The Social Interaction in an Online Learning Community

Online education by Nagel and Kotze

The main purpose of the research by Nagel and Kotze (2010) was to see the efficiency of the available teaching strategies for the online classes of large size to address the issue of the limited personal exposure of the learners to the tutor. The findings of the research signify that the employment of active social presence facilitates extensive feedback and provides higher efficiency of teaching. In other words, social learning is what needs to be emphasized when there are limitations to personal exposure of the learners to the teacher which is a frequent cause in contemporary online teaching. Based on personal experience of online teaching I can state that working with a large number of students (more than 20) is very challenging. To create positive learning experiences for the students, the tutor is to build an online community. Wang (2005) points out that there are three dimensions to such communities: task, technological and social.

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The technological dimension refers to the tools that help communication, and the task dimension is the content of the course. The social dimension includes the learners’ interactions, collaboration, and mutual help. This is the dimension that Nagel and Kotze (2010) suggest to emphasize in a large size online class. The research by Richardson and Swan (2003) shows that social presence is the determinant of the course satisfaction and the outcomes of the learning. Currently, there is an issue because the learning management systems online are built based on the experiences of face-to-face teaching, which is unsuitable for distance teaching, and the inconsistency creates negative learning outcomes. The modern online education needs adjustments related to the facilitation of independent learning, student collaboration, and minimization of the role of the teacher as an active supervisor.

Problem of distance learning

When it comes to the problem of the facilitation of efficient distance learning, Wang (2005) maintains that social interactions between the students based on the curriculum activities are as important as the private communication and the discussion of the subjects unrelated to the course and assignments. Private communication helps to create a community, keep the learners together as a group and nurture them.

In the argument of the curriculum and technology the computer can be viewed as the main facilitator of learning, although Ally points out that the computer is mainly a tool, a device a learner and teacher employ to participate in the knowledge delivery and acquisition (Ally 2008). This way, the curriculum is the aspect that is supposed to address the issues related to task and class management in online learning. As a matter of fact, in face-to-face teaching, the educator employs different kinds of activities to facilitate better comprehension of the materials. The tasks include reading, discussion, writing, research, group work, independent projects among others. The same approach has to be applied in distance learning, but it has to be taken into consideration that personal communication between the teacher and the students will be minimized, so the curriculum needs to be built in a way to address the needs of the learners and connect the new material to the old one for the best comprehension (Ally, 2008). To solve the technical problem the educators are to research the latest software and tools to create the best educational programs and carry out efficient activities. To resolve the problem of communication the teacher is to encourage group activities, collaborative projects, and peer-reviews among the learners. This will also help to solve the curriculum issue making the teaching orientated specifically for an online class.

Reference List

Ally, M. (2008). Foundations of Educational Theory for Online Learning. In T. Anderson (Ed.), The Theory and Practice of Online Learning, pp. 15-121. Athabasca, Canada: AU Press.

Nagel, L. & Kotze, T. G. (2010). Supersizing e-learning: What a CoI survey reveals about teaching presence in a large online class. Internet and Higher Education, 13, 45–51.

Richardson, J. C & Swan, K. (2003). Examining social presence in online courses in relation to students perceived learning and satisfaction. JALN, 7(1), 68-88.

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Wang, H. (2005). A qualitative exploration of the social interaction in an online learning community. International Journal of Technology in Teaching and Learning, 1(2), 79-88

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