The social dimensions of online learning

David J. Nicol, Ian Minty, Christine Sinclair

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    52 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper explores the social dimensions of online learning - the ways in which learners interact and communicate with other learners and their tutors using electronic communication networks. The context for this exploration is a module provided by a networked, and geographically dispersed, higher education institution. An evaluation of the module draws on the experiences of students and tutors participating in their first online course. Based on these experiences and the research literature, the paper discusses the extent to which face-to-face models of communication should be recreated in online contexts and the extent to which tutors should structure online interaction patterns and modes of discourse. Also examined is the way in which online learning leads to new 'hybrid' and 'converging' styles of communication and to the intermixing of academic and personal discourses. Overall, it is argued that the social context of online learning is qualitatively different from face-to-face learning and that this has significant implications for online learning design.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)270-280
    Number of pages10
    JournalInnovations in Education and Teaching International
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2003


    • education
    • online learning
    • information and communications technology


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