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Tuesday, November 10 • 7:30pm - 7:30pm
How Distance Learners Create Open Online Support Communities on Twitter

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Introduction: As more education pivots online and many students experience distance learning for the first time, I will outline how distance learners use open platforms to build their own online learning communities and how effective these may be. All students should be able to fully participate in the exchange of knowledge regardless of location or stage of their studies. An open platform like Twitter which is simple to use and available at no extra cost to students can support this.
Student identity: While open access online distance learning has seen steady growth, there remains evidence that open education distance learners have higher drop-out rates and many students feel isolated. OpenEd Distance learners often have other important roles alongside studying such as work or caring roles leading to a loss of student identity. Research shows Twitter can provide a platform for distance learners to develop this student identity in an open space benefiting students and HE institutions.
Benefits of Twitter for students: Research on how distance learners and full time campus based students use Twitter to interact with their peers show that the interaction is beneficial both to the students' feelings of association with the course but also their understanding of the topics. Examples of this research and findings will be outlined.
Existing research limitations:
1.Focused on analysing interview and questionnaire data with very limited use of qualitative research on the actual 'tweets' or messages produced by students on Twitter. Tweet analysis is possible with software programs which analyse key words and phrases being used as well as sentiment analysis.
2.Limited network analysis: Power remains an issue in online communities and to ensure a truly ‘open’ educational environment, it is important to study whether power hierarchies remain within these new online study communities. Despite the capability of this research, there are limited examples within educational settings.
3.Large-scale tweet analysis in educational settings: Software programs have made large-scale analysis of over tens of millions of tweets possible and this is regularly carried out in relation to political events but rarely within educational settings.
My doctoral research project: It is therefore recommended that further research is considered to study the tweets generated by OpenEd distance learners in open platforms such as Twitter using both qualitative and quantitative methods.

Learning Outcomes: A literature review on studies showing how distance learners can use microblogging sites such as Twitter to create open support communities.
•Can social media offer Open access distance learners an open space to ‘meet’ other students?
•How can Twitter interaction between students benefit them and HE institutions?
•What research has been done to test this?
•What does the research show?
•How has this research been carried out and what are its limitations?
•What further research is required?

avatar for Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Doctoral Researcher, The Open University
I have been working as an Associate Lecturer with the Open University for 13 years in a variety of 1st year (Level 1) modules. I am now in my second year of an EdD (Doctorate in Education) where I am researching how some distance learners use Twitter to reach out to each other and... Read More →

Tuesday November 10, 2020 7:30pm - 7:30pm EST
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