Graduation Year

2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

World Languages

Major Professor

Linda Evans, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Adam Schwartz, Ph. D.

Committee Member

Phil Smith, Ph.D.

Committee Member

James White, Ph.D.

Keywords

distance education, computer mediated communication, synchronous web-based course system, higher education, English as a second language

Abstract

Based on a collaborative and socio-constructivist approach to online education, the Community of Inquiry (CoI) model emphasizes creating an effective learning environment where students feel a connection with other learners and the instructor and engage in well-designed collaborative learning activities.

Following a naturalistic methodology, this qualitative case study investigated the use of synchronous communication for creating a community of inquiry and student satisfaction in an online ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) endorsement course for preservice teachers. Elluminate Live was used for class meetings while an instant messenger, Gmail Chat served the needs for impromptu interactions between a student and the teacher.

The study was guided by the CoI framework. Data sources included online recordings of live meetings, student written reflections, surveys, interviews, and teacher/researcher journal.

The findings indicate that synchronous communication enhances building and sustaining an online community of inquiry. Gmail Chat provided increase in teacher availability, social presence, and student satisfaction, however it did not contribute much

to creating cognitive presence simply because it was not planned to be used for content delivery. Moreover, Elluminate Live contributed effectively to the community of inquiry by enabling manifestations and interactions of its 3 elements; social, teaching, and cognitive presence. Participants perceived that live class meetings promoted their learning and helped them feel the instructor and other students in a more real sense. Class meetings via Elluminate Live promoted cognitive presence by affording the students opportunities for listening to the presentations by the teacher and other students, watching a teacher demonstration through a webcam, interacting actively through Whiteboard tools, text-based chat, microphone, and emoticons, and working with their groups in their private breakout rooms. Instant and audio communication among students created a sense of social presence with trust, comfort, and belonging, and enhanced group work efficiency.

The study highlights the critical role of synchronous communications to create effective online learning communities, however it also underlines that the implementation of synchronous communication tools requires robust pedagogical planning to enhance student learning.

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