Studies in Learning, Evaluation, Innovation and Development > Vol. 6, No. 1 (2009)

Relationships with peers enable 1st year students to negotiate and surmount social and educational challenges within virtual learning communities

Dolene M Rossi, CQU (Employee) USQ (PhD Candidate)


This paper identifies social and educational challenges of students engaged in a 1st year, computer mediated communication course. An understanding of the learners’ experience is based on the self reported perceptions of learners who completed the course and from an analysis of how students interact as they participate in online learning activities. Learners identify a range of factors which enhance and impinge upon their learning experience. The analysis of student contributions during online discussions reveals a range of self initiated communication strategies and behaviours which appear to provide learners with the support they require to negotiate and surmount the challenges they perceive within the learning context. The supposition is that learning communities provide a learning context conducive to the development of learner relationships and relationships with peers offer students an effective means of social and educational support. The thesis has important implications for teaching, learning and curricula development as it places emphasis on the relational aspects of interpersonal communication over activity and frequency of interaction and emphasises the need to facilitate and promote the development of learner-learner relationships within computer mediated learning contexts.

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