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«The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine how communication preferences, learning preferences, and perceptions about online learning ...»

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All ten participants discussed how they had multiple ways of learning. In fact, none of them indicated having a single preference for gaining knowledge. Instead, all of them have multiple preferences which overlap and can include any combination of visual, auditory, tactile, constructivist, and social modes of learning. The online world literature course included six text-based discussion boards, a video link to a segment of Medea, two written essays, and two exams, one of which was multiple choice, the other a project which required a creation of a fairytale (OC, 5/06/10).

Though study guides and PowerPoint presentations were essential to six participants, when it came to understanding the reading and preparing for tests, multimedia links were also key to understanding the text. Amy shared how having audiovisual components to the online-world literature course helped her to understand her

reading of Euripedes’ Medea:

I learn best when I’m hearing and taking notes. I like to hear it, see it, and write it.

I know those three work really good. I know I retain a lot more information. I really enjoyed looking at Medea. Not only do we get to read that story, we get to actually see a portion of that play. It really helped me to understand the play and just seeing the actors really broadened the relevance to the story. (PI, 5/12/10) While participants noted multiple learning preferences, six of them mentioned a preference for learning in smaller groups. Similar to Jasmin, India also described how visual material helped her to learn in classes. She remembered a great class as one “that is visual, something that [the student] can see and connect with as well as have the visual aspect” (PI, 5/14/10). In addition, India also indicated a need to work with other students when she prepared course assignments. She enjoyed working with other students in a group. India commented, “I probably want to work with other students where we are next to a computer in a group, where I can get and share information” (PI, 5/14/10). Angel also said her learning was augmented when she included other class members. She discussed how she desired to apply knowledge and work in in-class group assignments so that she could showcase knowledge. She stated, I enjoyed the group discussions online for online classes and in a classroom setting. I enjoy the same thing with the group discussions with dialogue and group assignments in class and not out of class, something where you’re applying what you learn for 30 minutes of class, and maybe working together 30 minutes of class, and then presenting what we learn. (PI, 5/10/10) Similar to Angel, Joshua talked about how group work helped him learn from other

students:

You share your viewpoint of the story or whatever the assignment... But if the workload is by yourself when you’re able to share that teamwork, man! It creates a great learning experience and you get to see other people’s thoughts and viewpoints and opinions on things and stuff. So just bringing the team together as a whole makes a good class. (PI, 5/12/10) In addition to learning from and within the group, Joshua considered himself to be a visual and auditory learner. He discussed how hearing and seeing information is

particularly important in courses he found difficult:

I have multiple ways I’d like to learn. I’d like to see it. Sometimes I need to hear it from the professor especially as far as world lit because sometimes the stories are really hard to interpret. I mean as far as in terms of reading between the lines with certain things especially with the Epic of Son Jara. It is very important to be able to see and hear additional information. (PI, 5/12/10) He also enjoyed constructing knowledge because it gave him the ability to feature his unique talent. He shared how he did well on a project in which students were to create a fairytale and place it on the discussion board. He said, “I think I did very well on my PowerPoint presentation which was a fairytale.... I have a creative thinking box on my head” (PI, 5/12/2010).

Similarly, Mariah also enjoyed assignments which allowed her to build on her knowledge. She discussed how completion of assignments that required students to create their own knowledge using technology would be an optimal way for her to complete tasks. She envisioned how constructivist activities as a group could help ease the work load on students. She talked about how creating a video with class members worked well

with students who were participatory:

So, let’s say there’s something in the news. And you have to do a video, make it into a video clip and put it in action to show the positive or negative of the news.

In a group project, you don’t have to do as much work in class. And I don’t like lazy people who don’t pull their weight in class, but I do like the interaction, (PI, 5/10/10) Lack of interest in completion of assignments is evidenced in the fact that Mariah, along with Tenille, was one of two participants who failed to submit two major assignments outside of discussion threads (OC, 8/28/10).

Though Tenille is a self-described auditory learner, she noted the benefits of

learning collaboratively:

In groups, we can talk about the assignment. We can give our opinion on how we want the project to be done. If it is a group project, we can give each other pointers. For example, in this class that I had, I wasn’t familiar with PowerPoint slides. I did not know how to create a diagram, and I wasn’t familiar with that so it was good to get pointers in my group. Just basically being able to get pointers from other classmates over the best way to go about the assignment was good.





(PI, 5/11/10) In addition to learning in groups, Tenille also discussed how hearing information from

the professor and taking notes was essential for learning:

I like to have the instructor verbally tell me what they want for the assignments, and I’ll take my own notes. I like lectures; I like mostly lecture... To get more information from them [lectures], I like to take my own notes. I like the lecture style. (PI, 5/11/10) Though the lecture style was preferred, Tenille also noted how good classes must go beyond lecture if learning is to transpire. Tenille believed that “teachers would do more than just lecture. Once in a while they would bring a video clip in or have a guest speaker” (PI, 5/11/2010). In Tenille’s point of view, multimedia is another key component to learning. She shared how video links in her online world literature class

helped her to understand the reading:

There were a couple times she had some video links which were very interesting.

