Communities of practice: the utility of web-based communication tools in assisting new, adult, online learners' transition to formal distance education

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Title: Communities of practice: the utility of web-based communication tools in assisting new, adult, online learners' transition to formal distance education
Author: Miller, Rene Patricia
Abstract: Institutions of higher education are harnessing the communication ability of the Internet to offer classes and academic degree programs . This study investigated adult students during their first semester in a distance delivered doctoral program . The purpose of the study was to examine the use of web -based communication tools and their ability to establish a community of practice enabling the new students to share solutions related to distance doctoral study . This case study included the entire cohort of a distance delivered Ed .D . in Agricultural Education administered jointly by Texas Tech and Texas A &M Universities . Data collection methods included a semi -structured telephone interview , containing an adapted Sense of Community Index and postings on a Wiki (editable web page ) . Data analysis produced a participants ? profile and their use of web -based communication tools . This study found that (a ) a variety of web -based tools enabled the students to connect with their cohort on a routine basis , (b ) it is possible to establish a community of practice using a variety of web -based communication tools , (c ) after one semester the cohort is an embryonic community of practice (d ) the students were able to assist each other with concerns that helped them acclimate to learning online and their doctoral program , (e ) students appreciate the flexibility that distance education offers but some prefer a traditional education , (f ) students were frustrated with the technology during the first few weeks of their program , (g ) new doctoral students desire instruction in the use of the course management system , the online library , and scholarly writing , (h ) the students feel a strong sense of community , (i ) use of web -based communication tools are vital as they assist in the student ?s learning , (j ) students felt isolated from their cohort until they participated in a group project even though they had the use of web -based communication tools at their disposal . The results of this study suggest that opportunities for students to engage socially with their peers should be built into the design of online classes and degree programs . Future research is recommended to examine the sustainability and desirability of virtual communities of practice .
URI: http : / /hdl .handle .net /1969 .1 /ETD -TAMU -2415
Date: 2009-05-15

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Communities of practice: the utility of web-based communication tools in assisting new, adult, online learners' transition to formal distance education. Available electronically from http : / /hdl .handle .net /1969 .1 /ETD -TAMU -2415 .

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