The experience of Brookes students of interpersonal communication and collaboration in the e-learning environment

Ruslan Ramanau (OCSLD)

This study was part of the Pathfinder E-Learning project conducted by the Oxford Centre of Staff and Learning Development (OCSLD) at Oxford Brookes and supported by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). It was intended to shed more light on Oxford Brookes students experience of various e-learning tools and technologies with emphasis on their experiences of interpersonal communication and collaboration.

Recent reviews of literature on blended learning and literature on the Net Generation showed that today’s young learners are adept at using a wide range of learning technologies in both their studies and their lives in general. However, most studies in the field show that there is a dearth of research in terms of reflecting the learner’s own perspective on technology use through obtaining rich data on their experiences with it. In addition, few studies look at patterns in student uses of learning technology particularly in their relation to approaches to studying.

Rich empirical material has been collected throughout the project. The main population for the study was full-time undergraduate students at Oxford and more than 1200 students took part in the learning technologies survey which was administered both in online and print modes in October-November 2007. Nineteen interviews and one focus group session were conducted to make a more in-depth inquiry into learner uses of various e-learning tools (e.g. Wikis, Brookes Virtual, Facebook etc.) in course specific settings.

The data for the study underscored the complexity of constructing a generic picture of learning technology use and suggested the importance of course and programme contexts on shaping the participant responses. It helped to disentangle a number of dimensions in student use of e-learning tools in their relationship to their self-regulatory techniques and perceptions of learning. This study provides rich empirical material for improving current e-learning provision at Oxford Brookes as well as other traditional universities that face the challenge of integrating Web 2.0. tools into teaching and learning.