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Building Learning Communities in Online Courses

Building Learning Communities in Online Courses

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Building Learning Communities in Online Courses

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  1. Building Learning Communities in Online Courses Starr Roxanne Hiltz Department of Information Systems New Jersey Institute of Technology Keynote for IADIS International Conference, Web Based Communities 2005 Algarve, Portugal 1 of 36

  2. Topics to be Covered • A. Background: the quest for community 1. What are “Asynchronous Learning Networks (ALNs)” and who is using them? 2. How effective are they? Theory- • B. The importance of techniques for building community in ALNs (NJIT studies) 3. Immediacy and establishing “Swift Trust” 4. Using collaborative learning/ teams 5. Encouraging active participation 2 of 36

  3. Geographic Community • Life in an American Small Town • Life in the suburban sprawl zone 3 of 36

  4. Topic 1. What are “Asynchronous Learning Networks (ALNs)” and who is using them? • Asynchronous means “anytime/ anyplace” • Learning networks are communities of learners who work together to build and share knowledge, through computer networks (Learning Together Online) • Led by an instructor(s) who structures and facilitates the learning experiences 4 of 36

  5. ALN- Online Components or Approach • The “classroom” is one or more computer conferences (shared, threaded discussion spaces,” e.g, Blackboard, WebCT) • Online discussions and project work form a significant part of the course • Other media may also be used, e.g., synchronous chats, interactive web pages, face to face meetings, email, “virtual labs”; and/or digitized lectures with audio and/or video 5 of 36

  6. Learning Networks Currently, thousands of university courses worldwide; over 2 million students per semester in the US • Scores of studies have shown it is generally as effective as or more effective than 100% FtF courses • BUT: There are extreme variations. The keys are the “Three Cs”- Constructivism, Collaboration and Community 6 of 36

  7. 2.Effectiveness- Online Interaction Learning Theory • Models the variables and processes that are important in determining the relative effectiveness of communities of online learners • The “outputs” are measures of effectiveness: student learning, student satisfaction, faculty satisfaction are primary measures 7 of 36

  8. “Mediator” Variables: What Actually Goes On? • What is the nature and pattern of interaction online • Do students respond to one another? • Is there “Teaching Presence,” emergence of community? • Is it mainly individual work and teacher-student communication, or Collaborative work with extensive student-student communication? 8 of 36

  9. Online Interaction Learning Model Student Characteristics Technology Course Amount and Type of Use Teacher/Social Presence Active Participation, Collaborative Learning A learning COMMUNITY? Access-To ProfessorConvenience Progress to Degree Learning Quality/Depth Course Outcomes Student & Faculty Satisfaction Grades 9 of 36

  10. Topics to be Covered • Background: the quest for community • What are “Asynchronous Learning Networks (ALNs)” and who is using them? • How effective are they? B. The importance of techniques for building community in ALNs 3. Immediacy and establishing “Swift Trust” • Using collaborative learning/ teams • Encouraging active participation 10 of 36

  11. B. Techniques for Building Community • Simple level: if the instructor is not online every day, the students won’t be there either. • “Immediacy” refers to behaviors that lesson the “psychological distance between communicators” (Weiner & Mehrabian, 1968). 11 of 36

  12. 3.1. Teaching Presence/ Immediacy Behaviors • Immediacy behaviors can be verbal (ie., giving praise, soliciting viewpoints, humor, self-disclosure), or non-verbal (ie., physical proximity, touch, eye-contact, facial expressions, gestures). • Online, need to use verbal equivalent of reaching out and smiling • Educational researchers have found that teachers’ verbal and non-verbal immediacy behaviors lead to greater learning. 12 of 36

  13. 3.2. Swift Trust • Concept developed by Meyerson, Weick, and Kramer (1996) • Swift trust is a concept relating to temporary teams whose existence is formed around a clear purpose and common task with a finite life span. • Its elements include a willingness to suspend doubt about whether others who are "strangers" can be counted on in order to get to work on the group's task... 13 of 36

  14. Swift Trust Elements • It is built and maintained by a high level of activity and responsiveness. • ...and a positive expectation that the group activity will be beneficial. • Summary of study: Coppola, Hiltz and Rotter, Building Trust in Virtual Teams. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 47, 2 (June 2004 ), 95-104. 14 of 36

  15. Research Hypotheses • Faculty who become successful virtual professors overcome the coldness in the electronic media with social communication clues in discussion conferences. • The most effective online teachers get a good start in the very first week of online classes • Once established, swift trust remains 15 of 36

  16. Prof X Prof T Research Methods • Selected most effective- (Prof T) and “least effective” ( Prof. X) teachers using data from student questionnaires • Examined instructor’s online discussion forums or conferences 16 of 36

  17. Coding the Data • Coding: We used Interaction Process Analysis (Bales, 1950) (modified) • Pattern analysis software (QSR NVIVO) • Sampling: Took certain conferences in weeks 1-2 and weeks 9-10 17 of 36

  18. Prof T Early Communication- Most Effective Online Instructor • Out of 297 coded passages in the Introductions Conference in first 2 wks: • 35 instances of instructor social emotional positive (32) or negative (3) • 74 instances of student social emotional positive • Most frequent is “hello” or variations 18 of 36

  19. Prof T Expectations • Enthusiasm facilitates early trust • Evidence of positive expectations about the course in 34 instructor instances and 89 student instances • “I’m looking forward to getting to know you. I hope I will have interesting discussions about diverse issues in the class.” 19 of 36

