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Preservice teachers' response to an online learning community system (OLC) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

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Title:
Preservice teachers' response to an online learning community system (OLC) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Creator:
Altenaiji, Nedal Mohamed Shurbak
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Language:
English
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xiv, 164 leaves : ; 28 cm.

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Subjects / Keywords:
Student teachers -- United Arab Emirates ( lcsh )
Computer-assisted instruction -- United Arab Emirates ( lcsh )
Group work in education -- United Arab Emirates ( lcsh )
Computer-assisted instruction ( fast )
Group work in education ( fast )
Student teachers ( fast )
United Arab Emirates ( fast )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Thesis:
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, 2005.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 146-164).
General Note:
School of Education and Human Development
Statement of Responsibility:
by Nedal Mohamed Shurbak Altenaiji.

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University of Colorado Denver
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
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66525824 ( OCLC )
ocm66525824

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PRESERVICE TEACHERS' RESPONSE TO AN ONLINE LEARNING COMMUNITY SYSTEM (OLC) IN THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (UAE) by Nedal Mohamed Shurbak Altenaiji B.S., United Arab Emirates University, 1998 M.A., University of Colorado at Denver, 2002 A thesis submitted to the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Educational Leadership and Innovation 2005

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This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy degree by Nedal Mohamed Shurbak Altenaaji has been approved by Dr. Judith Duffield Dr. Joanna Dunlap Date

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Altenaiji, Nedal Mohamed Shurbak (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation) Preservice Teachers' Response to an Online Learning Community System (OLC) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Thesis directed by Professor Brent Wilson ABSTRACT The purpose of this study was to understand the effect of engaging preservice teachers in an online learning community (OLC) on their sense of community, technological proficiency, and attitude toward online learning. The web-based learning community was developed in two undergraduate courses at the College of Education in the United Arab Emirates University. Three main stages were identified for building an online learning community included Forming Community, Experiencing Community, and Functioning Effectively. A mixed-method design was used to understand how the preservices teachers utilized the online learning community (OLC) and how it affected their sense of community and technological skills. A total of 108 preservice female teachers participated in the study voluntarily and self-enrolled into the two courses of two sections each. A questionnaire was distributed to collect quantitative and qualitative data. Data analysis included: one-way ANCOV A to detect difference between the control and the treatment groups in the sense of community and the technological proficiency; paired sample t-test to examine the development in the technological iv

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proficiency before and after the treatment; and compare means to measure attitude toward online learning. Moreover, data collected from the interviews and the electronic messages lent triangulation to the study. Results indicated no significant differences in the preservice teachers' sense of community and technological competency among the treatment and the control groups. However, improvement in the technological proficiency was significant for the treatment groups at the end of the courses and not for the control groups. Participants indicated also positive attitudes toward using the online learning community for learning and social interaction. Results from the qualitative analyses showed large use of the online learning community for social support and reflective learning. The preservice teachers explained in the interviews that the OLC was useful on facilitating social relationship between learners. It supported learning and exchanging of information and facilitated the interaction with peers and the instructor. Active participants indicated improvement in the technological proficiency. Electronic messages demonstrated also different intellectual activities in which the community members engaged in. This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's thesis. I ( !Bre11tWiiSOI1 recommend its publication. Signed v

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DEDICATION To my wonderful parents, thank you from my deep heart for everything you do to me and be around and supportive in every minute in my life; thank you for giving me the chance to achieve this endeavor. To my best friend, thanks for being with me in every moment in spite of the thousands miles separating us. To all my brothers, sisters, friends, and people in my country United Arab Emirates, thank you for believing on me.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS First and foremost, my thanks and gratitude are specified to ALLAH (SWT) for giving me the strength and the ability to go forward in my study and attain a success in my life. I want also to acknowledge my advisor Dr. Brent Wilson for his spectacular support and continuous encouragement to reach my goals. My acknowledgment is directed also to the entire faculty and doctoral students of the School of Education at the University of Colorado at Denver for giving the support I needed and being another family. Special appreciation goes to Dr. Judy Duffield and Dr. Kenneth Wolf for giving their time and guidance to my work. I wish also to send my deep appreciation to all people in the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in the USA for all their help and support to make my learning journey easy and enjoyable.

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CONTENTS Figures........................................................................... xn Tables........................................................................... xn1 CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION........................................................... 1 Education and Technology in the UAE.................................... 1 Integration of Technology in the Education.......................... 2 E-leaming in the UAE.................................................... 4 The Problem....................... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 The Proposed Suggestion................................................ 7 Conceptual Framework................................................... 10 Research Questions....................................................... 16 Definitions......... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 17 Sense of Community................................................ 17 Perception.................................. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Method..................................................................... 18 2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE........................................ 20 Information aml Cummw1ication Technologies (ICTs) in Teacher Education................................................................... 20 Online Learning Communities (OLC) for Teacher Learning........ 22 viii

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Build Online Learning Community in Teacher Education .......... The Technology Frame .................................................. Technologies for Online Learning Communities .................... The Social Frame ........................................................ What do 'Learning', 'Community', and 'Learning C 'M ? ommun1ty ean ................................................................. What does Online Learning Community Mean? ................... Stages for Building Learning Community ........................ The Instruction Frame .................................................... Strategies for Developing Online Learning Communities .... Conclusion ................................................................ 3. METHODOLOGY ......................................................... Study Design .............................................................. Quantitative Method: Questionnaire ............................. Qualitative Method: Interviews and Electronic Messages ..... Sample Selection .......................................................... Subjects .............................................................. Setting ............................................................... Treatment ........................................................... Procedure ............................................................ Summary .................................................................... ix 24 24 26 30 31 32 33 36 37 39 42 44 45 49 50 50 52 52 53 56

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4. FINDINGS................................................................... 57 Sample Descriptive Statistics............................................ 58 Assumptions for ANCOV A.............................................. 59 Independence....................................................... 59 Homogeneity ofVariance.............................. .......... 59 Linearity............................................................ 59 Normality........................................................... 60 Summary of Results by Research Questions........................... 60 Interview Responses....................................................... 75 Effect on Interaction and Relationship.......................... 77 Effect on Technological Competence.............................. 82 Facilitate Learning................................................. 85 Analysis of the Electronic Conference Messages..................... 91 Use for Social Support............................... .. . .. ... .. 94 Use for Instructional Support.................................... 97 Technology-Use Support............................................ 101 Summary...................................................................... 103 5. DISCUSSION................................................................ 108 Sense of Community...................................................... 110 Technological Proficiency................................................ 112 Attitudes Toward Online Learning...................................... 114 X

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Findings from the Qualitative Analysis................................ 115 The Treatment Design........ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118 Quality ofthe Online Learning Community Treatment..... 123 Cultural Consideration................................ . . . . . 124 Recommendation.................................................. 126 Limitations with the Study.............................................. 128 Recommendations for Future Research........... . . . . . ... . .. ...... 130 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 132 APPENDIX A. QUESTIONNAIRE.................................................... 135 B. INTERVIEW QUESTIONS........................................... 141 C. ANCOVA ASSUMPTIONS TABLES.............................. 142 D. COURSE DESCRIPTIONS........................................... 144 REFERENCES................................................................... 146 xi

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FIGURES Figure 1.1 The Reference Model ofOLC ............. .............. 12 1.2 Stages in Building Online Learning Communities.... 13 4.1 Level of Participation of Course A Students........... 68 4.2 Level of Participation of Course B Students............ 68 5.1 Factors for Developing OLC........................... .. 122 xii

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TABLES Table 1.1 Themes from Literature........................................ 9 3.1 Data Collection Methods...................................... 43 3.2 Description of the Quantitative Instruments for Collecting Data.................................................. 48 3.3 Sample Statistics Description.................................. 51 3.4 Instructional Activities for Building an OLC.......... ..... 54 4.1 Descriptive Statistics........................................... 58 4.2 Descriptive Statistics........................................... 62 4.3 ANCOV ATests of Between-Subjects Effects............ 62 4.4 Descriptive StatisticsInteraction Subscale........ .... .. .. 64 4.5 ANCOV A-Tests of Between-Subjects Effects .. .. .... ... 64 4.6 Descriptive StatisticsConnectedness Subscale........ ... 64 4.7 ANCOVATests of Between-Subjects Effects............ 65 4.8 Treatment GroupsPaired Samples T -test Statistics for Technological Proficiency.................................... 66 4.9 Control GroupsPaired Samples T -test Statistics for Technological Proficiency.................................... 67 4.10 Percent of Logs by the OLC Area........................... 67 4.11 Descriptive Statistics.......................................... 70 xiii

