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Learning for citizenship online: How can students develop intercultural awareness and construct knowledge together?

Hugh Starkey and Nicola Savvides

Keywords: ASYNCHRONOUS COMPUTER-MEDIATED CONFERENCING (ACMC); CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION; CONSTRUCTIVIST LEARNING; INTERCULTURAL AWARENESS; ONLINE DISCUSSION; SOCIAL PRESENCE; VIRTUAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENT (VLE)

Abstract

This article evaluates ways in which students on an online Master's programme are learning about citizenship and developing intercultural awareness in spite of the lack of face-to-face interaction. There is still debate about the effectiveness of online courses and whether they provide an adequate substitute for, or even an improvement on, classroom-based learning. We employ qualitative research methods and deploy instruments for analysing constructivist learning to evaluate the extent to which students are constructing knowledge through online discussions as well as learning from research-led teaching materials. We also analyse online discussions for evidence of social presence, including the interventions of the course tutor. We conclude that students do feel themselves to be members of an international learning community and that their interactions can promote higher-order learning. We draw attention to some advantages of online courses such as the possibility of crafting a contribution and the availability of discussions as a resource.

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