Creating Connections: A Pilot Study on an Online Community of Learners
This paper reports the findings from a pilot study that investigated the uses of computer-mediated communication in an educational psychology course for pre-service teachers that focused on problem-based learning via CD-ROM-based case analysis. Thirty-nine pre-service teachers and eight practicing teachers participated in the development of an online learning community in which they viewed video case studies as part of a virtual field experience component and communicated online through chat rooms and threaded discussion lists. Data sources included transcripts of chat room and threaded communication, field notes, student tasks and reflections, and exit interviews with the teachers and one student focus group. Methodology was qualitative in nature using a template organizing approach with the constant comparative method. This paper reports the findings concerning students’ learning about educational psychology and teaching, students’ appreciation of diverse settings, the developmental nature of the questions posed by the pre-service teachers, and the advantages and disadvantages of using the technological components in this course. Results showed that the case studies helped the students make sense of the concepts and theories being studied in class, while communication with the teachers helped the students see the practical applications of the information they were learning.