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4.12 ANCOV ATests of Between-Subjects Effects ............ 70 4.13 Perceived Usefulness (PU) ..................................... 72 4.14 Perceived Ease of Use (PeoU) ................................ 72 4.15 Others' Influence .............................................. 72 4.16 Numbers of the Interviewees ................................. 76 4.17 Total Messages Posted on the OLC of Course A ......... 91 4.18 Total Messages Posted on the OLC of Course B .......... 92 4.19 Percentages of Active Participants .......................... 93 4.20 Themes Obtained from the Interview ........................ 104 4.21 Themes Obtained from the Electronic Messages .......... 106 C.1 Levene's Test of Equality of Error Variances .............. 142 C.2 Levene's Test of Equality of Error Variances .............. 142 C.3 Mauchly's Test of Sphericity (b) ............................. 143 C.4 Test ofNormality .............................................. 143 xiv

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CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Education and Technology in the UAE The systematic educational system started in the country in 1972. Since that time, education has been developed and expanded to provide highly standardized services from the primary level to the university. Most governmental and private schools, colleges and universities are separated according to gender with a strong focus on computer literacy and on English language teaching in higher education to equip young Emirates with the necessary skills (Ministry of Education, 2003). Arabic is the official language for learning and communication in the country. However, teaching in English is becoming the language for learning in most colleges and universities to meet the demands of the open and competitive market in the country. Thus, the education system takes the main mission to prepare youth with skills and knowledge to function effectively in the today's marketplace. The role of women in the UAE is considered essential, especially during the last 30 years. They have enthusiastically embraced all the educational opportunities provided in the country and taken a place in the employment market of around 40% of the total number of employees (ArabNet, 2002). Women are playing a significant role in the development process of the country of an obvious effect in two main fields, 1

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the education and the health services. In the education sector, for example, it is found that 55% ofprimary school teachers and 65% of intermediate and secondary school teachers are women (ArabNet, 2002). They are expected to shape the development of the education in the country, which require more involvement in the decision making and exchanging of experiences. Thus, finding means and strategies for exchanging knowledge and experience between the two parts of the community are essential to enhance the role of women in the development process. Information and communication technologies are considered important to be integrated in the education system. They have been promoted as a platform that provides opportunities for learning and training as well as support interaction and exchanging of knowledge. Learning supported by technologies is suggested to bring people of different gender, place, and background without consideration of time and not depended on time or place. Therefore, educational institutions strive to embrace pioneering strategies to integrate ICTs technologies in education. Integration of Technology in the Education In line with the current trends to integrate information and communication technologies (ICTs) in education, UAE emphasizes the need to use technologies in all educational levels. This emphasis comes in response to the needs to facilitate learning and teaching, and increase access to learning opportunities. 2

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The Vision 2020 program is one of the reform projects launched by the Ministry ofEducation in 19981999 to improve education in the country. The project underlined strategies to provide schools with the latest instructional technologies and educational resources to promote self-learning and continuous education programs (Ministry ofEducation and Youth, 2004). The IT Education Project {ITEP) was also established in 2001 to complement the efforts for providing schools with the latest ICTs through installing computer labs in all schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi as a first stage to be implemented eventually in all other emirates. The project provided all participating schools with high-speed Internet connections and video conferencing facilities. In order to support teachers, the ITEP project established IT Academies for teacher training. Moreover, the project established an online community for learners and educators in the region to share knowledge, and an online market for offering products from the world's leading IT companies {IT Portal, 2003). In addition to that, technology in all colleges and universities in UAE is rapidly becoming a way of life for learners and educators. Classrooms are equipped with various technologies (i.e. computers, projectors, smart boards) and wireless cover giving instant access to the Internet and the World Wide Web. This wide access to the Internet provided the base for the development of eleaming. Thus, teachers and learners in the UAE now possess laptops and use them 3

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regularly to meet the learning goals and develop modes of e-learning (Raj & Bukey, 2002). E-learning in the literature is defined as the use oflnternet technologies to deliver a broad array of solutions that enhance learning and training (Rosenberg, 2001). E-learning in the UAE E-learning is gaining momentum in the UAE ... The major demands that urge us to bring in e-Learning programs are shortage in faculty and staff, the cultural background of male and female students, and the need to continue education --Abdullah Karam, 2002 E-learning has become a major priority in the UAE. The launch of the Dubai Electronic Government in 2001 caused a huge change in the steps directed toward elearning. Although the intention of the E-govemment is mainly to facilitate government works, it facilitates various e-learning projects in the country such as Dubai Internet City and its Knowledge Village (Karam, 2002). This rapid development of the country in the business and the IT industry increased the demand for innovative leaders with skills, knowledge and experiences who demonstrated leadership, confidence, and excellent communication. The education system has been required to meet the needs of a fast development society. 4

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Educational institutions, in response, are encouraged to embrace e-1earning programs to provide more flexibility for learning in the country. The problem, however, is that although e-learning can provide tremendous benefits, educators, students, and learning organizations need to understand this technology to use it well (Karam, 2002). Moreover, although the Internet continues to expand rapidly, most electronic communication networks are used effectively by only a relatively small proportion of educators (Wells & Anderson, 1997). The Problem Research on the use ofiCTs in learning has been conducted and continues to be investigated. One of the most prominent areas of research has been on the use of the electronic learning networks and the online learning communities in teacher learning and preparation (i.e. Beirnacka, & Puvirajah, 2003; Brook & Oliver, 2002; Barnett, 2001; Hoadley, Roschelle, & Nason, 1999; Brown, Ellery & Campione, 1998; Schlager, Schank, 1997; Pennell & Firestone, 1996; Honey & Henriquez, 1993; Merseth, 1991). However, the claims about the power of e-learning and electronic learning networks for teachers raise even more questions when considering the findings of a recent survey completed in the US (Becker, 1999). The survey results show that despite the fact that over 90% of teachers had access to the Internet, either at home or in the classroom, only 16% communicated by e-mail with teachers from other schools 5

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as often as five times during the school year. Furthermore, over 2, 250 teachers from all over the country responded to the survey, only 18% explained that they began to post and share information, suggestions, opinions, or student work through the Web, or engaged in online learning activities. Technology used by teachers in the United Arab Emirates is not better. In a study that included 829 in-service teachers from different schools around the country, Alghazo (2004) explained that very few teachers use the Internet for collecting information and communicating with others. The study revealed that although teachers in UAE do have positive attitudes toward computer technologies; they lack the understanding of the use of the information and communication technologies (ICTs) in education (Alghazo, 2004). Teachers in UAE use computer technologies mainly for presentation, typing work sheets, and recording students' grades. The frequency ofiCTs use in these types of work-probably during their preparation programs -explains the reason for integrating ICTs in this type of work as opposed to others (Alghazo, 2004). On the other hand, preservice teachers gain limited experience of the use of information and communication technologies and online learning networks for learning and interaction (Becker, 1999; Zhao & Rop, 2001). They posted electronic responses only because it was a course requirement (Thomas, Clift, & Sagurmoto, 1996; Rovai, 2002). The instructors' messages had the highest priority, whereas their peers' messages had relatively low priority. Reflective exchanges typically occurred 6

