Prerequisites for interactive learning in distance education: Perspectives from Swedish students

Berit Östlund

Abstract


This article investigates distance students' understanding of the prerequisites for interactive learning in asynchronous, computer mediated university distance studies. It encompasses students' attitudes to structure, dialogue and autonomy, and their experience of social presence and what they consider interaction with peer learners signifies for their learning. The data were collected from an undergraduate and a masters course within the teacher training distance program, using questionnaires, interviews, diaries and analysis of students' contributions in FirstClass and WebBoard respectively. The results indicate that there was no difference between the student groups in preferences concerning structure, dialogue and autonomy. Their preferences depended on their ideas about how to benefit from different situations. They preferred a course design permitting them to use time effectively in relation to their other commitments outside the university. The results also indicate that they felt social presence despite using only asynchronous, text based communication. The student groups, however, had different ideas about the significance of inter-learner interactions. The amount of spontaneous contributions sent toWebBoard and FirstClass also differed. The undergraduate students stressed the social and practical aspects, while the masters students to a greater extent emphasised the cognitive aspects. The amount of spontaneous interactions was also higher in the undergraduate group. These students need more support from others in order to manage their studies compared to the masters students.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.1229

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