In this article the trajectory of an online course in which graduate students collaboratively investigated and shared their personal experiences with respect to adult development is described. For this study, naturalistic inquiry was used to gain a holistic view of this semester-long course and to identify the specific emergent issues that characterized course dynamics. Using open, axial, and, to a lesser degree, selective coding, the following three issues were selected for further discussion: (a) flexibility of course to accommodate participants; (b) co-construction of meaning through the sharing of personal experiences; and (c) the expression of vulnerability and personal growth.
This course provided evidence that online courses can support deep learning about content, open sharing about personal experiences, and the development of a sense of camaraderie among participants. Students readily shared their feelings, critically examined course issues, extended their support in helping peers, and embraced many of the challenges of taking an online course. Implications are that benefits of online courses extend beyond the time and place independence they provide for participants, but also include the reflective and social environment they can foster. Additionally, in terms of developing environments to support interactivity, especially with respect to human-human interaction, it may be that less is more.
Barab, S. A., Thomas, M. K., & Merrill, H. (2001). Online learning: From information dissemination to fostering collaboration. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 12(1), 105-143.
About Sasha A. Barab PhD
Sasha Barab is a Professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University, where he co-founded and serves as the Executive Director of the Center for Games and Impact.
Dr. Barab is an internationally recognized Learning Scientist who holds the Pinnacle West Chair of Education, and who has researched, designed, and published extensively on the challenges and opportunities of using games for impact.
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