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between faculty and students and were not shared with peers, which might reinforce student teachers' perceptions that learning only comes through individual reflection rather than extended social discourse with others (Thomas, Clift, & Sagurmoto, 1996). The question to be raised here is why do more teachers not benefit from, or use, the ICTs technologies to improve their learning and profession (Zhao & Rop, 2001)? One explanation offered by Becker (1999) is the limited opportunities that teachers have had to see the use of these technologies in their practice. Technology is mostly introduced as isolated literacy concepts or add-on elements. The Proposed Suggestion We stay abreast of new technological developments and innovative learning systems so as to give our students the skills and attributes they need to succeed in a global work environment. We strive to develop graduates who are prepared for the future, ready for the changing needs of the workplace, and trained for a life of ongoing learning and professional success. --Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, 2004 Teachers in UAE are expected to be prepared for the revolution in information access brought about by the ICTs for their continuous learning and professional development (College of Education, 2001 ). Achieving this goal involves exposing teachers to technology-based learning experiences that show the obvious applications ofiCT technologies in education (Kearsley & Shneiderman, 1999). 7

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The notion of an Online Learning Community system (OLC) as a technology supported learning environment is suggested to provide teachers with opportunities to experience creative use of ICTs in education, as well as enhance interaction and access to learning (Hew & Cheung, 2003). With the advent of synchronous and asynchronous online tools, teachers can be engaged in reflective discussions, accessing various information resources, and constructing and disseminating knowledge (Schlager & Schank, 1997). Furthermore, engaging teachers in an OLC is suggested to enhance their technological proficiency by integrating ICTs into their learning and facilitate introducing learning technologies in context, not just basic computer literacy (Boling, 2003). More importantly, it would increase technology acceptance for learning and educational purposes which can have a long term affect on teachers on their continuous learning (Yu, 1998; Kenny, 2003). Table (1.1) introduces themes that emerged after reviewing relevant research on the effectiveness of teacher electronic networks and online learning communities. 8

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Table 1 1 Themes from Literature Themes Description Technology use Expand opportunities to learn using ICTs technologies in support context (i.e. sending and receiving electronic messages, interacting using synchronous and asynchronous tools, searching the World Wide Web to access reference materials and/or conduct research electronically, view or download online materials, using computer applications to prepare and complete work such as word processor, graphics program, etc. and share those works electronically with others) (Boling, 2003, Hew & Cheung, 2003, Kenny, 2003). Learning support Increase access to learning opportunities and educational resources. Facilitate sharing of ideas and disseminating of knowledge. Encourage reflective discussions and collaborative learning (Roddy, 1999). Social support Infuse Sense of Community and connectedness (i.e. feel less isolated, increase the flow of information among learners to promote relationship, receive support and feedback from others, trust others in the course) (Cohen, 2000; Dede, 1996). Overcome difficulties of time and space that increase connectedness (Zhao & Rop, 1999). 9

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Conceptual Framework Three frames Social, Instruction, and Technology are found essential in the study ofOLCs (Seufert, Lechner, & Stanoevska, 2002; Carlen, et. al, 2003). The Reference Model for Online Learning Communities involves these three frames in its four views: the Community view, Implementation view, Service view, and Infrastructure view (Figure 1.1) (Seufert, Lechner, & Stanoevska, 2002). The Community View of the model defines the "organizational model" of the community, the goal of the community, its language and the organization in terms of roles and protocols that needed to be determined. It is a step for the identification of the community agents with their interests and the common logical space for capturing the information (Seufert, Lechner, & Stanoevska, 2002). This view is concerned with defining the social and cultural aspects of the OLC. The Implementation View characterizes the "interaction design" where the architecture of the learning platform is to be determined. This architecture describes the mapping of the community view to services and technology in scenarios and workflow processes to meet the community requirements. In this view, the sequence oflearning steps is implemented in a workflow with the "scenario" of services. For example, a service for communicating knowledge, such as online material and information on assignments and how the requirements of an assignment can be met, is provided. The focus here is more on the design decision of the platform, such as how far the learning methods are to be implemented on the platform, the degree in which 10

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the capability of information processing is being utilized, and how the language used for learning is translated to formal representations to be utilized by the services technology. The platform has the ability to provide the means for interaction, to supervise the actors, to control them, or have them work in a loose way (Seufert, Lechner, & Stanoevska, 2002). The Service View constitutes the "channel design" of the community that determines the transport and transfer of knowledge. It includes several basic services such as, services for content management, task analysis and learning objectives, negotiation and management of learning tasks and for evaluation of the learning results. The community members (e.g. lecturers, students, alumni, etc.) may also obtain knowledge about the behavior expected from them, background knowledge about each other, about the communication channels in which to exchange information, and about the protocols and guidelines to follow in communication. Knowledge about the community, its members, and the medium are also provided and communicated. In this view, community agents negotiate to obtain commitments, meet the intended learning objectives and tasks, and provide feedback as part of the community development process (Seufert, Lechner, & Stanoevska, 2002). These two views focus on resources, strategies and conditions required for developing online learning communities. The Infrastructure View designs the "technological model" and provides communication, coordination and collaboration components. These components are 11

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utilized to implement the services and the processes that connect those services. The design decision to be made at this level concerns which technology and which components to employ in order to implement the services (Seufert, Lechner, & Stanoevska, 2002). Community Organizational Design view Campus community: roles, protocols, Language Classroom community: roles, Protocols, Languages Implementation Interaction Design view Campus Scenarios: Course Management, Social Processes Classroom Scenarios: Learning Process in Courses Service Channel Design View Campus services/ Classroom Services Information content management, Learning objectives and tasks, negotiation course design, course delivery and evaluation Infrastructure Technological design View (Internet (www), Intranet, Groupware, synchronous/asynchronous Communications Technologies, Content-Management-Systems, Course Authoring Tools, etc.) Figure 1.1 The Reference Model ofOLC (Seufert, et al., 2002) The model divides OLC into campus and classroom communities (Seufert, Lechner, & Stanoevska, 2002) that make the model complex to apply (Carlen, Jobring, Qvistgard, & Nilsen, 2003). Strategies and requirements for community building in a classroom might be different from that for a campus. Moreover, building online learning communities is an intricate process that develops through various stages. Developing a community of learners, for instance, goes through three main stages: Forming a Community, Experiencing Community, and Functioning Effectively (Brody & Davidson, 1998). Each stage involves different activities and 12

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different tools. Therefore, learning strategies are varied throughout the community development stages. Different learning activities or curriculum are needed at the three stages Initiation Curriculum, Experiencing Community Curriculum, and Closure Curriculum (Evans & Nicholson, 2003) (see fig 2.2). Stages are discussed in details later in chapter 2. (Social Frame) Community View (Instruction Frame) Implantation and service view (Technology Frame) Infrastructure view 0 f d rgamza 10n es1gn Forming Experiencing Functioning Community r-Community r-Effectively Setting roles, protocols, language, and scenarios for internc.tinn I t f n erac 1on an d h c anne ld es1gn Initiation Experiencing Closure Curriculum -Community ,_ Curriculum Curriculum Provide services of information content, learning objectives negotiation course design, course delivery and evaluation Technological design (Internet (WWW}, Intranet, Groupware, Synchronous/asynchronous communication technology, content-management-systems, course authoring tools, etc Figure 1.2 Stages in Building Online Learning Communities The socio-cultural theory and the constructivism underlie the learning process in online learning communities. According to the socio-cultural theory, interactions between individuals are considered both the means for and the results of learning (Jaramillo, 1996). Individual learning is seen as the product of the active social 13

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mediation of others who may be an educator or a peer, and occurs as people participate in shared activities with others (Putnam & Borko, 2000). For constructivists, learners construct an internal personal representation of knowledge, and the richness and utility of this representation depends on the degree to which learners integrate new knowledge with their existing knowledge base (Putnam & Borko, 2000). Restructuring knowledge requires learners to build a meaningful personal representation of experience that cannot be transmitted or memorized (Speck & Knipe, 2001, p 218). Therefore, learners in the constructivist environment are encouraged to share views and strategies and develop multiple perspectives. Such multiple perspectives provide learners with flexibility and support in reorganizing their knowledge base and contributing to the strategies for organizing new experiences (Speck & Knipe, 2001). In online learning communities, learners can actively construct their knowledge through participation in reflective dialogue. The asynchronous conferencing process, for example, enables learners to reply to someone's message after having enough time to think and prepare a reply. This process provides more opportunities for reflection (Ramondt & Chapman, 1998). However, for online learners to construct meaning from interaction and discussion among participants, social presence is essential in order to serve as the generator of increased learning and satisfaction (Spencer, 2000). An increase in the participants' level of social presence would be expected to lead to increased learning on their part. The social presence theory defines this as the sense of 'intimacy and 14

