A Case Study Of Learning, Support And Disruption For Distance Learners In Student-Led Facebook Study Groups

Seaward, Phillippa Jane (2020). A Case Study Of Learning, Support And Disruption For Distance Learners In Student-Led Facebook Study Groups. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.000114f9

Abstract

This thesis reports on a qualitative investigation of learning in student-led Facebook module study groups, used by undergraduate distance learning students at a UK university. The study investigates the following issues: reasons why learners choose to use these study groups in social media; the types of learning taking place there; the nature of support there; and types of disruption experienced and its effect on student learning.

The study uses a case study design to align with a constructivist, qualitative theoretical approach. Three data collection methods of participant interviews, documentary analysis of online group dialogue, and observation were used. This foregrounds the perspective of participants in various roles in these student-led groups, to prioritise student voice. The data was analysed in a thematic analysis, to identify latent and semantic themes. Many of the theory-led findings build on existing empirical research, and the explanatory concepts of connectivism, connected learning and the ethic of care are used to interpret the findings in more depth.

Principal findings suggest learner experiences in Facebook module study groups converge around five themes of activity: community and relationships; academic subject learning; learning with others online; managing own learning; and difficulties and conflict. This analysis represents a typology of student activity that extends existing published empirical work, and is using the novel research context of student-led Facebook module study groups for distance learners. Types of learning that take place in the groups include the expedient acquisition of knowledge, practice of participation, and the development of digital skills. Study groups provide important relational and community supports to learners, and valued information. While Facebook also has the potential to disrupt student learning, diverse views were usually embraced constructively as an opportunity for skill development and critical thinking.

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