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Constructivist learning and Web-based computer conferencing: Qualitative analysis of online interaction among graduate students

, George Mason University, United States

George Mason University . Awarded


This dissertation is a qualitative exploratory case study that describes the online interaction of graduate students in a Web-based distance learning course, and evidence of constructivist learning principles within that interaction. The technology used is Web-based computer conferencing. This study examined peer-to-peer communication through observations of the online interaction, as archived by the computer. The participants were K–12 educators who were graduate students in an instructional technology program.

The results were based on a recursive process between data collection and data analysis, which used constructivist learning theory to inform categorization of the huge volume of textual data, but also permitted descriptions and insights to emerge inductively. Results describe (1) an overview of the online experience; (2) emerging insights; (3) the online interaction; (4) a categorization system according to constructivist learning principles; and, (5) evidence of constructivist learning behaviors. The study's findings provide a better understanding of online interaction, and how this technology-mediated environment supports principles of constructivist learning.

The data suggests that the students needed “places” to reflect, socialize, and get help and advice, especially on technical issues. As for class organization, they benefited from a structured syllabus. Students' problems were related to (1) technology (navigation, access, and uploading assignments); and, (2) distance learning issues (isolation, disorientation, and lack of face-to-face contact).

The data revealed these constructivist behaviors: reflection, metacognition, negotiation, articulation of ideas, community-building, and social-interaction. Social behaviors emerged in the online learning community that contributed to a constructivist learning environment: manners, politeness, empathy, emotions, encouragement, and peer support. In addition, the students were engaged in collaborating, tutoring, mentoring, story-telling, and sharing. All of the above were subsumed under an emerging meta-categorical system defined by purpose: personal, social, and professional.

Overall, this online course was a highly interactive educational experience that stimulated social-dialogical interaction that was scholastic and professional, yet lively, friendly, and very social. It seemed to facilitate personally relevant learning, professional development, and collegiality, as well as a fair amount of fun.


Bragg, W.P. Constructivist learning and Web-based computer conferencing: Qualitative analysis of online interaction among graduate students. Ph.D. thesis, George Mason University. Retrieved November 13, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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