Exploring the preferred communication modes of students in online nonformal education and training
Linda Susan Aksomitis, The University of Regina , Canada
The University of Regina . Awarded
The purpose of this study was to explore the preferred communication modes of students in online nonformal distance education and training. Four students, who had taken from two to twelve different nonformal online learning classes, participated in this study through electronic interviews. Participants were from across Canada, and while they had all been recruited from professional writers' groups, they were all involved in different professions.
The literature review focuses on the areas of: online learning in formal education, e-learning in nonformal education, communication in the cyberspace classroom, theories of learning, and the characteristics of adult learners as described by andragogy.
The findings of the study suggest that the preferred communication modes of respondents, who engage in online learning, revolve around the one-to-one communication between student and facilitator. A positive relationship between the two seems to be the most important aspect of communication for learners in the online environment. Respondents engaged in several different types of communication technology, ranging from the simplest email through asynchronous learning networks or threaded message boards, to online lectures that provided student/teacher communication and student/student interaction. While all respondents indicated flexibility of time and place was the reason they took online learning, some appeared willing to exchange flexibility of time for a synchronous computer mediated learning experience, when the technology included access to a live lecturer and the ability to communicate in real-time with the lecturer.
Asynchronous threaded message boards seemed to be the most common form of technology, and were used by all of the respondents. These message boards seemed to be favourable for creating a community of learners, even though there may be some challenges for learners.
The study suggests that adult learners in online education display characteristics in keeping with the principles of adult learning. There is also evidence that many different learning theories can be used to create e-classrooms that will facilitate appropriate communication modes and enhance the learning of those participating in distance delivered nonformal education. As well, the study highlights that the research in formal online learning situations seems to describe the experiences of online learners in nonformal education and training.
Aksomitis, L.S. Exploring the preferred communication modes of students in online nonformal education and training. Master's thesis, The University of Regina.
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