And I liked the video links. It took me by surprise; it was a nice touch. In the literature course there was a lot of reading, but she also submitted links to help [students] understand the material. So, I liked a variety. It helped to keep the class interesting. It wasn’t strictly reading. It was a nice little variety. (PI, 511/10) In addition to being a social learner, Shannon also considered herself to be a constructivist learner. She talked about how using a group project instead of a test would allay her test anxiety, yet still allow her to construct knowledge: “I want something I can

touch and feel or whatever, so I can retain it,” she said (PI, 5/10/10). She further added:

My main challenge in going back to school at my age is memorization. I find it difficult to learn this way in particular. It is not a strong suit for me. A perfect environment is to give me something I can sink my teeth into. I am very visual.

Give me a group project or something to do. Let me discover what it is I need to learn. It tends to stay with me longer if I’m the one that’s actually doing the research as opposed to learning. I want to discover. You know what I mean? I like having a way to construct my own knowledge and possibly in a controlled setting because I know the curriculum and objectives, learning outcomes, and the syllabus....When we get to the point where I need to the take a test and memorize stuff, I get really nervous... I know I have a certain time limit, and I know it’s [time] constantly on my mind. I do pretty well, but I would prefer not to do that. Give me a group project or something. (PI, 5/10/10) Shannon also talked about discussion threads and how it helped her learn more than just about her own opinions. She explained how discussions were her important to

her learning:

[I like] discussion because I welcome and I learn from other people’s point of view, the different perspectives on a topic or issue. That’s what I love. You learn something not only about yourself. I think it was awesome. We covered a lot of material, analyzing and learning what other people’s thoughts and opinions were and how we responded to certain topics or subjects. I really learned a lot. (PI, 5/10/10) Though not all participants indicated a desire to work in groups, two of the participants implied the need for interaction from classmates in order to learn. For Badesha, learning transpired in a blended environment. She described an excellent classroom setting as one that is “probably a blended class, probably some online, and some in the classroom. Then you would just have a better opportunity to maybe ask some of questions [if needed]” (PI, 5/12/10).

Though not stated explicitly in the above quotation, Badesha implied a need for not only visual information, but verbal and nonverbal interaction which is more likely to take place in live classroom settings. Like Badesha, Jasmin, also an independent learner, discussed a need for the face-to-face classroom. Though she considered herself to be a visual learner, she admitted that her learning preferences hinge around the courses that she took. She noted how she needed verbal and nonverbal cues to learn as well. Despite these preferences, Jasmin indicated how her schedule superseded her desire to have her learning preferences met. She said, “It depends on the class. Some classes, I know I’m a visual learner. Some classes, I know I need to be in there with the teacher. But most the time is how it fits into my schedule” (PI, 5/14/00).

–  –  –

This section discusses many of the participants’ need to make connections to the subject matter, topics, or classmates in order to fully participate in the course. Participants described how building these relationships helped them to contribute more in the online course.

Subject Matter and Topics Another theme that emerged from the data analysis was the students’ desire to connect to the subject matter, topics, or to other classmates in order to enjoy online courses and fully participate. Seven participants mentioned that a connection to the subject matter, topics within the course, or making connections with others students contributed to their enjoyment and level of participation in the online world literature course. While all the members of Generation Y mentioned a need to connect to the subject matter and topics being discussed, members of older generations emphasized the importance of connecting to and with classmates.

First of all, all three members of Generation Y mentioned a need to connect to topics and the subject matter in order to enjoy and fully participate in the course. Mariah, a member of Generation Y, admitted that good classes begin with the subject matter itself. She admitted to being more likely to read required assignments if she had interest in the course subject. She said, “It [reading] depends on the topic. If it’s boring I am less likely to read it. If it is interesting I am more times more likely to read it” (PI, 5/10/10).

Mariah further added how her interest in the topic also determined her level of participation on the discussion board. She said, “It really depends on the topic. If it is something that interests me then yeah; but it is something I’m not interested in then no. I read the first line and not the rest to decide whether I’m going to read it” (PI, 5/12/10).

Similar to Mariah, Iris, the youngest member of Generation Y, also stated how her course participation is determined based on her level of interest in the topic being discussed. She said: “If I feel a gumption, then I will respond to it, especially if it [the subject] is something that I’m passionate about. I will respond to the topic” (PI, 5/14/10).

Joshua, the only male participant and one of three members of Generation Y discussed a need to be able to use information learned in courses outside of class. He said he liked courses that had “information that is actually informative [and] that you actually can use outside of the classroom” (PI, 5/12/10). Out of all of the works that he read for the online world literature class, the ones that he enjoyed most were the ones that he could relate to real life. He discussed, “I did like some of them. The ones that were really good related to life experience like Medea and Othello” (PI, 5/12/10).

Classmates For members of older generations, participants’ satisfaction with the course is developed through personal connections with peers. Like members of Generation Y, Tenille stated how she must not only be interested in the topic being discussed but that she also must relate to her classmates. She added how her participation in the course would have increased if topics were more interesting and if she could relate to classmates: “If they posted something really interesting. I would’ve posted something back. I would have done a little bit more back-and-forth than what I did” (PI, 5/11/10).

Her process for responding to discussion posts was determined by how similar students’ views were to her own. She added, “I would comment on them, and I will find someone who I had a similarity with, then I would post. I would say, ‘hey I agree’ and then I would comment on it” (PI, 5/11/10).



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