S. Panchoo

University of Technology (MAURITIUS)
We are witnessing increasing interactions on the Internet through websites, discussion forums, blogs, wikis and related posted messages in social networks. When such interactions are observed, it is seen that the types, ways and contents of users’ interactions differ from site to site. It is obvious that the activities and interactions are limited and are based on the functionalities and designs of the websites. However, it is seen that, if the number of interactions are successfully increasing in social networks, the reality of the educational online forums are different with a lack of interactions and unanswered threads. This depicts the lack of participation and engagement on behalf of the learners. The aim of this paper is to demonstrate that technology should not only be used as a communication tool but it should also be used as a pedagogical tool in order to drive users to interact as desired planned. As methodology, a questionnaire was specially designed with the aim of understanding the sequence of learning activities through the interactions of 18 learners who were enrolled in a completely online master’s course in France. The studies were held in an online campus whereby relevant tools were designed and displayed, analogous to a real life campus. A socio-constructivist approach was chosen due to the problems of loneliness and de-motivation that distant learners face. Furthermore, in order to help them overcome the uncertainty feeling that exists online, online tutoring were organised so that learners can express their worries and difficulties.

The implementation of such a model was done while taking three important factors in consideration in order to encourage and direct learners to interact as required:
1) a properly designed virtual environment with appropriate tools,
2) relevant learning strategies and
3) the guidance of a tutor.

Result shows that learners proceed in a systematic manner starting with organisational activities leading to cognitive discussions. The type of interactions obtained after compilation of the questionnaire refers to learner-tools, learner-content, tutor-learner as well as learner-learners interactions. This research is based on a successful model adopted by a famous university in France. It has been found that virtual environment’s design is of paramount importance while aiming to give adequate supports to distance learners. This model can be replicated successfully in order to help learners enjoy their learning experience.