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Sociological Insights in Structuring Australian Distance Education

Sociological Insights in Structuring Australian Distance Education
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Author(s): Angela T. Ragusa (Charles Sturt University, Australia)
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 7
Source title: Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology, Second Edition
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Mehdi Khosrow-Pour, D.B.A. (Information Resources Management Association, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch559


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Sociology is well-known for analyzing institutions and social change (Holmes, Hughes, & Julian, 2007). Yet, a dearth of sociological research explores technology and distance education (DE) despite imperatives to include cultural issues (Jorgensen, 2002; Lum, 2006). Meta-analysis shows social studies scholars fail to prioritize technological research (Marri, 2007). Sociologists have examined Webbased instruction and anxiety levels (Gundy, Morton, Liu, & Kline, 2006), flaming (Lee, 2005) and the relationship between learning environment, pedagogy, social roles, relations (Jaffee, 2003) and unintended benefits of traditional classrooms using DE (Edwards, Cordray, & Dorbolo, 2000). This qualitative exploratory research looks at asynchronous forum (AF) and DE student experiences in Australia. Using social constructivism, learning is seen as praxis, or doing (Vygotsky, 1986) in contrast with ancient traditionalists’ tabula rasa/“blank slate” understanding of learners waiting to be filled with knowledge (Palloff & Pratt, 2001). Case studies show how culture and learning environments affect virtual communication (VC) when all communication, student-teacher and student-student, is technologically mediated. Experiences from four 2005-2006 cohorts show social structure affects student perceptions’ of learning, satisfaction and agency.

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