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Unit 4 Task 1 Discussion

Page history last edited by Linda Davies 11 years, 1 month ago Saved with comment

Welcome to Task 1 Discussion -- Let's do it here, rather than in the BB forum!  We can add depth to the wiki and create some non-linear form as discussed in the literature.


Discussion Guidelines: Please edit the wiki page when you feel that you have some knowledge that you want to construct in the wiki.

To ask questions, thank people, or give kudos, please use the comment box at the bottom of the wiki page.


If someone else is editing the wiki page when you want to, ask them if you can "steal the lock" via the Teaching and Learning Online Chat block in the lower right hand page of the wiki page.


 YouTube Video Screencast: How to Edit the Wiki for Discussions




Gary's Discussion Prompt:


  • 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?



  • 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?



  • 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?



Linda: (Example response to first question.) One reaction that I've had in response to other learners and the interface was to make this wiki page. After Dubhgan's suggestion to link the wiki to the BB forum, I could see the benefit to having the discussion more directly linked to the task. Gary's prodding us to collaborate, motivated me to facilitating a space where we may learn from each other here in the wiki -- a place more conducive to constructing knowledge than the BB forum (imho) because it is easier to synthesize the discussion -- it's all on 1 page rather than many different forum postings, and it's searchable. One condition that also contributed was having other learners in compatible time zones -- Dubhgan come online, and after a brief discussion we worked on this page together using the synchronous chat function in Canvas. 



Richard: Hi Linda, Dubhgan. Thanks for setting this up. I'm not so convinced that a wiki is more useful for this type of discussion. I would use a wiki more for when a group is collaborating in the knowledge construction for a single prose (e.g. assignment task 2). Let's try it out though. I'll post here what I posted in the BB forum, and watch what happens ...


Linda: Hi Richard -- thanks for your suggestion to use the wiki for Task 2. I'm not there yet, but if you are, perhaps you'd like to set up a wiki page for it?  With the possibility of discussion both here and BB, it's my guess that people will do what they're used to and post in BB. There is also a Unit 4 discussion thread in Canvas. By having so many options, the discussion could get spread out a bit, and rather thin. On the other hand, it does offer opportunity for people to interact in their preferred mode :o) 


Sorry, bit of a lengthy post, but some of us have to make up for the lack of input by lurkers, erm, sorry, I mean accept the learning nature of vicarious interactors :-P


Research has focused on student interaction within four defined categories: (a) learner-content, (b) learner-instructor, (c) learner-learner, and (d) learner-interface. Interaction is not to be confused with interactivity. Interactivity refers to the features of CMC that allow people to experience exchanges through technology, and the control a learner has over the sequencing of content. Interaction is defined in terms of a learning process, objective or outcome, and can be understood as how learners and instructors communicate their ideas over time and understand the ideas of others.

In a pilot study, Sutton identified students as direct interactors, vicarious interactors, actors and non-actors. In direct interaction students communicate fully with peers and tutors. This involves cognitive processing, anticipatory interaction, overt expression and cognitive reprocessing. Vicarious interactors shy away from overt expression, or manifest ‘communication apprehension’, but learn by actively observing the interactions of others. Actors express themselves without regards to the reactions of others. Non-actors don’t involve themselves in communications.


Research has shown that student participation is essential to their success, but Sutton argues that similar achievement and satisfaction can be attained by vicarious interlocutors through active observation and cognitive processing of other people’s interactions. The active observation of others allows for cognitive processing to the same degree as direct interactors during the early stages of processing. Although the processing may be passive, it enhances learning as the vicarious interactor is better able to organise and absorb course content. Vicarious interactors also benefit from anticipatory anticipation, as they will prepare a response to a question in case they are called upon to answer, even if they are not. Limitation arises when we turn to overt expression, for incremental benefits are achieved through the process of originating, organising and expressing a coherent response. Also, vicarious interactors do not engage in cognitive reprocessing. Direct interactors, aware that their posts will be read by others and left as a permanent message, spend more time reducing their ideas to writing and editing their contribution before posting. They benefit from the comments of fellow direct interactors, which cause them to re-evaluate or confirm their ideas, so they reprocess their knowledge at a higher level than vicarious interactors.


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?


