Building communities of learning: Using Web 2.0 tools to bring on-campus and distance education students together

Jones, Peter (2008) Building communities of learning: Using Web 2.0 tools to bring on-campus and distance education students together. In: Proceedings of HERDSA 2008 International Conference . p. 1. From: HERDSA 2008: 31st Annual HERDSA Conference, 1-4 July 2008, Rotorua, New Zealand.

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The challenges inherent in teaching and studying through distance education have been recognised by many (e.g., Bower, 2004; Peters, 2001; Willems, 2007). A range of specific issues can be identified which distance educators increasingly need to grapple with. These include issues of access, particularly as distance teaching moves increasingly online (e.g., Willems, 2004), and issues of equity and comparability (e.g., Gibb, 2006; Yang, 2006), where the challenge is to ensure that distance students receive an educational experience that is equivalent to that available to on-campus students. For educators interested in promoting the creation of learning communities amongst student populations, a further challenge is to bridge the divide between those students undertaking a course in a traditional on-campus mode and those studying the same course through distance education.

In many institutions which offer both on-campus and distance versions of the same courses, parallel structures exists for the design and delivery of subject content which are mirrored by parallel sets of student experiences. It is often the case that distance and on-campus students have very little to do with each other, and despite studying the same course through the same institution, may have very few opportunities to interact with their peers and form broader communities of learning. This is particularly significant for distance learners who are often geographically dispersed and can experience their education as an isolating and individualised process.

This paper reports on developments in so-called Web 2.0 technologies that present opportunities to bridge this gap (e.g., Deng and Yuen, 2007; Elgort, 2007; Jones, 2007). The use of Blogs and Wikis is discussed and two specific examples provided of their use in a social work degree course. In the first, less successful, example, first year students in both modes created critically reflective blogs as a piece of assessment. Students were then able to access, read and comment on each other’s reflections. In the second example, final year social work students worked collaboratively to develop a group wiki as an assessable task, where the groups involved were comprised of both on-campus and distance learners. This exercise produced significant outcomes in terms of bringing these two cohorts of students together and creating a community of learners that stood in stark contrast to many distance students’ previous experience of higher education. Students’ own reflections on this process are provided in support of these outcomes.

The discussion of these examples focuses on the potential for Web 2.0 technologies to create opportunities for distance education and on-campus students to interact in meaningful ways and, through the design of collaborative learning activities, to begin to build communities of learning that transcend both geographical distance and the on-campus / off-campus divide.

Item ID: 8773
Item Type: Conference Item (Abstract / Summary)
Date Deposited: 09 Jul 2010 05:29
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1607 Social Work > 160799 Social Work not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9302 Teaching and Instruction > 930202 Teacher and Instructor Development @ 100%
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