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immediacy' or 'we are together' feeling, leading to increased enjoyment, involvement, task performance, persuasion, and socio-emotional interaction (Spencer, 2000). Moreover, learning is viewed primarily as a process of enculturation into a community of learners (Yarger, Thomas, Boysen, & Martino, 1998, Putnam & Borko, 2000), which requires learners to build social relationship with learners in the community in order to have the ability to talk and share ideas. In the context of information technologies, the Social Information Processing Model (SIPM) one of the distinctive approaches that study attitudes toward technology-assumes that attitudes toward technology are influenced by the interaction between learners, and affected by opinions, information, and behaviors of salient others (Salancik and Pfeffer, 1978; Lee, Cho, Gay, & Davidson, 2003). Therefore, one's attitude toward using technology is influenced by the way he/she evaluates it positively and the way people around evaluate and use it (Rogers, 1986; Ajzen & Fishben, 1980; Spencer, 2000). The more one evaluates new technology as useful, the more he/she is likely to use it. Likewise, the perception of any system is influenced by the way people around the individual evaluate and use the system (Lee, Cho, Gay, & Davidson, 2003). In an Online Learning Community, learners are expected to perceive the effectiveness of ICTs through personal experience and through interaction with other members in the community. Moreover, the focus on continual collaboration encourages learners to use computer and software 15

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environments as mind tools that would increase their technology competence (Brown, Collins, & Durgid, 1989). This study is significant because it will add to the existing knowledge base concerning the capabilities of information and learning technologies (ICTs) to facilitate and increase access to learning. More specifically, it will inform teacher educators' understanding ofhow to integrate technologies in their practices and use them to promote community building for reflective practices in teacher education. The study also spotlights the importance of the social dimension to the online learning experiences and to infuse a spirit of connectedness among learners (through building online communities) to increase positive attitudes and perceptions toward using technologies for learning. Research Questions The purpose of this study is to understand preservice teachers' response to an Online Learning Community created during their course study. A group of preservice teachers from the College of Education in the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) participated in an Online Learning Community created on the College Blackboard system (A Web-based course management system to support flexible teaching and learning). Questions that were examined are: 16

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1. How do preservice teachers perceive their "Sense of Community" as a result of their online participation? As compared with the non-participants control group? 2. What level of technology competencies do preservice teachers report before and after online participation? 3. Is there a significant difference in perceived technology proficiency between users and nonusers of the Online Learning Community? 4. How do preservice teachers perceive the usefulness of an online community for their learning? 5. What features of the Online Learning Community are found useful? And what are the difficulties or problems that emerged? Definitions Sense of Community Feelings that are established when a group of people are able to discover their similarities, differences, and shared sense of purpose. Members in a community have the feelings of belonging and a shared faith to meet their members' needs (Eby & Kujawa 1994). It involves shared spirit, trust, and connectedness. 17

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Perception In the context of information technologies, users formulate a positive perception toward the technology when they perceive it to be useful and easy to use. Perceived usefulness is the degree to which a person believes that the use of technology will produce better outcomes (Lee, Cho, Gay, & Davidson, 2003). Method In order to study the effectiveness of engaging preservice teachers in an Online Learning Community, a mixed-method design seemed an appropriate approach to conduct this study. Reeves (2002) mentioned that using a mixed approach helps draw a more complete picture of what happens when technology is used in helping people to learn. The combination of quantitative and qualitative methods for collecting data provides greater depth of information, because behavior can be linked to explanation. Owston (2000) also explained that there is a value in mixing quantitative and qualitative methodologies when evaluating Web-based learning. He believes that this flexibility of mixing methodologies allows the researcher to focus on the research question rather than the research paradigm. Thus, the evaluator is free to choose which method helps answer a specific research question. 18

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The quantitative part of this study involved preservice teachers completing a questionnaire at the beginning and at the end of the spring semester 2005. The researcher also developed semi-structured interview questions and selected interviewees from the pool of participants who completed the pre/post questionnaire. In addition to that, the electronic messages collected from the courses OLC were analyzed as the qualitative portion of the study. 19

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CHAPTER2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE The Internet offers the opportunity to create online learning communities where we can benefit from the casual interactions that help to create classroom communities. --Montgomery & Little, 1997 Research on the information and communication technologies (ICTs) and learning communities systems has been focused prominently on the effect on teaching and learning, and on the tools and strategies needed for developing online learning communities. For this study purpose, the literature review focuses on (a) the effect of using (ICTs) technologies for teacher learning and (b) the development of online learning communities in teacher education. Information and Communication Technologies CICTs) in Teacher Education ICTs have changed the way people interact, relate to each other, and even learn. They mediate communication between people, change social space, and alter roles and relationships in society (Garvin & Tropman, 1992). In learning, ICTs have the potential to change the dynamics of traditional classroom interactions. Rather than the instructor solely establishing the conditions for learning, the learner has the 20

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opportunity, through listservs, chat rooms, and threaded discussions, to influence the social, emotional, and instructional environment as a learning community (Morgret, 2002). The reasons that information and communication technologies (ICTs) have been used for teacher learning are closely related to the challenges in helping teachers become better professionals (Zhao & Rop, 2001). ICTs facilitate communication across distances and help teachers reach collaborators and professional colleagues beyond their immediate physical situation (Morgret, 2002). Thus, they have been identified as a way to address the problems associated with professional isolation and help overcome difficulties oftime and space (Zhao & Rop, 1999). Moreover, ICTs have the potential to individualize professional development that meets the different learning styles of learners and facilitate interaction with colleagues who share particular interests and needs in contexts which can be shaped to fit their own scheduling preferences (Zhao & Rop, 1999). In addition to that, the features of ICTs encourage the reflection needed for long-term teacher growth (Morgret, 2002). Written interaction, one technique for reflection, allows time to carefully shape discourse and enable participation for teachers who resist the pace of face-to-face exchange. Network interactions also offer various degrees of anonymity. For some individuals, this may encourage a freedom of expression and comfort level that allows them to address issues that they may not otherwise feel comfortable to share with colleagues (Zhao & Rop, 1999). Thus, 21

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information and communication technologies were found helpful to eliminate some of the teachers' barriers for reflection and help enhance their teaching practices (Morgret, 2002). Online Learning Communities (OLC) for Teacher Learning Online learning communities (OLC) were found beneficial for teachers in providing them with valuable moral and learning support (Merseth, 1991 ). Electronic mailing lists, for example, were used for beginning teachers who felt isolated and more willing to engage in sharing ideas and discussing classroom issues (Roddy, 1999). This electronic network helped teachers engage in dialogue and conversations that were focused primarily on giving and receiving emotional and moral support, as well as, curriculum and teaching concerns (Gunn, 1995; Roddy, 1999). Additionally, it enhanced the social relationships and sense of community among learners (Merseth, 1991 ). Likely, the social relationships incorporated in an OLC could enhance teachers' perceptions toward learning and collaboration using ICTs (Lee, Cho, Gay, & Davidson, 2003). In preservice teachers' field placement classes, Cohen, (2000) found that creating an Online Learning Community provided supportive and nurturing relationships between learners (Cohen, 2000, p 5). Additionally, by participating in an OLC, preservice teachers acquired advanced technology skills which allowed them to 22

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make better use of the Internet to locate resources and network with colleagues (Kenny, 2003). In addition to these benefits, engaging teachers in OLC enables cooperative curriculum development, facilitates the dissemination of information, and provides easy access to curricular materials. A study, for instance, on the impact of network communication on enhancing university supervision of elementary science teachers in clinical field sites found that most communications between the science teachers involved seeking help and approval in lesson planning, in selection of alternative classroom activities, and in decisions about classroom management (Sunal & Sunal, 1992). Teachers in the study indicated that they had the opportunity to try out new ideas, test their assumptions, and ask questions in the company of other learners who have the same interests. Thus, Carlen, at el. (2003) described the capabilities ofOLC as an extension of traditional campus-based learning and a supportive tool for activities. 23

