About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 7160-7166
Publication year: 2015
ISBN: 978-84-608-2657-6
ISSN: 2340-1095

Conference name: 8th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2015
Location: Seville, Spain

UNDERSTANDING PASSIVE LEARNING IN ONLINE DISTANCE EDUCATION

D. Smith, K. Smith

The Open University (UNITED KINGDOM)
A previous paper by the authors, ‘The Case of ‘Passive’ learning – the ‘Silent’ Community of Online Learners’ (Smith & Smith, 2014), made the distinction between students who are active and passive engagers on first year undergraduate modules. The authors considered the extent to which passive learning may be taking place on two modules within the Faculty of Social Sciences at The Open University (OU). Both modules were first year undergraduate modules which used a combination of asynchronous (forums) and synchronous (Blackboard Collaborate technology, branded ‘OU Live’) technologies for teaching. The data revealed that student ‘passive engagement’ with forums (reading messages in a forum, but not actively posting) colloquially known as lurking, was far higher than ‘active engagement’ (actively posting in the forum). The data also showed that active participation with the synchronous technologies was very low. The authors postulated that the data, alongside literature in this area, suggests that some students may find value in engaging ‘passively’.

With a focus on student forum use, this initial hypothesis was investigated further. Using an online analytics tool, student levels of forum ‘views’ (i.e. passive engagement) and levels of forums ‘posts’ (active engagement) were analysed against the overall continuous assessment scores (not including examinations) of two new first year undergraduate modules, to examine the relationship between differing levels of engagement on performance. Four levels of student engagement were observed: none, low, average and high. The data from two recently completed modules shows that:

• The highest average scores occur when the level of forums views, i.e. passive engagement, is high. At high levels of passive engagement, increased levels of active engagement do not have a significant impact. In fact, on module A, the best combination appears to be a high level of passive engagement and no active engagement at all. For module B, the effect of high passive engagement is only slightly reduced if the student does not actively engage.
• The lowest scores are from those students with no passive or active engagement.
This suggests that while students who don’t engage with forums at all (passively or activity) are likely to fail a module, students who only passively engage to an ‘average’ or ‘high’ level are not only more likely to pass, but achieve almost as high a score as those students who both actively and passively engage in a module. This was confirmed in both modules.

This paper will explore the data in more detail and make recommendations for teaching and learning design, looking at first year undergraduate social science and psychology modules. From the perspective of a Higher Education (HE) institute such as the OU, we believe the data may have implications for the tuition delivery strategy used to deliver the module material, as well as how staff development occurs for the tutors that deliver the material. For example, rather than focus a significant effort on encouraging students to participate in active forum use, the emphasis may need to be shifted to ensuring that appropriate/sufficient material is available to ‘passive engagers’.
@InProceedings{SMITH2015UND,
author = {Smith, D. and Smith, K.},
title = {UNDERSTANDING PASSIVE LEARNING IN ONLINE DISTANCE EDUCATION},
series = {8th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation},
booktitle = {ICERI2015 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-608-2657-6},
issn = {2340-1095},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Seville, Spain},
month = {18-20 November, 2015},
year = {2015},
pages = {7160-7166}}
TY - CONF
AU - D. Smith AU - K. Smith
TI - UNDERSTANDING PASSIVE LEARNING IN ONLINE DISTANCE EDUCATION
SN - 978-84-608-2657-6/2340-1095
PY - 2015
Y1 - 18-20 November, 2015
CI - Seville, Spain
JO - 8th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
JA - ICERI2015 Proceedings
SP - 7160
EP - 7166
ER -
D. Smith, K. Smith (2015) UNDERSTANDING PASSIVE LEARNING IN ONLINE DISTANCE EDUCATION, ICERI2015 Proceedings, pp. 7160-7166.
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