A Study of Students' Conceptions of Networked Learning in a Developing Country Setting

Nguyen, Tan and Bligh, Brett (2017) A Study of Students' Conceptions of Networked Learning in a Developing Country Setting. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Institutional initiatives to foster networked learning practices, based on ‘Western’ models, are increasingly prominent in developing countries; yet, to date, very little research has explored campus-based students’ conceptions or experiences of those initiatives. This study investigates students’ conceptions of networked learning in a particular developing country setting: Can Tho University, Vietnam. The study started from the conviction that we should not assume that aspects of networked learning will be conceived by the students there in the same ways as in the countries where the models were developed. The study adopted a phenomenographic research approach to elicit and describe the qualitatively varied ways in which undergraduate students experienced and perceived four different (though related) phenomena that are associated with networked learning in the literature and promoted within institutional initiatives. Those four phenomena relate, in turn, to: a) learning in relation to others and resources; b) the roles of technology in mediating learning through connections; c) cooperation with others in learning; and d) working together towards a common goal. Data were gathered through semi-structured interviews and analysed according to Dahlgren and Fallsberg’s (1991) seven-stage cycle of data analysis in phenomenography, so as to elaborate the range of ways in which the phenomena of study were perceived across the sample of participants. The findings of the study are presented as outcome spaces, representing the variation in conception of each phenomenon. With regard to learning in relation to others and resources, three categories of description were identified: resource access, knowledge transmission and knowledge construction. Regarding the roles of technology in mediating learning through connections, three categories emerged: flexibility, tool and medium. These categories are argued to demonstrate a conceptual variation in the perceived extent and sophistication of the technological mediation occurring. Concerning cooperation with others in learning, the analysis of the data led to the emergence of three categories. These categories identified that cooperation in learning was perceived as group work, exploratory learning and directing learning. vi In addition, qualitative differences in students’ accounts on their conceptions of working together towards a common goal were constituted by three issues related to benefits of working together towards a common goal (diversity awareness, increased understanding and increased performance) and three issues related to challenges of working together towards a common goal (technological availability, interpersonal differences and unproductive learning). The significance of the study derives from how it provides insight into how undergraduate students experience and perceive ‘networked learning’ in developing country contexts where learners typically have rather different values and educational histories than in the ‘West’. For example, the students in this study perceived networked learning as partially an act of knowledge transmission from teacher to students, contrary to the Western literature, where the dominant conception invokes an image of students’ active involvement in knowledge construction. On the other hand, students also experienced networked learning as making-meaning-through-connections, which is reasonably consistent with findings from studies of Western settings. It is hoped that the findings will provide new insights of value to practitioners and educators seeking to design or integrate the networked learning concept into the curriculum in higher education in the developing world; and, at a higher level of granularity, empirical knowledge of use to educators and policy makers who wish to promote more student-centred learning approaches such as networked learning in the developing world.

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Thesis (PhD)
?? networked learningphenomenographydeveloping countriescollaborative learninglearninghigher education ??
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21 Jul 2017 08:12
Last Modified:
15 Apr 2024 23:38