Tuesday, March 15, 2011

week 10-The Social Network

A social network study of the growth of community among distance learners
Caroline Haythornthwaite
This study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign focuses on one specific class, the LEEP course, and it’s 15 students to determine the level of interaction between each member of the group via a distance course.  This focuses on the social network approach, which says “behaviour is affected more by the kinds of ties and networks in which people are involved than by the norms and attributes that individuals possess.”  The study had a fantastic return rate on the participants, with 93% responding to the questions.  This study included how the groups met, how often they met, how they felt about the class overall, and what could be done to improve it.  This class also had the advantage of meeting face to face twice during the semester.  Most groups felt that having a set place to meet was the most beneficial.
I find this study to be a reflection of how I myself feel during most online courses where group work is required.  While I do get frustrated at times by the lack of commitment and technical knowledge in my groups, I feel that the benefits of online education far outweigh the inherent issues that arise with it.

Learning at a Distance: Engaged or Not?
Pu-Shih Daniel Chen, Robert Gonyea, and George Kuh
“One important unresolved issue related to the quality of the learning experience is the degree to which online learners are engaged in their educational activities relative to campus based learners” .  This study focused not only on how the distance learners got involved with online courses, but why they chose to, how often, the demographics of the students, and the average grades at the end.  The study did show that the majority of those in distance education courses were those that are in the 25-24 age range and taking care of dependents.  It also only focused on those attending for a 4-year bachelors degree in the study, leaving out the large population of those in community colleges.
This article seems to focus, at least at first, in large part on who the study focuses on.  It isn’t until the last 1/3 of the article that it begins to show how to ensure the distance learners are interacting with their peers, like in this class by assigning a critical friend to ensure interaction between classmates.   Maybe its because I have focused most of my bachelors and all of my masters into online courses that I see the value in collaborative learning, but also have problems with the technical limitations and knowledge of those involved.  However, in the real world, outside academia, I still have these same limitations, so it is better to deal with it now, I guess.

Quote of the week:
“behaviour is affected more by the kinds of ties and networks in which people are involved than by the norms and attributes that individuals possess.”

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you. I personally prefer face-to-face meeting when I have a group project in class rather than virtual meeting or emails. For me, it is more comfortable to communicate after I meet someone in person. In addition, as you mentioned, still, there are so many technical problems that hinder students from an effective and efficient virtual meetings; for example, Oncourse lacks of services that support synchronous meetings which may be crucial for online group projects.