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Build Online Learning Community in Teacher Education Unfortunately little scientific research exists to guide the development of a virtual learning community. --Brook & Oliver, 2002 A learning community has the ability to instill a spirit of acceptance and connectedness among learners that facilitates sharing and reflection on their personal knowledge (Ebenezer, at.el, 2002). Active participation in the learning communities is considered significant in fostering social relationships and infusing a sense of community and acceptance. This entails careful selection of technological infrastructure and an instructional context are required to facilitate participation and interaction. The Technology, Social, and Instructional frames ofOLC that Seufert al. (2002) suggested in chapter one conceptualize these various issues. The Technology Frame The use of ComputerMediated Communication (CMC), in the last decade, has been widely adopted as an effective instructional medium in education. The concept of online communities has then emerged through people's use of CMC (Hung & Chen, 2000). Text-based CMC is one of the predominant tools that have been used widely to support online learning processes (Hiltz, 1995). Computermediated communication (CMC) refers to human communication via computers that mainly support three types of service: e-mail, computer conferencing, and online 24

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databases (Hung & Chen, 2000). Various courseware packages, such as WebCT and Blackboard, provide web-based educational environments comprising communicative tools for communications and discussions, Web pages for presenting information, and administrative tools for teachers to keep class records and prepare assignments (Hiltz, 1995). E-mail and bulletin boards are examples of asynchronous text-based CMC that allow people to use them at any place, any time. These tools are suitable for learners who are in different places and time zones to communicate or collaborate at their convenience. Using synchronous applications such as chat rooms and videoconferencing, also considered an excellent means for developing social relations among learners, as the real-time nature of the chat allows for spontaneous comments and learner expression. These various tools support online communities by creating a feeling of social presence and promoting identity and trust (Na Ubon, 2002). The most important consideration in designing technologies to support online leaning communities is to keep them simple. More advanced technologies do not necessarily support building OLC (Na Ubon, 2002). Good technology must be easy to access, as well as easy and flexible enough for learners to use. Therefore, success in building online learning communities requires the appropriate selection of technology tools to create easy and accessible environments for learning. This selection of technology should be based on desired learning 25

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outcomes, not on the availability of existing technology (Deubel, 2003). The capacity of software and network technologies strongly influences the quality of interaction and the ability to build functioning virtual communities (Roblyer & Ekhaml, 2000). Appropriate selection involves understanding the strengths and limitations of different network technologies. Technologies for Online Learning Communities The design decision to be made at this phase is which technology and which components to employ. There is a wide range of technologies to support online learning communities such as: Electronic Mail: This allows one-to-one message transfer among learners (individual and group) with instructors or with guest experts in the field. It also allows for participation in listserv groups (Montgomery & Little, 1997). Chat Technology: This facilitates interactions within synchronous virtual classrooms and allows for the exchange of information. The synchronous nature of virtual classrooms via teleconference or chat is a highly effective means of establishing personal identity and developing relationships within an online community. It provides participants with a shared feeling of presence that reinforces their membership in the community (Adams & Freeman, 2003). For that reason, these types of technologies are often a key component of communities that have 26

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minimal or no face-to-face contact. Chat technologies foster not only eventorientated exchanges but also enable community members to reach out to each other. Chat tools can be used to hold office hours, question-and-answer sessions, group discussions, or to provide technical support to members of an Online Learning Community (Adams & Freeman, 2003). Additionally, this tool provides real-time communication among students (individual and group), with instructors or with experts. Often the chat rooms display learners' names and a list of participants in each room. The Course Conferencing System: This allows communication among all course participants. Some conferencing systems can be searched (new and old articles) for content, sender, or date of sending. In many of the packages, articles can have included URLs, which are clickable. When a message is posted, subsequent messages can be linked back to the original, or they can be listed as a subset ofthe original (Montgomery & Little, 1997). Examples of these include: NetForum and Bulletin or Message Boards. Message boards are an effective tool for supporting a learning community because they allow a group of people to engage in online conversations organized around interests, occupations, or anything else at their own discretion. The ability to maintain an asynchronous (not real-time) conversation is increasingly important when members ofthe community live in different time zones or are offline during different periods of the day (Montgomery & Little, 1997). 27

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Video Conferencing: This is the real time interaction utilized to join people with full two-way audio and video communication between several locations. The term is actually applied to a wide range of situations, from live video lecturing to large audiences, to point-to-point, individual-to-individual desktop PC chats. Reasons for using video conferencing are varied; including social contact, telepresence, group coherence, increased access to students, teachers, or experts, broadens the learning experience, distributed, virtual classes, cultural understanding, and language learning (Coventry, 1998). User Profile Pages: Online community Web pages generally consist of content that is shared globally: course description pages, community guidelines, a calendar of events, and other resources. The role of such content in the Online Learning Community is information distribution. A specific type of Web page that is often overlooked, but that can be vital to community participation, is the user profile page (Adams & Freeman, 2003). User profile pages provide community members with an opportunity to share information about their interests, education, skills, and other aspects of their personal backgrounds. The information that is requested from and shared among members via these profile pages is largely dictated by community needs and preferences (Adams & Freeman, 2003). Being able to perform searches or browse through the user profiles and find or reach members who share similar interests provides community members with a means to network and collaborate socially. There are also additional benefits such as: a) helping learners and instructors 28

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prepare for classes by previewing member backgrounds and experience with a topic; b) helping community members locate needed expertise and knowledge; c) encouraging communication among community members; d) enriching e-mail, online, and telephone communication by associating a "face" with a screen name; e) and assisting in the negotiation of meaning by providing credentials, experiences, and background on any individual who contributes to community content (Adams & Freeman, 2003). In addition to the appropriate selection of technology tools that is critical for providing a highly functional and easy-to-use service, technical support is needed to make these learning communities work. Minimizing the technical difficulty of the on line experience is particularly important in such e-leaming projects, which depend upon the regular and substantive contributions of its members. Honey and Henriquez (1993) explained that when participants are discouraged by technical hurdles, they become less likely to ever develop a natural on-line voice. If, on the other hand, they experience the technology as relatively transparent, they will be far more likely to quickly create an on-line style, and a consistent way of representing themselves that is comfortable. 29

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The Social Frame Most learning professionals today agree that "community" represents an increasingly important trend in e-learning, blended learning, and organizational learning (Kaplan, 2002). The need to be in a group for both "what people learn" and "how" (Brown & Duguid, 2000, p 126) enhances the interest to develope-based learning communities in various educational environments whether that setting is an individual classroom, a school, or a teacher education program (Peterson, 1992). Thus, the concept of online learning communities has become a major theme for teacher education and professional development during the last decade (Lieberman, 1995; Wenger, 1998). Building a sense of community is considered a key ingredient for having a successful online learning experience (Wilson, 2002). The challenge, however, is that an understanding of 'community' is ambiguous. Communities come by many names learning communities, knowledge communities, e-communities, corporate communities, and communities of practice. The concept is often further obfuscated through being equated to technology, such as discussion boards, chat rooms, etc. (Kaplan, 2002). Moreover, how to build learning communities in cyberspace and infuse a sense of connectedness among learners is another challenge still not well examined. 30

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What do 'Learning', 'Community', and 'Learning Community' Mean? The common perception about learning is that it happens as a direct result of exposure to new information, as if at the moment ofhearing new information, we "learn" (McLaughlin & Oberman, 1996). Learning is much more complex than acquisition of certain forms of knowledge. It is supported by "multiple experiences and social interactions, rather than by solitary drill and rote memorization." (McLaughlin & Oberman, 1996, p 23) It further takes place in the relationships between people, in the conditions that bring people together (Wenger, 1998) where learning does not belong to individual persons, but to the various conversations of which they are a part (Smith, 2003). This leads to a critical question of what kinds of social engagements provide the proper context for learning to take place. Thus, Wenger (1998) believes that learning involves participation in a learning community. Community, moreover, is a much argued concept (Stuckey, Hedberg, Lockyer, 2001). What constitutes a community, and how it is formed, are still not quite defined (Barb & Duffy, 2000). Spirit, trust, mutual interdependence among members, interactivity, shared values and beliefs, and common expectations are defined as essential elements of community (Rovai, 2002). A definition for community in teaching and learning settings, as Shaffer and Anundsen (1993) describe, is "a dynamic whole" that emerges when a group: participates in common practices; depends upon one another; makes decisions together; identifies themselves as part of 31

