Encouraging learner interaction, engagement and attention in the virtual classroom (an investigation into the phenomenon of multitasking)

Trabinger, Kerry Lee (2016) Encouraging learner interaction, engagement and attention in the virtual classroom (an investigation into the phenomenon of multitasking). [Thesis (PhD/Research)]

Text (Whole Thesis)

Download (4Mb) | Preview


The use of virtual classrooms (VC) in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector is becoming increasingly popular due to the ability for learners from any location to access education online in real time with a teacher, and to participate in an environment that simulates a face to face classroom. However, a major area of concern that has emerged is the tendency for learners to multitask (task switch) rather than remain attentive and focused on the content being delivered.

This study was designed to investigate whether learners are task switching while participating in a VC and whether this affects the teaching and learning that occurs. Using Moore’s (1993) transactional distance theory as the theoretical framework, this study explored whether a teacher’s design of the VC session, selection and use of the VC tools and management of activities can encourage learners to focus on the relevant learning activity without task switching.

The study was conducted at the Canberra Institute of Technology and twelve individual case studies were analysed, each comprising one teacher and their learner cohort. A design based methodology involving two iterations was conducted, with the first being held in semester 2, 2011 and the second in semester 1, 2012. A mixed methodology was selected to ensure the richness of the data. Instruments for data collection included an entry and exit survey for teachers and learners, an end of session poll from the learners, a blog journal from the teachers, an e-diary from the researcher, a Wimba analytic tracking log, a detailed session observation tool and interviews from support staff.

Findings from the study suggest that learners do task switch while participating in VC sessions and that this can have a negative effect on the teaching and learning that occurs. It is therefore critical to ensure support is provided for teachers to design, develop and deliver sessions that encourage maximum attention and therefore reduce the opportunity for learners to task switch.

The study also found that, while there is no exact formula for the level of structure and autonomy needed to reduce the potential for learners to experience transactional distance, high levels of structure and low levels of autonomy work best for a VC session to maintain the attention of the learners. A further finding was that
the nine types of dialogic interactions that occur in a VC amongst teachers, learners, content and interface should all be considered and facilitated for the success of a session.

An outcome of this research was the development of a set of strategies to support both teachers and learners when using a VC, including the importance of institutional support and effective, timely training for teachers and learners. A further outcome of this research was the suggestion for the creation of guides for teachers and learners and the importance of ensuring adequate support is provided for both teachers and learners.

This research concluded that there is significantly more research required in the use of VCs and, in particular, around the issue of task switching.
While the findings from this study have been directed to assist teachers and learners in the Vocational Education Sector, findings can be transferred to other educational sectors including both K-12 and the university sector. It is hoped that these findings will lead to additional discussion and research on the use of VCs and in particular to the issue of how to retain the attention of learners while they are participating in a VC session.

Statistics for USQ ePrint 29694
Statistics for this ePrint Item
Item Type: Thesis (PhD/Research)
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Doctor of Education (DEDU) thesis.
Faculty / Department / School: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Teacher Education and Early Childhood
Supervisors: Albion, Peter; van Rensburg, henriette
Date Deposited: 06 Sep 2016 23:15
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2017 05:07
Uncontrolled Keywords: virtual classrooms; vocational education and training; multitasking; negative effects
Fields of Research : 16 Studies in Human Society > 1608 Sociology > 160809 Sociology of Education
13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130306 Educational Technology and Computing
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/29694

Actions (login required)

View Item Archive Repository Staff Only