Higher Education Ph.D. Dissertations

Title

A Phenomenology of Peer Interaction and Community in Accelerated Online Learning

Date of Award

2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

Higher Education Administration

First Advisor

Kenneth W. Borland (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Marlise Lonn (Other)

Third Advisor

Ellen M. Broido (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Jessica M. Turos (Committee Member)

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to provide a phenomenological description of peer interaction and to explore the sense of community experienced by online learners in an accelerated online course delivered asynchronously. Though research indicates the importance of peer interaction and community in online learning, and online learners indicate their desire to feel a sense of community in online courses, there is a gap in literature that qualitatively details the essence of peer interaction and online learners’ perception of community. To address this gap, I interviewed six post-traditional online learners regarding their experiences interacting with peers and the way those experiences contributed to their sense of community in an accelerated online course.

Five main themes emerged based on participants’ experiences and perceptions: (1) Routine, (2) Technology, (3) Course Design, (4) Perceptions of Interaction, (5) Sense of Community. The findings represented throughout this research align with the two research questions that guided this study: (1) How do students describe their experiences interacting with peers in an accelerated online course? (2) How do students describe their experiences of interacting with peers as contributing to their sense of community in an accelerated online course?

This research contributes to a deeper understanding of factors that shape peer interaction and the sense of community felt in an accelerated online learning context. The findings evidence implications for online pedagogy, learning management systems, and for the implementation of the Community of Inquiry framework. Future research that focuses on the experiences and perceptions of online learners who share similar or different demographic characteristics through various methods would enhance understanding of peer interaction and community in online learning contexts. The need for such research is evident as diverse student populations’ exposure to learning through distance, online, and remote modalities continue to increase.

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