Source: Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 8(2), 158-174. 2008.
(Reviewed by The Portal Team)
The study described in this paper investigates how graduate students in language and linguistic specializations develop and perceive community and how these perceptions or developments differ according to medium (chat, discussion board, or face-to-face class and group discussions).
The goal of the study was to explore and analyze the incorporation of technological tools into blended learning in order to assist other teachers in the creation of collaborative cross-institutional situations.
The research questions that guided this study were as follows:
(a) How does community develop across different media as compared with face-to-face settings?
(b) What trends are evident in the different components of community (spirit, trust, interaction, and learning)?
28 students (7 men and 21 women) who participated in two graduate seminars on technology in FL education offered at two different universities.
Students were enrolled as M.A., M.A.T., or Ph.D. candidates in French, German, English as a Second Language, or Spanish at their respective universities.
All students belonged to three different class communities during the semester: their face-to-face classroom community, their chat group community, and their discussion board community.
The Sense of Classroom Community Index (SCCI) instrument which developed by Rovai (2002b) was used in the present study. It is a series of statements which is divided into four subscales regarding community, feelings of belonging, etc., to which students respond to gauge their agreement or disagreement with.
No differences were found in community development based on gender, age, or language background. This finding indicates that any group of learners is capable of creating community, provided that the right media and motivation are present.
Furthermore, the learners were more likely to develop stronger community bonds when they felt immediately connected to their community members and when they interacted at regular intervals.
The two media correlated with higher sense of community (face-to-face and chat) were also those in which students were given specific questions to discuss or topics on which to reflect. Therefore, students may be more willing or able to create community bonds if they are given a specific task rather than asked simply to contribute in an open-ended task.
The results of this study confirm that it is indeed possible to develop a sense of community through computer mediated communication tools and that classroom learning is not the only way to achieve strong communities.
Rovai, A. P. (2002b). A Preliminary look at the structural differences of higher education: Classroom communities in traditional and ALN courses. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 6(1), 41-56.