Learning to Learn from Online Dialogue: Lessons for Future Development

  • Improving Student Learning Theory and Practice - 10 Years on

    Title: Learning to Learn from Online Dialogue: Lessons for Future Development

    Author(s): Liz Broumley
    Institution(s): UHI Millennium Institute
    Session: Research Seminar  

    The revolutionary potential of using C&IT to support learning lies not merely in delivering information but in creating new forms of connectivity to enable communication and dialogue, which themselves are at the centre of pedagogic effectiveness (Laurillard 1993, Mayes 2000). When campus-based students use C&IT to support their learning they often do not need to take advantage of this potential for dialogue. Students who use C&IT to study at a distance from the campus find that the technology gives them a potential for dialogue that has not previously been available to distance learners. However, in order to maximise this potential, both staff and students need to become skilled in using asynchronous communication for learning (Salmon 2000).

    The geographic area covered by the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) Millennium Institute includes some of the most physically remote communities in the UK and covers one fifth of its landmass. UHI is seeking to develop a networked university across this area, using C&IT as one means of creating learning opportunities and bringing together people in very diverse and remote locations. Feedback from pilot studies has indicated strong support for using C&IT to create learning communities within the region and with this, a desire to take part in academic online discussions (Broumley & Weedon 2001).

    The academic year 2001/02 has seen the introduction of two new online degree programmes within UHI. This research seminar will consider some of the early data from these programmes, using feedback from students and tutors plus transcripts of some online discussions to provide evidence about the impact of online dialogue for learning. Techniques developed for conversation analysis (Broumley 1994) and learning assistance (Sugar and Bonk 1998) will be used to analyse discussion transcripts in order to identify patterns of online dialogue that participants consider facilitate effective learning. This will be compared with information from questionnaires and interviews of staff and students.

    Some of the initial questions are:

    • How do individuals differ in their online behaviour?
    • How valuable do students find different online activities for learning?
    • How do students respond to one another in online discussions?
    • What (if any) are the consequences of different types of tutor interventions?
    • What do tutors consider more (and less) effective online behaviour?
    • What (if any) is the impact of different types of online activity on subsequent discussion.
    • What (if any) is the impact of online dialogues on performance in assessments?

    In addition to discussing these questions, the seminar will also consider possible future developments of this research including using analysis of contributions to discussions in conjunction with participants' reflective accounts of the intentions underlying their contributions.

    The purpose of this ongoing work is to further our understanding of online dialogue in order to facilitate the development of the relevant communication skills for effective dialogic learning.

    Broumley L (1994) Talksback: the use of social knowledge in an augmentative communication system, University of Dundee, unpublished PhD thesis

    Broumley L, Weedon E (2001) Evaluation of the LINC Project: Learning in Networked Communities, UHI, available at http://www.uhi.ac.uk/adapt-linc/web_pages/eval/internal.htm

    Laurillard D (1993) Rethinking University Teaching, London, Routledge

    Mayes T, (2000) Pedagogy, Lifelong Learning and ICT, Scottish Forum on Lifelong Learning Report No. 1, Glasgow

    Salmon G, (2000) E-moderating: the key to teaching and learning online, London, Kogan Page

    Sugar B, Bonk CJ (1998) Student Role Play in the World Forum: Analyses of an Arctic Adventure Learning Apprenticeship in Bonk CH, King KS, Electronic Collaborators, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, New Jersey