This dissertation explores study habits and interactions of students in an online first-year writing course. Much research has been conducted about online learning, but little has focused specifically on first-year writing students. First-year writing presents some unique challenges because of the age and preparedness level of traditional first-year students and because of the historic role that first-year writing courses have had in introducing these students to university writing and thinking. Educational technologies may be changing some of our expectations and our assumptions about first-year writing classes.
Using instrumental case study methodology, I studied two sections of an online first-year writing course. My inquiry was guided by the central question, "What do students in an online first-year writing course perceive as good study habits?" I gathered data via surveys, course management statistics, students' interactions, and interviews.Social constructivist theories, which guide a lot of thinking about online learning and guided the development of the observed courses, emphasize online interaction among students and instructors as a way to engage students and foster the construction of knowledge. Observations from these two case studies reveal that students did not seem to value peer interactions as central to their learning.
The social cognitive theory of Albert Bandura is explored as a way to develop a more complex understanding of students in online first-year writing courses. Bandura's concept of triadic reciprocality encourages a view of online learning that de-emphasizes the importance of the medium or technology and balances that with the influences of students' personal characteristics and cognitive choices. Individual profiles of four students are presented to show the complex attitudes and experiences students bring to online first-year writing classes.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. Major:Rhetoric and Scientific and Technical Communication. Advisor: Lee-Ann Kastman Breuch. 1 computer file (PDF); xii, 461 pages, appendices A-G. Ill. (some col.)
Rendahl, Merry A..
Moving First-Year Writing Online: Applying Social Cognitive Theory to an Applying Social Cognitive Theory to an Exploration of Student Study Habits and Interactions. Two Case Studies.
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