Myself-content: From the beginning of my MA studies I found that simply reading through the required / suggested texts was ineffective. I was reading passively, not interacting with them, and noted that I had little recall after the reading (no cognitive processing). So I changed my reading habits to involve an initial skim reading, then a second with note-taking. I then found it useful to engage in some other activity and mentally review what I’d picked up on, before moving on to interactions with other participants.


Myself-instructor: I’ve observed myself passing through three stages. In the early stage of a course unit I tend to feel that I have insufficient to offer a discussion (save for asking questions), so mainly focus on content interaction. As the course content is absorbed more, and as I read around the topic, I feel that interacting with the instructor has more value in that I have something to say. Towards the end of a course unit I find that tutor interaction decreases as I feel more confident in exploring my own avenues, and more so where I am involved in a collaborative project which involves a large amount of learner interaction.


Myself-learners: On a previous course about e-moderation I picked up on the importance of socialisation, by reference to Salmon’s Five Stages, so I entered the current course with certain expectations of learner-learner interaction. Initial tasks at the Access & Setting / Socialisation stages included posting an introduction on the forum and an opportunity to meet peers synchronously for a ‘six degrees of separation’ activity.  The former was straightforward in ensuring that participants could use the forums, but it didn’t really prompt much interaction. The latter wasn’t completed due to group members not responding. I have experienced more initial social interaction in other courses that had more socialisation activities that were less threatening and more engaging. Because relationships were developed from the outset in those courses, there was a natural development towards higher levels of interaction as peers debated course content, and made ample comment on each other’s posts. At this stage, as we find ourselves moving into Salmon’s 4th stage, it seems the case that relationships are developing satisfactorily with participants who have been more active on the forums and in synchronous sessions. The motivation for these bonds developing now is most likely due to the approach of our assessment, which involves a collaborative task. Active participants would naturally be drawn to other active participants who they can rely on to participate fully in the collaboration.


PS. Reading Cui et al added to my thoughts re: the importance of establishing interaction at the start of a course: “Tu  (2001) argued that when people do not receive the expected immediate response, they will experience a low level of interactivity, which leads to their reduced perceptions of social presence”. I also found the remarks on privacy of interest. “… a less private context usually results in a decreased sense of social presence by users. This supports ideas about the relevance of more socialisation activities that are less threatening and more engaging. E.G. ‘Post your Top 5 of any category’, ‘Post a photo of where you live’, etc.. Click here for an example of how I might build such activities into the first module (Access & Setting) of a Moodle course.


The reading also prompted me to note that when I posted to the forums at the start of the course, I was more formal, and less personal, but as time moved on I have added more personal information, more humour, more emoticons and even caused some grins about my studying at beachside bars in exotic locations :-)This realates to social presence as “the ability of participants in the Community of Inquiry to project their personal characteristics into the community, thereby presenting themselves to the other participants as ‘real people”.  It does seem to be the case that peers who have responded to my non-course-related posts are those who have interacted with me more directly on course-related tasks.

Myself-interface: This is essential for online learning, and since I am interested in emerging technologies I would mark this as one of my stronger areas of interaction. I very much enjoy trying out new tools and teaching myself to use them through trial and error. However, I’ve become aware that the ability to use a tool (cognitive processing) is no longer sufficient, as I move towards reprocessing by becoming more critical in my choice of tools according to their intended function.


Are you aware of yourself 'learning vicariously' either in this course or in others you have experienced? 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?


I tend to interact directly more in written form than I do vocally. In earlier synchronous sessions I was definitely more of a vicarious learner. However, I was not satisfied with my performance, and don’t feel inclined to let the matter rest with an awareness of vicarious learning. Instead I decided to pursue more synchronous sessions with other learners in smaller groups to push myself to interact more directly.


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?


I’m aware of cognitive processing while interacting with content. In this particular course I’m not so aware of cognitive processing in the forums, because there hasn’t been a great deal of direct interaction (mostly unilateral posts by actors). A fair number of participants have engaged as actors by posting their ideas, but so far there haven’t been many examples of dialogues being developed through direct interaction. That being the case, there hasn’t been sufficient response to my posts to lead to reprocessing. However, some thoughts arose in a previous unit, and in another course, regarding learner participation. I had focused on the concept of lurking, and wondered what the value of a social constructivist online course was to participants who had communication apprehension. The initial reading of this unit has challenged some of my conclusions, so in this case reprocessing arose from content interaction.


