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Conversations and silence: Learning by word of mouse?

Rivers, Sue (2008) Conversations and silence: Learning by word of mouse? EdD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

This thesis explores how and what people learn through networked collaborative discussions online, in order to establish whether this can be a rewarding learning experience and to address some of the gaps in our understanding of the underlying theory and pedagogy. The research examined an online distance learning programme aimed at educational professionals who were, or would be, implementing e-Iearning in their institutions in the United Kingdom. Its focus was a series of online collaborative discussions about aspects of e-Iearning. The study's virtual auto-ethnographic approach, in which the researcher experienced online learning first hand as a student, and its use of metaphor analysis and critical event recall to complement content analysis, aimed to put the learner's perspective at the centre of the research. The idea of the student as researcher rather than, for example, the teacher as researcher was also pursued. The study explores the issue of community in online learning and, in particular, the significance of non-participation ('silence') in collaborative discussions and found that valuable learning may occur, despite widespread non-participation and lack of a community of practice. However, while individuals may learn by 'lurking', the learning potential of collaboration may be reduced as a result. It is therefore important to balance the right of individuals to be silent with the group's need for collaboration. There was evidence of a strong link between metaphor and emotion. The study also suggests that online learners' language can transmit aspects of their identity, such as their values and gender, which may be a threat to the democratising nature of online learning. It is important to appreciate the significance and power of language, especially metaphors, as a teaching tool and as a means of expressing emotion, especially negative emotion, and overcoming lack of body language.

Item Type: Thesis (EdD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > School of Education (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.489396
Depositing User: EThOS Import Sheffield
Date Deposited: 01 Nov 2016 11:20
Last Modified: 01 Nov 2016 11:20
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/14932

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