CEC Theses and Dissertations

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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Computing Technology in Education (DCTE)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Gertrude Abramson

Committee Member

Sarah Schrire

Committee Member

Helen St. Aubin


As advances in information and communication technologies give way to more innovative opportunities for teaching and learning at a distance, the need to provide supporting structures for online students similar to those offered to on-campus students is becoming more significant. Although a range of support services has been proposed in the past, there is a need for a comprehensive system which education specialists can use to provide online academic support for medical students working in peer groups. The goal of the investigation was to provide such a system, which has the potential to foster knowledge construction, through high levels of sociocognitive processing, ultimately resulting in enhanced academic achievement.

The multi-dimensional approach to investigating this problem necessitated utilizing a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. The design and development of the system were guided by results of a review of the relevant literature which revealed the necessary considerations for supporting students online. Implementation followed instructional design principles geared at success for online environments. To assess the impact of the use of the system, the following analyses were carried out: to assess the level of sociocognitive processing that took place, discourse analysis and group interaction analysis were carried out; to assess impact on academic achievement, a quasi-experimental approach was carried out, controlling for select variables between the two groups which were used; and to garner the lessons which were learned, observation and survey methodology were employed. The results revealed that students did not interact at high levels of sociocognitive processing and that there was no significant difference in the academic achievement between the treatment and control groups. Survey results provided reasons for lack of participation/interaction and recommendations were proposed for alternative implementations to encourage participation in this particular group which is medical students.

The recent developments in social and mobile technologies have provided education specialists with a rich evolving field in which to harvest innovative methods of supporting students in online learning environments. It would be interesting to investigate how these new technologies can encourage active participation in support groups and the impact this support structure would have on academic achievement.

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