Synchronous Learning Experiences: Distance and Residential Learners’ Perspectives in a Blended Graduate Course
Synchronous communication has a great potential to increase individual participation and group collaboration. Despite increasing use, scant research has been conducted on variables impacting successful synchronous learning. This study focuses on learner experiences in a real-time communication mediated by the Breeze web-based collaboration system. It also combined conference mediums. Eight students, 4 residential and 4 learning at a distance, were interviewed to examine the perceived benefits and challenges of synchronous interaction. Study findings showed that learners valued spontaneous feedback, meaningful interactions, multiple perspectives, and instructors’ supports. On the other hand, time constraints, lack of reflection, language barriers, tool-related problems, and peers’ network connection problems were viewed as challenges. Due to pervasive time pressures, the synchronous interactions mainly focused on task-related issues. Nevertheless, students felt a need for connecting to others in the course and a sense of social presence. Interestingly, no differences were found between the distance and residential students in terms of learning strategies for synchronous discussions.