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something larger than the sum of their individual relationships; and commits themselves to their own, one another's and the groups' well being (p. 14). A group formed in response to external forces is noted as a "community of place," and the group formed in response to internal forces is a "community of interest" (Kong, 1999, p 3). A learning community is both (Schlager & Schank, 1997; Cooper, 2003). Learning community, however, is an old idea that was established in earlier education traditions. Its roots go back to "Alexander Meiklejohn and John Dewey in the 1920s." (Gabelnick, MacGregor, Mathews, & Smith, 1990, pll) Learning community is defined as a group of people who care about a common set of issues and who share and develop knowledge through accessible communication tools (Wenger, 1999). A community of teachers is characterized by a focus on student learning, peer collaboration, and reflective dialog that provides social and normative support (Smylie & Allensworth, 2001). What does Online Learning Community Mean? The developing technologies have the ability to expand social environments that facilitate building online learning communities (Grubb & Hines, 2000). From a technology perspective, a learning community is a group of learners who use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to acquire new skills and understand new concepts (Department of the Navy, n.d). They share ideas, pose questions, and work together to solve problems. An Online Learning Community 32

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(OLC) is then defined as a learning atmosphere, a context providing a supportive system from which sustainable learning processes are gained through dialogue and collaborative construction of knowledge (Carlen, 2003). Stages for Building Online Learning Community Developing a learning community is found to be a slow, often difficult, process (Brody & Davidson, 1998). Sufficient time and effort are needed for Forming Community, Experiencing Community, and Functioning Effectively (Brody & Davidson, 1998). The stage ofForming Community involves introducing learners to each other and encouraging "strong standards of quality and honoring of diversity, so that each member will come to find other's place physically, emotionally, and mentally within the growing community." (Brody & Davidson, 1998, p 295) Some special efforts must be taken, such as offering opportunities to exchange information like names, interests, skills, experiences, aspirations, and areas where support is desrired (Shaw, 1992). Learners at this level start making on-line acquaintances or friends with whom similarities are found (Brown, 2001 ). Sometimes the similarities could be in location or academic background. Sometimes they are in commitment or motivation, or similarities in circumstance. "Regardless, learners who found similarities began interacting on a regular basis and forming community." (Brown, 2001, p 22) 33

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In the Experiencing Community stage, community members need to know what they want to accomplish. They need to form deeper connections, to learn to communicate in ways that convey empathy for one another's feelings, and respect for each other's opinions (Brody & Davidson, 1998). Once learners start to recognize their shared goals, they can develop a common language to engage in discussion as they construct the meaning of new knowledge. Kauchak and Eggen (1997) present the idea that in order to develop a culture and a sense of community; you must have a shared sense of purpose within that culture where each individual can develop a sense of identity that bonds him or her to the unit. They go on to say that culture refers to the attitudes, values, beliefs, and ways of acting and interacting that characterize a social group, which include the attitudes and beliefs we have about learning and the views we have about schools and classrooms (Evans & Nicholson, 2003). Moreover, a sense of trust must be developed within participants. Schlager & Schank ( 1997) suggested that "If a viable and vibrant on-line community of teachers is to form, it is necessary for the on-line participants to have an established sense of trust. Infusing a sense of trust requires sustained interaction developed around common goals, joint tasks, important sharing and meetings one another's needs on a regular basis (Brody & Davidson, 1998). In the online environment, Brown (2001) describes experiencing the community stage as if "learners are being like a membership card for the community of learners. What gained them membership into the community is being part of a long, thoughtful, threaded discussion on a subject of importance to all." (p 34

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20) The inclusion in discussion is then significant because the ideas learners offer are accepted by others and are considered worthy for further discussion. At the conclusion of the discussion, learners feel personal satisfaction in their own knowledge and ability to communicate (Brown, 2001). By participating in shared experiences, learners are able to discover their similarities and differences, and acquire a shared sense of purpose. Community begins to reach the Functioning Effectively stage (Brody & Davidson, 1998). A sense of community and a shared purpose grow at this stage from open communication between learners and a realistic understanding of each others' perceptions and needs (Eby & Kujawa 1994). Community at this stage often encounters much internal resistance and obstacles where members fall into struggles. If these trials are handled creatively, members will learn to address challenges and relevant content and produce community in order to celebrate its success. They may also share this success with others through, for example, publishing written work or presenting results to others (Brody & Davidson, 1998, p 295). Brown (200 1) describes this third stage as "the highest level of community." 35

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The Instruction Frame The common interest for an Online Learning Community is learning, which distinguishes it from other online communities (Seufert, Lechner, & Stanoevska, 2002). The express purpose to learn creates the learning atmosphere in an OLC system. Learning can be an explicit or an implicit activity depending on each individual or group of members (Carlen, 2003). The type of learning that takes place in this environment is more learner centered. Learners, in such environment, work collaboratively and depend on each other for learning. This type of learning involves active participation that maintains a sense of connections (Wenger, 1998). The collaborative work helps learners to present individual opinions and use the help of fellow learners to test the validity of new ideas. The collaboration also helps eliminate learner fears of working alone via technology (Department of the Navy, n.d). Thus, learning, and perhaps the community itself, is a process that either occurs or is formed at the intersection of the social organization of an environment and the activities expected and conducted by participants in a particular setting (Renninger & Shumar, 2002). This process necessitates learners' engagement to communicate expectations as well as to clarify goals in order to perceive themselves as part of a learning community with a sense of presence. As a result, several strategies are needed to facilitate learners' engagement. 36

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Strategies for Developing Online Learning Communities Learning strategies are varied throughout the community development stages. At the Forming Community stage, a Curriculum of Initiation is primarily required. Learning in this stage is more concerned with whom participants will communicate and what tools or technologies will use (Renninger & Shumar, 2002). Learners here need to share information about their areas of interest, talents, likes and dislikes, and what they would like others to know about them. They can post introductions along with their fears and expectations. Such background information would allow members to know about others and understand similarities and differences. Online discussions for social exchange would also provide learners with a sense of presence in an online environment, and allow their personalities to come through to others in the group. Furthermore, participators in online environments need initial technical information that can be varied according to the complexity of the technology utilized and the technology background of participants. The availability of adequate technical support is always a vital factor in the success of any online endeavor (Nonis, Bronack, & Heaton, 2000). The curriculum associated with the Experiencing Community stage involves various activities to enable learners to share goals, engage in common experiences, and develop a shared language within a community of learners (Evans & Nicholson, 2003). Initially, learners can go through a series of conversations and discussions. Discussions, however, must be grounded in areas of professional relevance where 37

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teachers can express and relate their personal experiences (Nonis, Bronack & Heaton, 2000). Teachers, for example, can identify significant learning events that affect them as teachers and share personal beliefs about teaching and learning. Or, when possible, they can create a homepage which others in the group can visit. Some courseware applications allow for the creation of a homepage, complete with graphics and links to other sites on the Internet that are favorites of the person who created the page. This can be a wonderful way for teachers to let others in the group know who they are and with whom they might connect (Palloff & Pratt, 1999, p 15). Furthermore, teachers can be immersed in a constructivist approach for learning, such as small group discussions and collaborative learning. Collaborative activities are found to be a distinctive feature of online learning communities that promote active participation and facilitate social construction ofknowledge (Grubb &Hines, 2000; Pall off & Pratt, 1999; Stacey, 1999). An example of collaborative activities that promote interaction and reflective learning would be encouraging teachers to design lesson plans, apply them in the classroom, and share with others in the OLC what they learned. The act of reflection is significant in building the Online Learning Community and changing perceptions. It allow learners to recognize their shared goals, use a common language to engage in discussion, test their evolving values and beliefs, and interact in collegial and supportive ways with each other (Evans & Nicholson, 2003). 38

