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Characterising on-line learning environments

Tolmie, Andrew and McAteer, E. and Harris, Rachel and Chappel, H. and Marsden, S. and Lally, V. (2002) Characterising on-line learning environments. In: Networked Learning 2002: 3rd International Conference Proceedings. Lancaster University and University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK, pp. 63-69. ISBN 0-902831-41-0

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Abstract

We propose a central feature of on-line learning environments as transactive communication - where participants respond to and build on to each other's contributions, developmentally toward a mutual outcome. This differs from the more didactic, or at least tutor-controlled, dialogue that takes place in traditional learning environments. In the on-line setting, therefore, communication is particularly perceived to be an essential part of the learning process. This provides a strong motive for research to determine its characteristics and functions. The need for good systems for describing and understanding the contexts of learning activity is also crucial. Who is teaching what to whom and why - and why they are there to learn - is of course critical for the understanding and from this the prediction of good pedagogical strategy. At the micro and macro levels of analysis, then, we need to review, revise, develop and implement tools for research to inform good development of practice. This paper depends upon ongoing work from all its authors. Different aspects have been presented and discussed across a range of settings, virtual and physical, over recent months as our research refines or revises our ideas. New work for this symposium presentation reports on our testing of theoretical frameworks and ways of applying them for good understanding and development of on-line learning communities. The paper provided here outlines our developing theoretical framework and methodological approach.