About my research

My research was set in the context of the European Commission’s eTwinning initiative and it looked specifically at the use of eTwinning Learning Events (non-formal learning). It examined how the community influences the development of teachers’ competence in online collaboration and discourse, and it considered the contribution of social aspects and online moderation.

I am very grateful to my supervisor, Dr. Julie-Ann Sime from Lancaster University, and to my eTwinning soulmate, Tiina Sarisalmi, for their invaluable support. And to my examiners, Prof. Marilyn Leask from the University of Bedfordshire and Dr. Don Passey from the University of Lancaster, for their valuable advice.
Keywords: online learning communities; community of inquiry; online collaboration; content analysis; social presence; social ties; teacher training

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

School-teachers' learning community

Came across this relevant and interesting paper by Hlapanis and Dimitracopoulou (2007) in which the University of Aegean in Greece implemented a learning community for in-service teachers from the Dodecanese Islands. Formal learning in a variety of e-learning courses was complemented by informal learning in through collaboration. They produced a case study of how the community was created and how it evolved, based upon research using mixed-methods, including quantitative data from Social Network Analysis (SNA) of the communication between participants and qualitative data from semi-structured interviews of students (the teachers) and instructors.

They used e-moderators - ‘teachers who design, facilitate and direct the cognitive  and  social  processes  for  the  purpose  of  realizing  personally  meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes’ (Garrison and Anderson, 2003, p. 49) - to continuously facilitate a discussion between participants and to engender a feeling of community.

They conclude, inter alia, that:
  • The creation of a community of learners does not happen automatically or suddenly but rather as a result of specific actions of all participants.  It took around 4 to 5 weeks for the community to develop and become self-sustaining
  • The use of e-moderators was essential for the community creation and evolution. They used a mixture of low and high intervention styles, at various points, as appropriate to the stage of evolution of the community and its degree of autonomy.
  • The data collected helped the instructors understand when the community took off and when intervention was necessary. Reports on group activity were made available to everyone in the community to help with self-regulation - however, the research was largely inconclusive as to whether this aspect was positive
There are remarkable similarities between these results and the implications arising from my research on the recent Learning Event.


Garrison, D. R. & Anderson, T. (2003) E-learning in the 21st century: a framework for research and practice (London, Routledge).
Hlapanis, G. & Dimitracopoulou, A. (2007) 'The School-Teacher's Learning Community: matters of communication analysis'. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 16 (2), pp.133 - 151

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