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Sharing and reflection activities continued to take place in the Closure Curriculum stage as a result of the actual engagements in the community (Renninger & Shumar, 2002). Learners start sharing difficulties they faced, stories, or materials they learned. Conclusion Educational research calls for a vital need to expose teachers to rich educational technology experiences in order to discover learning opportunities available using the ICTs and possible uses for them in education. Engaging teachers in an Online Learning Community (OLC) is suggested to help teachers learn about technology in context. One advantage to be gained through using this web-based elearning system is helping teachers develop self-concepts of themselves as technology users for their lifelong learning, rather than just viewing technology as a set of skills to be acquired. Web-based learning, generally, is found beneficial in that it can facilitate communication, reflection, self-paced learning, and easy access to information. The Online Learning Community helps expanded social relationship and increases connectedness among online learners. Certainly, integrating ICTs in teachers' education and preparing them to use technology in learning are compound issues that require intensive and continuous investigation. Therefore, questions ofhow to use ICTs effectively for learning and how to help teachers use them successfully remain crucial and inspire more questions. 39

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The concept of online learning communities is a new and broad one that involves complex components (community, learning, and technology). Each component by itself is varied. More research is needed on how to build online learning communities that meet learners' needs, learning objectives, features of available technologies, and how these affect teachers in their learning and teaching. There are various questions that need to be investigated, such as what conditions of online learning communities (OLC) would support or impede teacher lifelong learning? Another question to be considered is how would online learning communities increase teachers' access to learning and professional development opportunities? Moreover, building an Online Learning Community for teachers involves extended consideration of the potential community such as: Will the participants have any facetoface contact? Will the community be limited to student teachers exclusively? Will school teachers or other school personnel be allowed to, or encouraged to, participate? Is the online community intended to support an already existing community (e.g. teachers at a particular school, or preservice teachers in a class meeting physically at a local university)? Is the online community for distance learning, and do learners have face-to-face contact or not? Is it for people that have a need to talk but are not yet meeting? If the online community is to support an academic class, will postings and activities be evaluated or graded? (Barnett, 2001) 40

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Considering such issues will help educators decide what is required for creating and sustaining a learning community for teachers. In addition, various barriers have been defined that affect learners in such virtual learning environments. These barriers range from personal feelings of insecurity and isolation to a lack of technical support (Grubb & Hines, 2000, p 366). Online learners may log on and find nobody with whom they can talk. Moreover, they might face difficulties in building a shared understanding among others of multiple backgrounds and developing relationships among learners of various cultures (Lowry, Thornam, & White, 2000). Most of the time, it is difficult and time consuming to understand others' perspectives and keep participants active and engaged. Thus, future researches are encouraged to study the social and cultural aspects of the learning community that are essential to provide online learners a degree of psychological safety and rapport to learn. 41

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CHAPTER3 METHODOLOGY This research examined the effects of engaging preservice teachers in an OLC system created on Blackboard during their course study. Evolving in Technology skills, Attitude toward technology-based-learning, and a Sense of Community are three expected effects of using the Online Learning Community in teacher education. Five research questions based on suggested outcomes from previous research were investigated as follows: 1. How do preservice teachers perceive their "Sense of Community" as a result of their online participation? As compared with the non-participants control group? 2. What level oftechnology competencies do preservice teachers report before and after online participation? 3. Is there a significant difference in perceived technology competencies between users and nonusers of the Online Learning Community? 4. How do preservice teachers perceive the usefulness of an online community for their learning? 42

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5. What features of the Online Learning Community are found useful, and what are the difficulties or problems that emerged? Different inquiry tools were used to answer these questions, including questionnaires, interviews, and analysis of electronic messages. Thus, the design used for this research was a mixed-method in order to take into account the complex nature of the e-leaming system and the teacher learning. The questionnaire provided quantitative data that was analyzed using ANCOV A. Table (3.1) presents the five research questions associated with the data collecting strategies that were used to answer each one. This chapter discusses the study design, instrumentation, data methods, sample selection, treatment, and procedure. Table 3.1 Data Collection Methods Suggested Research question Questionnaire Interview Electronic effect messages Social 1) How do preservice X X X teachers perceive their support "Sense of Community" as a result of their online participation? As compared with the nonparticipants preservice teachers? Technology 2) What level of X X technology competencies use support do preservice teachers report before and after online participation? 43

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Table 3.1 Data Collection Methods (Cont.) Technology 3) Is there a significant X difference in perceived _use support technology competencies in using online technology tools between users and nonusers of the Online Learning Community? Instructional 4) How do preservice X X X teachers perceive the support usefulness of an online community for their learning? 5) What features of the X X Online Learning Community are found useful? And what are the difficulties or problems that emerged? Study Design Creswell et al. (2003) recognized the benefits of utilizing mixed methods. First, complex social phenomenon often requires various methodological approaches in order to fully explore shared and diverse experiences. Second, multiple methods in a single study can help "neutralize or cancel out some of the disadvantages of certain methods" (Creswell, et al., 2003, p29), which serves to minimize limitations and strengthen a study (Greene & Caracelli, 1997). Mixed methods also provide 44

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elaboration, enhancement, illustration, and clarification of the results by comparing information. This cross-referencing of results is essential for improving the effectiveness of this study (Creswell, et al., 2003). Quantitative Method: Questionnaire Four groups (control and treatment) from two different courses were asked to complete a self-report questionnaire. The questionnaire consisted of 3 parts of a 5point scale (!=Strongly Disagree, 5= Strongly Agree). The first section measured Sense of Community, the second one measured the perceived technology skills, and the third evaluated the usefulness ofOLC for learning (the three dependent variables) (Appendix B). The demographic data were collected concurrently with the pre-test questionnaire that was administered during the first week of the course for both the control groups and treatment groups. The post-test questionnaire included an open ended question that addressed participants' perceptions of the most noticeable advantages and disadvantages of the online learning communities. Responses were collected, coded and reported in chapter 4. Three tested instruments were included in the questionnaire. The first one was the Sense of Classroom Community Index of 40-items that measured preservice teachers' Sense of Community (Rovai, 2002). This instrument investigated the first research question "How do preservice teachers perceive their "Sense of Community" 45

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as a result of their online participation, As compared with the non-participants control group?" The second instrument was the ISTE Technology Competence Scale (Daniell & Bielefeldt, 2000). The instrument was a self-reported scale designed by the International Society for Technology in Education to measure computer competence (ISTE, 2002). It was tested and used previously by IT instructor in the UAEU (Al Mekhlafi, 2005). Perceived usefulness (PU) and Perceived ease of use (PeoU) were two instruments used to understand teachers' perception and attitudes toward the OLC (Davis, 1989). Perceived usefulness (PU) scale consisted of six items that evaluate an individual's perception of the usefulness of the OLC. Perceived ease of use (PEoU) measures the degree to which individuals believed that using a particular technology system is easy. The scale consisted of six items developed and validated by Davis (1989). These two instruments were used to answer the fourth question, "How do preservice teachers perceive the usefulness of an online community for their learning as a result of their online participation?" The questionnaire questions were translated into Arabic (participants' native language) and reviewed for validity purposes by five different instructors from the College of Education at the United Arab Emirates University. Moreover, a pilot study was conducted one semester before this study on a group of preservice teachers of UAEU to initially test the questionnaire questions and examine the reliability of the 46

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instruments. After analyzing the collected data, results indicated reliability of the first instrument Sense of Classroom Community Index of(alpha =.8), the second instrument ISTE technology competence of (alpha =.94), and the Perceived usefulness and ease of use (PU & PeoU) of (alpha =.93). Both the control and the treatment groups responded to the same survey at the prepost test. Participants signed a consent form, and had the chance to ask for an explanation. The data collected from this pre-post survey method was analyzed using ANCOVA to control for differences in the covariate (pre-test) and to reduce the effects of chance differences between groups (Myers & Well, 1995). The possibility of test sensitization (post-test results affected by students' experiences from the pre test) was eliminated by the long time between conducting the pre and post tests (three months at the minimum). Table (3.2) provides an explanation of the use of three instruments and the questions each one answered. 47

