Creating a community of learners online: Engaging online learners online

Lynn Boyle, David Walker, Lorraine Walsh

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther


    Evidence indicates that a demand exists from students - studying at a distance - to experience a greater level of connection as individual learners to their peers and tutors (Daviault & Coelho, 2003; Zembylas, 2008; and Dickey, 2004). This presentation will demonstrate that a course of study, developed in line with social constructivist principles, can scaffold student attainment; sustain student engagement; and improve confidence among learners. Second year distance learning students on a Childcare Practice degree programme have been offered regular online real-time discussions and tutorials using web conferencing technology. Previously these students had limited communication with tutors via telephone and email and had no formal opportunities to contact their peers. The sessions have been offered in the evenings to accommodate the work and family commitments of a diverse study body. Sessions have covered module specific themes and study skills with additional student-led “surgery” sessions where participants were afforded the opportunity to engage in a question and answer session with the module tutor. Early feedback has indicated that these sessions have been well received with those students who engaged responding with enthusiasm – one session was attended by more than 40 students. Specific comments have highlighted that participants benefited from regular, synchronous contact with a tutor and appreciated the ability to discuss issues and clarify key concepts. This presentation will also consider, with examples from practice, whether tutors need to realign their attitudes to communication and availability in their teaching practice to meet the needs and expectations of the student population in online distance learning. It will also consider the extent to which real-time online tutorials and discussions can facilitate the development of a community of learners (Wenger, 2002) and develop learner self-regulation. Limitations in the approach outlined will be discussed and opportunities for future developments considered
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2011
    Event6th Plymouth e-Learning Conference: Digital futures: learning in a connected world - Plymouth, United Kingdom
    Duration: 6 Apr 20118 Apr 2011


    Conference6th Plymouth e-Learning Conference: Digital futures: learning in a connected world
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


    • Distance learning
    • Electronic distance education


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