Richard ... an extremely devoted scholar, as evidenced below ...




Maja: Much as I think that personal experiences are an incredibly important source of reflection and inevitable starting point when approaching a topic, I really think that in order to start constructing knowledge, we need to move away from our own experiences. I think it is necessary to start to think about concepts such as ‘vicarious learner’ in terms of how useful these terms are for us in our work as course designers and educators, rather than what they mean to us as learners.


In my case: I think this particular term is useful in order to better conceptualize the different forms of interactions in an online course i.e. it adds one more to the list. However, as Richard mentioned above, unlike direct interactors, vicarious interactors do not engage in cognitive reprocessing (a higher level cognitive operation which is prompted by articulating, editing and re-editing of the post and by reading and responding to answers). Therefore, as Sutton admits, vicarious learning is of more limited learning potential than direct interaction.


As an educator, I will therefore always try to promote direct interaction among learners and try to remove barriers that prevent them entering it. In a way I’m echoing what Richard said about his experience: he was not satisfied with his own ‘vicarious learning’ because he knew he could obtain more from direct participation. But I’m also interested in how to translate this position into classroom action.


Therefore, the concept is useful in my practice in as much as I can now identify vicarious leaners. The more important question is however how I can help them to become direct interactors.



 Hi Maja, may I take the liberty of causing you to do some cognitive reprocessing? :-)

In constructivism, knowledge is created based on personal experiences. Constructivism assumes that all knowledge is constructed from the learner’s previous knowledge, regardless of how one is taught." -  http://www.learning-theories.com/constructivism.html


Hi Richard, 


I'm not quite sure where to continue with this conversation. I don't think it belong toi wiki. So I will respond in comments below. 



Richard: Worth considering if synchronous text may work better for those who are apprehensive about speaking. In yesterday's Canvas chat most of us were using the text chat area a lot as well as speaking. I suggested doing a purely text chat session, which a few people were interested in. I use a text chat app in Moodle, so this is also an opportunity to get a glimpse of Moodle for those who haven't used it before.


The session will be an intro to moderating a text chat for language learners (doesn't matter if you're not a language teacher as most of the tips apply to other contexts).


I'm happy to do a few sessions on Wednesday to cater for different time zones. Minimum of 3 participants needed for each to make it worthwhile. Please Doodle your availability (09:00 GMT, 12:00 GMT, 15:00 GMT, 18:00 GMT). If there's a few of you who want a different time / day I'm happy to oblige.


The session will be run in my Moodle, so I'll need to register you as a participant. Please make sure your email is on the Contact Details page (left menu of BB) so I can send login details (or put your email next to your name in Doodle).


Rolf: Some thoughts: I am aware that content can at times play too dominant a role and that this can impact on my contributions to the forums. This may at times be due to the challenging nature of the content or it may also reflect a need to review the study skills I am employing. Perhaps I haven't monitored my approach to dealing with tasks sufficiently up to this point and that employing more metacognitive strategies would have enabled me to adjust the way I interact with content. For example, I have tended to try and formulate my responses to complete tasks before formulating and posting my thoughts. Perhaps breaking down tasks into smaller units would work better for me. A 'litle but often' approach to posting might result in my contributing more and result in a greater amount of discussion. As far as learner-instructor and learner-learner interaction is concerned, it is clear to me that tasks that involve synchronous communication motivate me whether it be video conferencing or text chat as there is potentially more immediacy of interaction. Having said that, it is only when one's interaction with the various interfaces that we have experienced approaches that of becoming normalised that the tools take a backward step and the opportunity for focused interaction and deeper thought take a step forward. As I have grown to appreciate the different affordances of the various tools we have experienced and have begun to feel more comfortable interacting with the various interfaces, I can say that at times I am a direct interactor but it is very dependent on which tool I am using. It has taken me nearly two semesters to begin to understand the value of BB! 


Linda: Agreed -- When the tools become normalized, focus on communicating and collaborating is more productive. One of the reasons that I set up more than one Canvas session was to be able to have the opportunity to become familiar with it. Perhaps part of the package with e-learning, is the getting the hang of the tools that are being used... and being able to respond to the constant flux and change of it all.  Just getting back into BB today, after the updates, and perplexed at the way the forum posts don't appear to allow the option to choose how/if they are nested or not :o(

Comments (15)

dubhganhinchey said

at 8:45 am on Mar 20, 2013

Just thinking that vicarious learning is what people are doing when they are lurking in forums in CMC.

Richard Gallahad said

at 2:34 pm on Mar 21, 2013

Indeed Dubhgan, and it strikes me as a matter of politic correctness as to whether we term them lurkers or vicarious interactors. I think I'll play devil's advocate on this one. Personally, I'm not satisfied with my performance when I have lurked / been communication hesitant in synchronous meetings (I'm more of a direct interactor in asynchronous tasks), so I challenge myself to overcome what I really think is a weakness (not a learning quality) on my part. I'm also wanting forum chats to contain sufficient direct interaction that will aid my higher level cognitive reprocessing. I'm afraid that, while I found the intro article to bring some insight, I do tend to view LURKERS as letting the side down. Sorry.

BTW I was hoping that discussions on Unit 4 would continue in BB. Following the readings, I'd be interested in comparing posts at this stage with earlier units. I also wondered if the literature on learner interaction would prompt people to interact more directly than before.

Dominic Kauffman said

at 10:15 pm on Mar 21, 2013

I have to be even-handed on this one. The number of times on this TESOL course that I have felt frustrated by the distinct lack of direct interaction and dearth of posts is matched by the number of times that I have felt a bit guilty for remaining quiet myself and merely reading others' posts: "lurking" or "vicariously interacting" as it may be. I accept that there may be many reasons for someone not interacting directly with others.

But I don't think Sutton, or anyone, is trying to label "communication hesitancy" as a learning quality. He describes vicarious interaction as having valid learning potential, perhaps especially for hesitant communicators, but in the same article puts it down as inherently inferior to direct interaction, because it doesn't drive the learner to such cognitively sophisticated extremes. So if a learner is very hesitant to speak and relies heavily on vicarious liability to develop, this is a weakness, a cap on potential, a weapon missing in the arsenal (to use a needless military metaphor, ahem).

Now I might just post a version of this in BB as well and see what happens...?!

Linda Davies said

at 2:56 pm on Mar 21, 2013

Do you not find it difficult to compare posts in BB? When there are so many postings, you have to scroll in a tiny window to find things, and there's no search function. How do you do it? Dubhgan and I thought it would be easier to compare here... and would better spark "higher level cognitive reprocessing" :o)

Richard Gallahad said

at 2:31 pm on Mar 23, 2013

I find BB forums easier, as each forum can be split into different threads (assuming people post in a relevant thread). Here we are now getting an ever lengthening single page of text. Also BB indicates new messages, so you can click on those to stay abreast without having to go through the entire thread. Here there is nothing to indicate what is new since I last logged in, save for new entries at the foot of the page. It's difficult to spot any responses made to earlier posts.

Suzanne Kamal said

at 4:43 pm on Mar 21, 2013

You have described similar thoughts to mine but far more eloquently than I could! I too find it easier to interact directly through written rather than spoken words and have been far more willing to participate on the forums compared to synchronous meetings. Like you, that is something I am trying to rectify by getting more involved in synchronous meetings. I really enjoyed today's meeting with Linda, Rolf, Irshad, Michael and Paul and found it much easier to contribute to a smaller group discussion.

With regards to forum posts, I think that even though ( up until now/recently), there has been limited interaction in posts (perhaps we have tended to post and then run), there is still a place for cognitive processing and reprocessing because we know (or hope!) that we are writing for an audience, even if that audience doesn't directly respond to our posts. That could explain why it takes me so long to write a post - I am trying to formulate something that sounds coherent and intelligent!

Dominic Kauffman said

at 9:52 pm on Mar 21, 2013

Agree with your last sentence, Suzanne, though I'm not sure I always do sound that coherent and intelligent!

Suzanne Kamal said

at 4:44 pm on Mar 21, 2013

Linda, there is a search function in BB. Top right hand corner of forum page. Don't know how useful it is though.

