Martine Durier-Copp and Joyline Makani along with co-researches, Deborah Kiceniuk and Alieda Blandford received the prestigious IJEDE Best Paper Award in May 2017 for “Strengthening Deeper Learning through Virtual Teams in E-learning: A Synthesis of Determinants and Best Practices”
In a follow-up post to Joyline’s overview of their research, CFAME Connection reached out to Martine and Joyline to provide a synopsis of their findings. Martine and Joyline suggest that the core phenomenon of conversation fortifies deeper learning in virtual teams and e-learning environments.
Incidentally, this interview is proof that virtual teams are global. At the time of writing this post, Martine was travelling in Spain, Joyline was in Halifax, and I was in Vancouver. We hope that you will join the discussion by sharing your e-learning experiences. As Martine noted: “our students also help to build this base of knowledge – all student projects contribute to this exercise.”
Martine: Recently, there has been an increased focus on deeper learning in higher educational settings. And by deeper learning, we mean delivering robust course content in ways that engage students to study, integrate and apply what they have learned. Deeper learning fosters competencies required to participate within our social milieu: critical thinking, collaborative and communication skills, for example. Our objective was to identify the core skills and knowledge from research that reinforce each other and together promote deeper learning, specifically within the context of e-learning
Joyline: Virtual teams have become ubiquitous. However, they have not been empirically studied in the academic sphere, and little is known about their effectiveness as a learning mechanism in e-learning. Martine and I were eager to pursue this area of investigation. There is growing practical evidence that one of the key factors for e-learning success is an understanding of the social component of learning, i.e., the importance of person-to-person, and group/team interactions within the e-learning framework.
Martine: Our experience and research found that most workplace training and graduate teaching in e-learning environments utilize group work. Group or team work, according to precepts of adult education, nurtures deeper learning. Team work provides skills that professional programme students require in the workplace, where teams are the norm today and team work a required skill set. When there is a collaborative environment for learning, more experiences are shared and knowledge can be processed from different perspectives. Moreover, concepts learned by examining them from a number of different perspectives can enhance learning.
Joyline: Our research demonstrated that the core phenomenon of conversation fortified virtual teams and e-learning environments. Conversation is the all-embracing term that describes socialization as well as communication processes within the learning environment. Conversation is identified as allowing learners to experience social presence and develop a feeling of belonging and psychological closeness, which is crucial to the development of deeper learning. Within the e-learning literature concepts such as collaboration, community and connectedness dominated the results pointing to student satisfaction and success.
Martine: Learning is about conversations. It is our conversations that allow us to experience social presence and develop a feeling of trust. When we work within a compassionate and supportive team, our learning potential is enhanced. Conversations encourage deeper learning.
Joyline: Martine and I believe that our study findings will strengthen e-learning program planning and delivery within educational centres that are already engaged in e-learning, as well as convey important best practices for learning centres at the beginning stages of e-learning development.
Martine: Adding to Joyline’s comment, we believe our study also has broad societal implications. It has the potential to fuel social and economic development and innovation, and to inspire lifelong learning in our society.