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‘Take your time’ to ‘find yourself!’: an exploration of scaffolded autonomous e-learning environments amongst international students in a UK university

‘Take your time’ to ‘find yourself!’: an exploration of scaffolded autonomous e-learning environments amongst international students in a UK university
‘Take your time’ to ‘find yourself!’: an exploration of scaffolded autonomous e-learning environments amongst international students in a UK university

Over the previous decade, there has been an increase in using and undertaking research on elearning (Aparicio, Bacao & Oliveira, 2016). In particular, learning in autonomous, self-directed elearning environments has been of interest to educational organisations, institutions and designers, with the aim of enabling learners to improve their learning on their own in such environments. However, as learners are increasingly isolated and working without any humanbased support (Zembylas, Theorou & Pavlakis, 2008), it is necessary for online learning resources (OLRs) to provide enough scaffolding to enable them to achieve ‘good learning’ which is ‘ahead of the[ir] actual development’ or zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1978 cited in Burns & de Silva Joyce, 2005, p.10). But we know very little about how learners working on their own online use such scaffolding for their learning. Therefore, the present study focuses on the relationship between scaffolding and learner autonomy in e-learning environments and considers scaffolding as a possible way to promote learning on one’s own. By this means, it can be presumed that in well-scaffolded e-learning environments, learners are supported to further develop their own autonomy and become more capable of managing their own learning.

In order to investigate the above-mentioned relationship, pre- and post-questionnaires were distributed amongst 35 international students who were to undertake higher education, at either undergraduate or postgraduate level. These students were on a pre-sessional course to improve their English language and academic skills at the University of Southampton and were supported in their independent learning outside the classroom by training and access to online learning resources, in particular the Southampton designed EAP (English for Academic Purposes) Toolkit which includes many interactive activities. To give detailed insight into the learning processes which take place in a scaffolded e-learning environment, additional instruments were used with 10 volunteers. During a period of five months, the participants were observed working with the EAP Toolkit and interviewed three times. Digital screen capturing with video was used to record their actions and think-aloud protocol methods were also used in order to gain some insight while carrying out the activities in the EAP Toolkit.

A total of 870 minutes of interviews and 450 minutes of digital screen capture and think-aloud recordings were made. The results of the study go some way to showing how learners learn online in scaffolded and non-scaffolded learning environments. Learners carry out different learning actions depending on the availability and use of scaffolding in the OLRs and are capable of exercising and developing their autonomy. These findings suggest that a well-designed, scaffolded, autonomous, e-learning environment can facilitate the interaction between learners and OLRs and enable them to adapt their learning on their own. Finally, the research recommends that designers, institutions, teachers, students and further studies should take into account the features of a well-designed e-learning environment which provides appropriate scaffolding that will enable learner autonomy to take place.

University of Southampton
Meri-Yilan, Serpil
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Meri-Yilan, Serpil
ef42da55-2959-49ef-a405-f05a5edfe659
Wright, Vicky
5a4085ca-99b1-43d4-92e0-8b36edbcf93a
Baker, William
9f1b758c-e6e0-43ca-b7bf-a0d5e1387d10

Meri-Yilan, Serpil (2017) ‘Take your time’ to ‘find yourself!’: an exploration of scaffolded autonomous e-learning environments amongst international students in a UK university. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 505pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

Over the previous decade, there has been an increase in using and undertaking research on elearning (Aparicio, Bacao & Oliveira, 2016). In particular, learning in autonomous, self-directed elearning environments has been of interest to educational organisations, institutions and designers, with the aim of enabling learners to improve their learning on their own in such environments. However, as learners are increasingly isolated and working without any humanbased support (Zembylas, Theorou & Pavlakis, 2008), it is necessary for online learning resources (OLRs) to provide enough scaffolding to enable them to achieve ‘good learning’ which is ‘ahead of the[ir] actual development’ or zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1978 cited in Burns & de Silva Joyce, 2005, p.10). But we know very little about how learners working on their own online use such scaffolding for their learning. Therefore, the present study focuses on the relationship between scaffolding and learner autonomy in e-learning environments and considers scaffolding as a possible way to promote learning on one’s own. By this means, it can be presumed that in well-scaffolded e-learning environments, learners are supported to further develop their own autonomy and become more capable of managing their own learning.

In order to investigate the above-mentioned relationship, pre- and post-questionnaires were distributed amongst 35 international students who were to undertake higher education, at either undergraduate or postgraduate level. These students were on a pre-sessional course to improve their English language and academic skills at the University of Southampton and were supported in their independent learning outside the classroom by training and access to online learning resources, in particular the Southampton designed EAP (English for Academic Purposes) Toolkit which includes many interactive activities. To give detailed insight into the learning processes which take place in a scaffolded e-learning environment, additional instruments were used with 10 volunteers. During a period of five months, the participants were observed working with the EAP Toolkit and interviewed three times. Digital screen capturing with video was used to record their actions and think-aloud protocol methods were also used in order to gain some insight while carrying out the activities in the EAP Toolkit.

A total of 870 minutes of interviews and 450 minutes of digital screen capture and think-aloud recordings were made. The results of the study go some way to showing how learners learn online in scaffolded and non-scaffolded learning environments. Learners carry out different learning actions depending on the availability and use of scaffolding in the OLRs and are capable of exercising and developing their autonomy. These findings suggest that a well-designed, scaffolded, autonomous, e-learning environment can facilitate the interaction between learners and OLRs and enable them to adapt their learning on their own. Finally, the research recommends that designers, institutions, teachers, students and further studies should take into account the features of a well-designed e-learning environment which provides appropriate scaffolding that will enable learner autonomy to take place.

Text
‘TAKE YOUR TIME’ TO ‘FIND YOURSELF!’: AN EXPLORATION OF SCAFFOLDED AUTONOMOUS E-LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS AMONGST INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS IN A UK UNIVERSITY - Accepted Manuscript
Available under License University of Southampton Thesis Licence.
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Published date: August 2017

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 414201
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/414201
PURE UUID: 46ce7d55-069c-4452-a05a-00c12cc27883

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Date deposited: 18 Sep 2017 16:31
Last modified: 13 Mar 2019 19:28

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