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Unit 4-2

Page history last edited by Gary Motteram 9 years, 4 months ago



Working together online


In an earlier unit you read the paper by Belderrain (2006) Distance Education trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Distance Education, 27(2), 139-153. In that paper Belderrain explores some of the technologies available to us to promote collaboration, but refers specifically to a number of implications for the online learner. One is that of the role of social presence. Belderrain suggests:


As in any social group, individuals participating in distance education must feel like they belong. This 'belonging' or 'presence' enables students to interact comfortably with peers as well as instructors.


Belderrain goes on to define social presence as referring to:


the degree to which individuals perceive intimacy, immediacy, and their particular role in a relationship. Current trends indicate that social presence differs from interaction, yet one nurtures the other.


We'll take a closer look at social presence in a while. However, our entry into this topic will be prompted by the guided reading of an initial article and then a follow up reading that looks at a similar process, but makes use of a different set of categories to explore a very similar process.





Reading Task


Sutton, L. (2001) The Principle of Vicarious Interaction in Computer Mediated CommunicationsInternational Journal of Educational Telecommunications, 7(3), 223-242. 


Some guiding questions which may also help you to both understand ideas in this text and synthesise with others you have read.


  1. Remind yourself of the traditional four categories of student interaction; and of the distinction between interaction and interactivity;
  2. Come to an understanding of: direct interaction, vicarious interactionactors and non actors;
  3. Identify the arguments for vicarious interaction and limitations of vicarious interaction for learning effectiveness;
  4. Come to an understanding of arguments around cognitive processing and cognitive reprocessing with respect to direct and vicarious interactors.


Having looked at Sutton, then read Wise, A. F., Speer, J., Marbouti, F and Hsiao, Y-T. (2013) Broadening the notion of participation in online discussions: examining patterns in learners' online listening behaviours. Instructional Science, 41, 323-343. 


This article refers to vicarious interaction as a listening process and characterises participants into three different clusters: Cluster 1 -- Superficial listeners, intermittent talkers; Cluster 2 -- Concentrated listeners, integrated talkers; Cluster 3 -- Broad listeners, reflective talkers. You might consider this as you look at different forums and reflect on your own posting process.



Unit 4 -- Task 1:  Discussion


As a follow up to your reading, reflect on the ideas in relation to yourself. Here are some prompts for you though independent reactions to any other specific detail, or thoughts that it has stimulated are always, welcome.


  • Are you aware of your own reactions to content, instructor, other learners, interface? For each of these what conditions/specific tasks/behaviours seems to motivate you towards direct interaction as an online learner?
  • Are you aware of yourself 'learning vicariously' either in this course or in others you have experienced? Do you recognise yourself in the posting behaviour described in Wise et al.
  • How would you generally identify yourself: as a direct interactor or as a vicarious interactor? Or do specific contexts/events influence your moves between these? Is it dictated by what you want to get out of the course unit as implied by the Wise et al article?
  • Are you aware of processes associated with cognitive processing and reprocessing as you contribute your ideas on this topic and read others on the discussion board?


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