Reflexivity in Online Distance Education

Marco Espinoza and Carolyn Mamchur

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Carolyn Mamchur, Faculty of Education

Project team: Marco Espinoza, research assistant

Timeframe: March 2011 to April 2012

Funding: $3000

Poster presentation: View a poster (PDF) describing this project from the 2012 Symposium on Teaching and Learning

Description: This investigation is concerned with student engagement in online learning, where engagement is defined as “meaningful participation.” While “participation” can be demonstrated with relative ease through empirical means (e.g., percentage of completed assignments), it is a far more arduous task to demonstrate “meaningfulness.”

This study will analyze student writings from class-related email conversations and course assignments submitted for three past and present SFU online education courses: EDUC 326, EDUC 412, and EDUC 485. The data will be analyzed strictly for the purpose of studying the programs (i.e., course design). All three courses have been designed to foster active learning (i.e., meaningful participation), and the analysis of their effectiveness will consist of two layers. The first level will be conducted by a research assistant and will use language-game analysis to codify and collate the student data. Once the language-game analysis has been done, the principal investigator will analyze the material in terms of William Glasser’s five needs for experiencing personal satisfaction – security, acceptance, power, pleasure, freedom – to search for evidence that the courses do or do not meet these needs. Specific examples of student “talk” will be included in our report for the purpose of clarity and so that others who might want to replicate the research may be guided by our findings.

Our objective is to identify ways in which online courses and practices can be modified to promote meaningful participation by students through dialogue and needs fulfillment; and to develop documentation and recommendations for increasing student engagement in online learning as part of SFU’s cultural shift towards a greater emphasis on teaching and learning.

Questions: How can a collaborative and personally satisfying learning environment be created in a virtual classroom?

Knowledge sharing: The results of this project will be presented in an article for publication. We will also prepare a report for the Teaching and Learning Centre and for the Vice-President, Academic’s Advisory Committee on Teaching and Learning, which includes the University Teaching Fellows.

Mamchur, C. (2012, May). Reflextivity in Online Distance Education. Poster session presented at the Symposium on Teaching and Learning: Leading Change @SFU, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC.