DEHub Research Projects/CQUniversity

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Learning interactions: A cross-institutional multi-disciplinary analysis of learner-learner and learner-teacher and learner-content interactions in online learning contexts
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Introducing the CQUniversity Project

Online environments offer an educational domain unique in their potential for interaction, participation and collaboration and have been acknowledged to represent one of the fastest growing contexts for adult learning. Although the question of how learners interact in computer-mediated environments has received increasing research attention, little is known about the dynamics and processes of learner interaction and how these relate to learning in online courses. This project will draw from and build on two different studies conducted by members of the project team within the lead institution (CQUniversity). In one of these studies researchers utilised academic analytics to examine the adoption of learning management system (LMS) features and staff and student engagement within online courses. In spite of the research’s limitations, findings suggested that the analysis of LMS data in conjunction with student results could be used to provide the institution with benchmark information and an indicator of student engagement within online courses. In the other study, the researcher examined the processes of and relationship between learner-learner interaction and knowledge construction within an online communication course. Within this investigation, the researcher constructed a substantive theory about the development of learning relationships among learners as a consequence of learner-learner interaction in an online undergraduate course. In the proposed study, researchers from CQU and the University of Southern Queensland intend to utilise a collective case study approach to reach cross-institution, multidisciplinary understandings of the patterns, processes and consequences of learner-content, learner-learner and learner-teacher interaction in online courses. The study’s results will make a significant contribution to educational and institutional knowledge about the nature and effects of learner interaction in online courses. Based on the results of the research a model will be constructed to explain the relationship among course design, interaction and learning in online courses and the patterns, processes and consequences of different types of interaction in online learning contexts. From this model a set of guidelines which identify conditions conducive to interaction and effective learning in online courses will be produced. Together these tools may be used by the institutional partners (CQU and USQ) to enhance the design of online courses, the learning and teaching experience of students and educators and the outcomes of online, distance education. Dissemination of the results will enable the wider educational community to benefit from the research. The relationships formed during this collaborative venture will provide further opportunities for sharing and constructing knowledge within this field.

This project addresses three key issues related to DEHub’s following research priority areas in order of focus priority.

  • Priority 7: Interaction and communication in learning communities
  • Priority 6: Curriculum design
  • Priority 4 Professional development and faculty support

Plus, Research methods in distance education and knowledge transfer (macro R&D)

The primary priority area addressed is that of ‘interaction and communication in learning communities’. Through this investigation, two other priorities are also addressed, namely ‘curriculum design’ and ‘professional development and faculty support’. In addition, the project will also inform a macro level research and development initiative which is to explore research methodologies appropriate for distance learning investigations.

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What we aim to achieve

This project investigates the proposition that learning can best be improved by those engaged in it. This means that the relationships among students and teachers (course coordinators, lecturers, tutors and/or markers) are central to the learning process. In many cases, specialist course designers have also been involved at various stages of course development and delivery. Cross-institutional (CQU and USQ), multidisciplinary understandings of the patterns, processes and consequences of learner-teacher, learner-content and learner-learner interactions in online contexts will provide a local evidence base of immediate use for teachers and designers at both institutions. Furthermore, the project’s dissemination strategy will afford a systematic basis for communicating findings to others in the wider higher education community. Accordingly, the purpose of this project is to: (a) extend earlier work in this field by conducting a systematic enquiry into the technologically mediated interactions of online course delivery; and (b) construct understandings of and insights into the central relationship of education—teaching and learning.

The project aims to develop an inclusive model for adults teaching and learning in university online learning courses. It seeks to reach cross institutional, multidisciplinary, understandings of the patterns, processes and consequences of learner-content, learner-learner and learner-teacher interaction in online contexts. The project will draw from and build on previous research conducted by members of the project team within the lead institution (CQUniversity). In one of these studies (Beer, Jones & Clark, 2009), researchers utilised academic analytics to examine the adoption of learning management system (LMS) features and staff and student engagement within online courses. In spite of the research’s limitations, findings suggested that the analysis of LMS data in conjunction with student results could be used to provide the institution with benchmark information and an indicator of student engagement within online courses. In the other study (Rossi, 2010), the researcher examined the processes of and relationship between learner-learner interaction and knowledge construction within an online communication course leading to the articulation of a substantive theory about learning relationships in online contexts. Accordingly, to achieve this aim, the following research questions have been developed.

Research Questions RQ 1: How do learners interact in online courses? RQ 2: What are the patterns, processes and consequences of learner-learner and learner-teacher interaction in online contexts?

The project will achieve the following outcomes: - A critical review of course designs that are both conducive to and effective for teaching and learning in online university courses. - A conceptual model to illustrate and explain the role of teaching-learning relationships in online interactions and knowledge construction in university courses. - A set of evidence-based curriculum development and delivery guidelines that will enhance online teaching-learning relationships in online university courses. - A collaborative research partnership between CQU and USQ. - Scholarly outputs that will contribute positively to the research and publication quantum of both institutions and the DEHub consortium.


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News and announcements

  • DEQuarterly: Rossi, D. (2012) Examination of the relationship between different types of learner interaction in undergraduate and postgraduate online courses DEQuarterly Newsletter No 9 spring/summer DEQuarterly Newsletter 9
  • LTERC news March 2011
  • CQUni news published 26.10.2011 CQUniversity UniNews
  • USQ news updated 16.11.2011 USQ News Events
  • ‘Innovate’ School of Nursing and Midwifery newsletter Engaged research & innovation as the result of on online teaching and learning published 07.12.2011 CQUniversity Resources

Disemmination