Roles of Students

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Investigating the Roles of Students in the Development of a Collaborative Learning Community through Networked Learning: A Malaysian Perspective

Amelia Abdullah, Abdul Rashid Mohamed
Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia.
amelia@usm.my

This paper is made possible by the E-learning Project for Life Grant.

Abstract

This study explores roles of students in the development of a collaborative learning community through networked learning. The respondents for this multicase, single site case study involves twenty-three undergraduate TESL students in their ninth semester. These students, undergoing the Introduction to Literature course, are pursuing their degree in a private institution of higher education in a branch campus in Perak. The study also comprises an instructor (tutor) as a respondent. This study employs the qualitative method as the research methodology. The instruments used in the data gathering process are interaction threads analysis and semi-structured interviews. Data are triangulated to justify the findings. The findings showcases that both students and the instructor play significant roles in developing the collaborative community. The students’ roles are categorised into two types: positive roles and negative roles. The negative roles can be a threat to the sanctity of an online learning community, therefore these roles have to be minimised. On the other hand, the instructor need not be in control all the time as the students should learn to take control of their own learning process. In addition, the instructor should not disappear from the forum completely. She needs to monitor the students’ participation from time to time to make sure that there are no lurkers and everybody contributes in the community. Having said that, there are still room for improvement and measures can be taken by all parties (students, instructor and management) in the future to ensure that a totally conducive asynchronous networked learning environment is created.

Keywords: students’ roles, networked learning, collaborative learning, asynchronous learning

1. Introduction

With the dawning of the knowledge era, the field of education becomes more challenging. The sharing of ideas are no longer limited to formal education but also through electronic medium that transcends the time, geographical or disciplinary limits (Dzulkifli 2003). The Information Communicaton and Technology has been the catalyst in the education reform in Malaysia. As the aspect of sharing and networking becomes more important in a techologically driven society, education has to cater to those needs. Johnson and Johnson (1996) have mentioned that the whole society has transformed from product based careers whereby the workers work individually to technological and information based careers where the workers need to work collaboratively and cooperatively. Due to that fact, it is vital for every Malaysian to be equipped with positive social skills to work successfully in collaborative environment.

2. Background of the study

The application of Internet in the Malaysian education system is a new scenario especially in the higher institution field. From this scenario, many terms such as virtual learning, online learning and cyber education (Rosenberg 2001; Jones 1999) as well as e-learning and networked learning are coined. For the purpose of this study, the term networked learning or n-learning has been chosen as it refers to the learning process carried out through a computer network which emphasizes on collaborative learning among the learners and the instructor (Harasim 1997). The research by Schutte (1996) as well a Phipps and Merisotis (in Paloff & Pratt 2001) illustrate that learners who are in a virtual collaborative class have shown significantly better results as compared to the learners who are in the face-to-face classes.

Collaborative learning helps learners to...
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