As the name suggests, online learning usually occurs without much face-to-face interaction between the instructor and the learner, or among the learners. Consequently, people tend to neglect the psychological and emotional issues associated with this type of learning. The results may range from low student performance to feelings of exclusion and insecurity. Two academic articles I have read recently focus on this problem and provide some insight into the ways that different people interact with each other when their learning happens online, and stress the importance of trust among them.
Pavalache-Ilie & Cocorada (2014) conducted a survey among 175 students engaged in online learning, and were able to identify some psychological factors affecting the performance and behavior of online learners. Their study revealed the following findings:
– male students tend to be more independent in online courses
– in their second and consecutive years, students are more likely to choose tasks requiring less collaboration with other students
– introverts require more support from their teachers
– students who have the need to be in the field are prone to feeling disoriented
– learners with good reflective skills benefit more from this mode of learning than other students
Wang (2014) recognizes the importance of trust in online learning, and identifies three trust-inducing qualities of online course instructors based on the analysis of a survey conducted among some 361 students:
– sense of care and community
The majority of the respondents of the survey also believed that more face-to-face time with their instructor would go a long way in promoting trust.
The two studies confirm that personal characteristics of students as well as instructors have an impact on their online learning experience, and factors like this cannot be dismissed simply because of the untraditional nature of this mode of communication.
Pavalache-Ilie, M., & Cocorada, S. (2014). Interactions of students’ personality in the online learning environment. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 128, 117-122.
Wang, Y. D. (2014). Building student trust in online learning environments. Distance Education, 35(3), 345-359.