Graduation Year

2002

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Interdisciplinary Education

Major Professor

Snyder, Karolyn J.

Keywords

portraiture, online, macro analysis, case study

Abstract

The virtual world exists as a dimension between concrete physical reality and abstract fictional fantasy. This cyber essence has become a place of commerce, social development, and educational pursuit. To build an understanding of the Kingdom of the Internet, the resulting case study sought to explore the community learning experiences of groups involved in an international online distance education program to create a tale of the process of a system. An assumption in this research was that the program under study was framed within a social learning context. Therefore, the recommendations and findings must be considered within this context and applied within similarly framed learning programs. The method of this study followed an input-process-output model with an added element of outcomes.

Participants completed a preliminary technology survey, locus of control instrument, self-regulated learner instrument and a learning styles inventory along with provided background information to form group input profiles. The process of the system was observed through the use of focus groups with the participants, process leaders and instructors as well as transcripts from discussion and chats. The group interaction, the site usage information and technical feedback all served as output information. The outcomes were measured through the use of a group effectiveness measure and instructor rating of final products. The result of the system study was a story of challenge and frustration, excitement and yearning, experimentation and comfort, good and best intentions. A portraiture approach was used as the vehicle for sharing the unique experiences of the international leaders during the first semester of learning.

As an essay on not only this particular system but also the dynamics of on-line research, the study illustrated the difficulties in virtual data collection. Major themes that were determined to be critical to virtual group social learning include: role differentiation, concise curriculum development, minimization of intimidation factors, and the initial group characteristic (input relationships). The wide focus of this study provided an overview of many topics that demand further research from both the lens of individual virtual learning experience and in depth exploration of various program components.

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