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The cognitive and social processes of university students' online learning

Maor, D.ORCID: 0000-0002-0743-4755 (2007) The cognitive and social processes of university students' online learning. In: ASCILITE 2007: ICT: Providing Choices for Learners and Learning, 2 - 5 December 2007, Singapore

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Online learning courses in higher education have increased steadily in popularity in recent years, with many higher education students and educators wondering about their direct value in terms of social and cognitive gains. This study reports on a careful examination of educational processes in an exclusively online asynchronous discussion of a university course in three consecutive years. The researcher used NVivo software as a tool for the qualitative analysis and as a way to establish performance profiles. The study first establishes a framework to identify social and cognitive aspects of online learning based on three models of interaction and then refines the framework to better understand these processes of interaction. The themes that emerged as social processes were categorised as affective, cohesive or interactive. The cognitive processes were categorised into five types of interaction: sharing/comparing information, experiencing cognitive conflict, negotiating meaning, testing/modifying and applying knowledge. This paper focuses on the type of social and cognitive processes that learners experience in a semester long asynchronous discussion environment. The qualitative and quantitative analyses (performance profile) derived from the frequency of responses suggest that students tend to use more lower-level cognitive processes and fewer higher-level cognitive processes in spite of the fact that the course was designed to maximise the opportunities to establish higher-level learning in a socially interactive community of learners. However, the data revealed that when the higher-level cognitive processes were achieved, these were powerful and significant for a small but passionate number of learners.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
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