This page is an overview of my M.Ed. thesis titled Structured Student Interactions in Online Distance Learning: Exploring the Study Buddy Activity.

Other topics and investigations can be accessed via the ‘learning‘ menu and will be added as they progress.

Structured Student Interactions

In 2014 I successfully defended my Master of Education thesis, the culmination of my studies at Athabasca University.

The central object of my study was a peer review activity implemented in a graduate-level online distance learning context. I wanted to know if grad students who participated in a relatively simple peer review activity would report that they took a deeper approach to their learning compared to those who did not participate.

Deep approaches to learning are characterized by students using high-level cognitive skills to complete learning tasks which require them, whereas surface approaches are characterized by students using low-level cognitive skills for tasks which require high-level skills.

Deeper approaches to learning involve students engaging in what is typically called critical thinking.

I also wanted to know how the activity aligned with models of cooperative learning. Cooperative learning tasks are those which require positive interdependence between group members working towards a common goal and where the assessment of the group as a whole is based on the assessment of each individual member’s contributions.

  • structured student interactions
    Anderson’s model of interaction.
  • structured student interactions
    Kanuka’s model of interaction.
  • structured student interactions
    My model of interaction.

I considered two models of interaction in the literature, Anderson’s original model and Kanuka’s modified model which shows that all interactions take place in the context of the content to be learned.

I also suggested a model that combines elements of both Anderson’s and Kanuka’s models and suggests that the best  interactions occur in the context of structured activities focused on the content.

Anderson, T. (2003). Modes of interaction in distance education: Recent developments and research questions. In M. G. Moore & W. G. Anderson (Eds.), Handbook of distance education. Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates.
Kanuka, H. (2011). Interaction and the online distance classroom: Do instructional methods effect the quality of interaction? Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 23(2), 143–156.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is often characterized as the meta-skill that is the ultimate goal of higher education. It is what characterizes an ‘educated’ mind, this ability to think critically.

But what does it really mean, on a deep level?

How can we recognize when someone is demonstrating critical thinking?

CC BY-SA 4.0 structured student interactions by Colin Madland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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