  20. Prof T Task-Related Communication • Coping with technical and task uncertainty is important • Evident in giving information • 15 instructor passages • 53 student passages • Evident in asking for help • 6 instructor passages • 12 student passages 20 of 36

  21. Prof T Later Communication- Prof T. • Later trust formation is shown by predictable communication • Frequency counts show consistent high pattern of postings and positive social-emotional content in first weeks and in weeks nine and ten of classes 21 of 36

  22. Prof X- (Rated Least Effective) • Professor X began his online discussion with this introduction: ”Welcome. Please introduce yourself to the members of this conference. Tell us a little about yourself. (i.e., what's your major?, why are you taking the class?, what do you want to do after you graduate?, etc”.)(END) • He did not include any information about himself in this posting or in follow-up messages. 22 of 36

  23. Prof X- (No Swift Trust) • Perhaps, it is not surprising that the first student response to his introduction was, • “My name is XXX...you don't need to know my last name....I am a CIS major and I have no free time to enjoy to myself...I work and I’ve got 15 credits to worry about.” 23 of 36

  24. Professor X • When students make mistakes with the conferencing system, he chides them: ”You responded to your own comment? or “You didn’t write anything?!?” • CODING: Out of 129 coded passages in the conference, we found four instances of instructor Social emotional positive and two instances of instructor Social emotional negative. 24 of 36

  25. Professor X • We examined the conference transcript in weeks nine and ten for examples of later trust formation. However, there were no postings during that period. 25 of 36

  26. Summary- Swift Trust Strategies • Establish early communication • Assign a task to begin work together • Team members need to perceive the instructor’s presence as soon as they enter the course • Develop a positive social atmosphere • Team members respond to perceived caring in course 26 of 36

  27. Topics to be Covered • Background: the quest for community 1 What are “Asynchronous Learning Networks (ALNs)” and who is using them? 2 How effective are they? • The importance of techniques for building community in ALNs 3. Immediacy and establishing “Swift Trust” 4. Using collaborative learning/ teams 5. Encouraging active participation 27 of 36

  28. 4. Collaborative or “Group Learning” • STUDENTS LEARN FROM EACH OTHER • “A process of group conversations and activity, guided by a faculty member who structures tasks and activities and offers expertise.” (Bouton & Garth) • From dyads to whole class working together on an activity 28 of 36

  29. Some Varieties of Collaborative Learning • Seminar: Students as Teachers • Peer Writing Groups (Constructive Criticism) • Group Projects/ Virtual Teams • Case study discussions • Web “treasure hunts,” compilations • Debates 29 of 36

  30. Varieties of Collaborative Learning • Networked classes • Reading Critiques: “Nuggets and Turds” • Delphi exercises (rounds of idea generation and voting/ evaluation) • Construct an exam/ work through sample exams 30 of 36

  31. Groupdesigns questions (A-C) Instructor designs questions Individual designs Individual reviews questions Individual answers questions Groupgrades Individual grades Instructor assigns grades Individual disputes Instructor assigns final grades Traditional Participatory Collaborative Collaborative Examinations in ALN (Shen et al, 2004) Individual designs questions (A) Individual reviews questions Individual reviews questions Individual answers questions (D) Individual answers questions (B) Individual grades Instructor assigns grades Instructor assigns grades Individual disputes Individual disputes Instructor assigns final grades Instructor assigns final grades 31 of 36

  32. Results 1 – ExamMode Hypothesis supported: Social engagement is the highest in collaborative exam among the three (p<.01). 32 of 36

  33. 5. Active Participation and Student Outcomes: What We know • Collaborative learning can increase student achievement and high-level thinking [Kitchen & McDougall 1998] • Participation is key for enabling collaborative learning [Hardless, Lundin, & Nulden 2001] • A strong correlation exists between an instructor’s requirement for discussion and a student’s perceived learning [Jiang & Ting, 2000]. 33 of 36

  34. Research Issues-Encouraging Active Participation • How do you get students to actively engage with one another and respect the knowledge they have to share, rather than just go through the motions of “posting something” without responding to others? • How do you decrease the grading burden? (visualization tool- dissertation under way) 34 of 36

  35. Jeffrey Saltz- Participation Visualization Tools: Current Results Timeline of student postings • Position along X-axis defines date of message • Height represents number of replies • Color of rectangle is message ‘grade’ – if graded S22 S23 35 of 36

  36. Current Results View of student Interactions • Center oval is selected student • Size of oval represents number of messages written from/to student • Arrows show direction of participation S2 S12 36 of 36

  37. Summary • If you have: Teaching presence to build swift trust in the first week • Collaborative group assignments for which teams construct artifacts and shared understanding • Active, steady participation by students • THEN: you will see an online community emerge, where “everybody knows your name.” 37 of 36

  38. For More Information Hiltz and Goldman, Eds, Learning Together Online: Research on Asynchronous Learning Networks (Erlbaum, 2005) • www.alnresearch.org • www.sloan-c.org (effective practices) • Jia Shen, Kung-E Cheng, Michael Bieber, and Starr Roxanne Hiltz, "Traditional In-class Examination vs. Collaborative Online Examination in Asynchronous Learning Networks: Field Evaluation Results", Proceedings AMCIS 2004. • Saltz, J., Hiltz, S.R., Passerini, K. and Turoff, M. (2004). Student Social Graphs: Visualizing a student’s online social network. Proceedings, CSCW ’04. 38 of 36