Paul said

at 3:00 pm on Mar 22, 2013

Is there an inconsistency in the article when it comes to what Sutton considers interaction? First she says that:

"content and a computer interface are inanimate, they are not “actors,” and therefore cannot literally interact with human learners. Thus, for the purpose of this article the term “interaction” will be used in its strict technical sense and will refer to communication between two actors, specifically learner-learner interaction and learner-instructor interaction."

Yet she seems to accept Hillman et al.'s (1994) inclusion of learner-interface interaction. I think she's right to though. Surely, if you can emulate interaction between two actors, then essentially you will have interaction.

***Vicarious interactor vs. nonactor*** Suzanne raised this question in a Canvas Conference yesterday. Sutton has been able to distinguish between these two behaviours to draw conclusions. I have some ideas, but I'd be interested to know how it could be done in an environment like BB, because it certainly presents challenges.

Finally, to address the prompts from Gary, I do move between direct actor and vicarious interaction, based on whether I'm 'keeping up with the pack' or not. Whenever I get behind (which unfortunately happens rather a lot) it's really reassuring that there is significant benefit to reviewing the interactions that did occur in my absence, even if the conversation has moved on.

majabalcerzyk said

at 1:16 pm on Mar 24, 2013

Hi Richard,

I don't think that my post contradicts what the constructivist theory says about the imprtance of personal experience in learning. Certainly, I drew on my (and your) dissatisfaction with 'vicarious learning' when coming to conclusion about its usefulness in pedagogy. However, I would like to hope that my dissatisfaction or othrwise (with an aspect of learning) is not the only factor influencing my pedagogic dessions.

By the way - 'Constructivism assumes that all knowledge is constructed from the learner’s previous knowledgeregardless of how one is taught...' - that's a very bleak view of eudcation. What are we doing on this course then?

Richard Gallahad said

at 5:35 am on Mar 25, 2013

Hi Maja,

Well, perhaps the bleak author of that comment should have considered the range of interactions (content, learner, instructor). Perhaps more accurate to include the previous knowledge of all interactors, not just learners. Otherwise, no, it can't be a comprehensive approach to education as clearly much knowledge comes from the content and the instructor, but I value personal experiences of any topic as being part of the structure in knowledge construction. I don't see a student / teacher divide here. Understanding myself as a learner and relating this to the experiences of other learners is a great place to start considering what to create as an educator / course designer in my humble opinion (IMHO). I see this as an essential ingredient in developing learner-centred activities.

Richard Gallahad said

at 5:38 am on Mar 25, 2013

Might be useful to add that another element of social constructivism is of not being required to validate one's comments with a reference, which isn't acceptable in academic writing, but useful here as I can't remember where I read that :-P

Gary Motteram said

at 4:57 pm on Mar 26, 2013

I find this a useful discussion of these issues: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/uploaded_documents/Stage%202%20Learning%20Models%20(Version%201).pdf. It looks at the different psychological theories and then applies them to course design.

Patricia Nicoli said

at 10:37 pm on Apr 3, 2013

Just catching up with reading the material and the posts here as well as in BB. I was in Thailand on a very overdue and much needed spring vacation with my husband and children. We passed through Bangkok, I think I saw you at that bar Richard! Just joking. Nice picture by the way. Then we had four days in Chiang Mai and seven days in Phuket. I'm getting over the jet-lag and back into the course work and enjoying catching up through reading the posts. I am without a doubt a vicarious learner. However, when I was in F2F classes I was typically an involved listener and rarely spoke up in class. The reason for this is a combination of not having confidence in what I have to add is worthwhile or interesting and also that I enjoy/prefer listening to/reading other people's ideas. The other reason for not adding comments is similar to Suzanne's comment in that I would need more time to write something coherent. Time is an issue. I usually have short spurts of time to study the content, so I read the material then see what people have written and move on. With all those reasons I do feel that I learn a great deal, however, I felt I have learned MORE by participating actively when I contribute to BB or when I do group projects or presentations with other students. Being part of a community has benefits. The relationship between constructivist learning outcomes and the Zone of Proximal Development ( p-18, this article Gary has added here) chimes with me. The question... how to get students to participate online?

Gary Motteram said

at 12:26 pm on Apr 4, 2013

Glad to hear you had a good break Patricia and thanks for the useful comments. I think it is partly what we define as 'participate' that is at issue here and I think that this can be very discipline specific, what we require of someone learning a language and someone studying history, can be quite different.

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