed that tutors' immediacy practices have proved to be a valuable teaching method that can foster student interaction and learning, whether in a face-to-face or VLE setting. This study therefore explores the perceptions of female students and their tutors regarding the use and importance of immediacy in a VLE at a Saudi university. To achieve this, a mixedmethods case-study design was adopted under the umbrella of a pragmatic paradigm. The participants included female students and their male and female tutors at an Education College in a Saudi university, where fully online courses are provided solely to female students. The participants were selected using a purposive sampling approach and included 129 female undergraduate students, with 47 of their tutors. The data were collected using both quantitative (closed-ended questionnaires) and qualitative methods (focus groups and one-to-one interviews). The findings from this case study demonstrate that some immediacy practices are effective for improving interaction, participation and satisfaction among female students and helping them overcome their shyness when communicating in a VLE. The evidence shows that the tutors and female students were clear about the importance of immediacy in online teaching and learning, as well as being aware of the use of practices applied in a VLE. They were also aware of specific considerations influencing the implementation of immediacy practices via VLE tools. In addition, they recognised specific immediacy practices that were frequently used within the female students' virtual environment. The findings from this study therefore contribute to the understanding of e-immediacy in Saudi online education in general and the female students' virtual learning context in particular, as a means of enhancing student learning. Furthermore, this study suggests appropriate e-immediacy practices for Saudi female students, taking into account their culture and background factors. Recommendations and implications based on this study are consequently offered to both tutors and policymakers for the development of best practice, with strategies to enhance immediacy and the use of VLE tools to foster learning amongst female students.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral