Peer-Communication in Distance Education

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Abstract

While distance education (DE) has burgeoned over the past twenty years and is permitting greater access to higher education (college and university), student persistence and quality of learning remain problematic. Promoting dialogue or work among peers is sometimes seen as a solution, but the techno-pedagogical devices for doing so are varied and their impacts poorly understood. This is what motivated this review and analysis of the techno-pedagogical devices introduced in Canadian colleges and universities to encourage distance interaction. Our systematic review examines sixty studies published between January 2005 and December 2014. It establishes a typology of research problems in the field that identifies four main research questions as well as a typology of techno-pedagogical devices based on their goals. These studies reveal that interaction and collaborative work are challenging for learners who are extremely concerned about the restraints relating to time flexibility, disregarding the opportunities offered. However, the studies also show that when students do interact and collaborate, which is the case in authentic learning situations targeting skills development, they derive satisfaction from social linkages with their peers and are likely to achieve deep learning.