E-motion diaries : blogging emotional responses to online learning in higher education
Mills, Kathy A. & Ritchie, Stephen M. (2014) E-motion diaries : blogging emotional responses to online learning in higher education. In American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting : The Power of Educational Research for Innovation in Practice and Policy, 3-7 April 2014, Old City, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Emotions are inherently social, and are central to learning, online interaction and literacy practices (Shen, Wang, & Shen, 2009). Demonstrating the dynamic sociality of literacy practice, we used e-motion diaries or web logs to explore the emotional states of pre-service high school teachers’ experiences of online learning activities. This is because the methods of communication used by university educators in online learning and writing environments play an important role in fulfilling students’ need for social interaction and inclusion (McInnerney & Roberts, 2004). Feelings of isolation and frustration are common emotions experienced by students in many online learning environments, and are associated with the success or failure of online interactions and learning (Su, et al., 2005).
The purpose of the study was to answer the research question: What are the trajectories of pre-service teachers’ emotional states during online learning experiences? This is important because emotions are central to learning, and the current trend toward Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) needs research about students’ emotional connections in online learning environments (Kop, 2011).
The project was conducted with a graduate class of 64 high school science pre-service teachers in Science Education Curriculum Studies in a large Australian university, including males and females from a variety of cultural backgrounds, aged 22-55 years. Online activities involved the students watching a series of streamed live lectures for the first 5 weeks providing a varied set of learning experiences, such as viewing science demonstrations (e.g., modeling the use of discrepant events). Each week, students provided feedback on learning by writing and posting an e-motion diary or web log about their emotional response. Students answered the question: What emotions did you experience during this learning experience?
The descriptive data set included 284 online posts, with students contributing multiple entries. Linguistic appraisal theory, following Martin and White (2005), was used to regroup the 22 different discrete emotions reported by students into the six main affect groups – three positive and three negative: unhappiness/happiness, insecurity/security, and dissatisfaction/satisfaction.
The findings demonstrated that the pre-service teachers’ emotional responses to the streamed lectures tended towards happiness, security, and satisfaction within the typology of affect groups – un/happiness, in/security, and dis/satisfaction. Fewer students reported that the streamed lectures triggered negative feelings of frustration, powerlessness, and inadequacy, and when this occurred, it often pertained to expectations of themselves in the forthcoming field experience in classrooms. Exceptions to this pattern of responses occurred in relation to the fifth streamed lecture presented in a non-interactive slideshow format that compressed a large amount of content. Many students responded to the content of the lecture rather than providing their emotional responses to this lecture, and one student felt “completely disengaged”.
The social practice of online writing as blogs enabled the students to articulate their emotions. The findings primarily contribute new understanding about students' wide range of differing emotional states, both positive and negative, experienced in response to streamed live lectures and other learning activities in higher education external coursework. The is important because the majority of previous studies have focused on particular negative emotions, such as anxiety in test taking. The research also highlights the potentials of appraisal theory for studying human emotions in online learning and writing.
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