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T able 3.2 Description of the Quantitative Instruments for Collecting Data Question Instruments Con. Trea. Purpose group group Q 1. How do preservice Sense of Pre tPre t-Pre test is essential to teachers perceive Classroom post t post t understand if preservice Sense of Community Community teachers in both groups have a as they participate in Index Sense of Community and the OLC system? (Rovai, connectedness at the beginning of the course that might have an 2002). effect on results other than the treatment. Post test for the two groups will be compared to see if there are differences in participants' sense of connectedness and Sense of Community in their course. The OLC is expected to increase interaction and collaboration between preservice teachers in the treatment groups. Q2. What are the ISTE Pre tPre t-Pre test for both control and levels of the perceived Technology post t post t treatment groups to measure computer competences Competence levels of perceived technology of preservice teachers Survey competencies at the beginning as a result ofthe online (Daniell & to eliminate differences experience? Bielefeldt, previously existing between 2000). groups. Thus, concluded results Q3. Is there a can be related to the treatment significant difference rather than to other in perceived uncontrolled factors. technology Post test for both groups to competencies understand changes in between users and perceived technology nonusers of the competence of the treatment Online Learning groups at the end of the semester as a result of the Community? online experience. Q4. How do preservice Perceived Pre tUnderstand teachers' teachers perceive the usefulness post t perception of the usefulness of usefulness of OLC for (PU) and OLC before and after the their learning? Perceived ease treatment. The pre test would of use (PeoU) indicate participants' initial (Davis, acceptance and willingness to 1989). use the OLC. 48

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Qualitative Method: Interviews and Electronic Messages The treatment groups were asked for semi-structured interviews at the end of the semester. The interview questions were reviewed by the educational technology instructors in the College of Education (COE) at the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) (Appendix C). Participants in the interviews were selected from the pool of the questionnaire's respondents. The variation between participants, based on their participation amount in the OLC was taken into account. Interviews were scheduled one week before they were to be conducted, and all preservice teachers in both the treatment sections of the courses were asked to participate voluntary in an informal interview. In order to hear from various perspectives, a sampling strategy based on the online participation was then used. The interviews took a conversational form rather than a formal question and answer exchange. Data were generated through the interaction between the researcher and the interviewee. This strategy helped create a comfortable setting for the participants to talk, and reflected positively on the interviewees. Because of their positive experience, many interview encouraged others in the class who then volunteered for the interview. The interviews were tape recorded and immediately transcribed by the study researcher. Each participant signed a consent form and had a time to read the interview questions, which were designed to investigate the research questions and explore the extent of the OLC use. 49

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Moreover, electronic conference messages were collected from the online learning communities of the two courses and were analyzed for common themes. Investigating the electronic messages lent to triangulation in the study, and balanced the emphasis on the self-reported data in the questionnaire and the interview. Collected messages were used to understand how the student teachers utilized and responded to the Online Learning Community. Sample Selection Subjects The study was conducted with two different courses of undergraduate preservice teachers who self-enrolled into two sections for each course at the College of Education at the UAEU. One section was studied as the treatment and the other used as a control. The first course (A) was a 3-credit course called "Teaching Methods of Mathematics in the Elementary Schools (CURR 20444)". The two sections of this course were taught by the same instructor. The second course (B) was a 3-credit course on "Classroom Environment (CURR 313)". The two sections of this course were also taught by the same instructor (see Appendix for course descriptions). The experiment was conducted on a total of two control groups and two treatment groups. 50

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All participants were female, full-time and on-campus students. They were local and volunteered to participate without being paid or getting extra credits. The sample size was limited to those preservice teachers ofboth the controls and treatment groups who responded to the pre and post surveys. Initial sample sizes consisted of 42 students enrolled in the course A treatment group and 14 students enrolled in the control group. For Course B, 28 students enrolled in the treatment group and 39 in the control group. The final sample consisted of students who generally attended class during the study and completed the study questionnaire pre and post. A statistic description of the final sample is presented in Table (3.3) Tabl 3 3 S e 1 s amp!e tatlstlcs D escnptlon Course Sample size Total Control Treatment A 14 32 46 B 38 24 62 Total 108 The United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) is located in AI Ain city in the western part of the country. It is considered to be one of the leading educational institutions in the country, where over 90% of the country in-service teachers passed through its College of Education (COE). The College has been committed to offering quality education its quality program was acknowledged with the INCATE accreditation in 2005. 51

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All students from all over the country, except AlAin city, stay in the university hostel that was prepared for housing male and female students. Residents have a wireless Internet connection for their personal laptops both at the university student dorm and at the college campus. They also have access to well-equipped computer labs located in the college building. Setting The two courses (A, B) were held in standard classrooms equipped with desktop computers, an LCD projector for displaying computer output, and an overhead projector. The same instructional strategies, assignments, and materials were used with both the control and experimental sections. The instructor for each course routinely utilized the same types of media, Power Point slide presentations, and overhead transparencies with both sections. Treatment The treatment was an Online Learning Community created during the spring semester 2005 on the College Blackboard. All preservice teachers in the college had student accounts to access the Blackboard system. The OLC was developed through engaging the treatment groups in a set of activities described in Table (3 .4 ). The OLC was a versatile web-based learning system created to provide an interactive learning environment that involved the online bulletin board to carry out 52

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interactive discussions. Participants were able to view and respond to the posted messages by choosing the "Bulletins" button to access the discussion tool from the homepage. The Blackboard bulletin board also allowed small group interactions forums for the final projects. The course instructor took the main role in facilitating the discussion forums and posting the warm-up questions, giving the students the flexibility to discuss issues regarding the course other than the assigned questions. Participants could view all available forums by choosing the "Forum" button from the menu on the left side of their webpage. On the Forum page, they could find all the discussion forums, the number of unread messages and the total posted messages. In addition to that, all course documents and announcements were available to read and download. Procedure The treatment groups had access (in computer labs at the college campus or through their personal laptops) to the Blackboard through the UAEU webpage. One class training was conducted at the beginning of the course to help participants learn and use the OLC. They were required to introduce themselves in the Welcome Forum to make sure they all had access to the e-leaming system and appeared online from the first week. Technical support was available to participants through email, during the class or in the office hours. Major problems were passed to the technical staff for the collage. 53

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The researcher had close contact with the participants and the course instructors through attending some classes and observing the online interaction. This contact helped the researcher gain an idea about participants' characteristics and class circumstances. Observation by the researcher also ensured that instructors were using the same instructional strategies and learning material with both the control and treatment sections. All participants were asked to engage in various online discussions and worked in groups on final projects assigned by the course instructor. Table (3.4) describes instructional activities in which participants were engaged during the course. T bl 3 4 I a e nstructlona 1 A . B 'ld' cttvttles or U1 mgan OLC Time Stage Requirements Activities Goals Frame Week 1-3 Forming Initiation participants: Encourage community curriculum Introduce themselves participants to start stage in the welcome folder making on-line (first name, major, # of acquaintances or years in the program, friends with whom interests, skills, similarities are found. experiences, aspirations, and areas Researcher in this where support is stage played the main desired) role in designing the Clarify goals and OLC on the expectations for the Blackboard and course provided technical support to Share ideas about participants either teaching online or face-toface as needed. There was a welcome forum created for this purpose in the discussion board. 54

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T able 3.4 Instructional Activities for Building an OLC (Cont.) Time Stage Requirements Activities Goals Frame Week4Experiencin Experiencing Weekly online Enable participants : 12 g Community discussions to reflect on share common Community Curriculum topics discussed in the goals, class. engage in common experiences Share information develop a shared with others such as language within the articles related to the community of course, web sites useful learners. for the class, topics discussed in the class Researcher in this which needed more stage worked with elaboration. the course instructor to facilitate Work on small group developing the OLC projects. Each group (e.g. post the weekly has an online questions) and discussion forum to checked if discuss progress in the preservice teachers project. are participating in the OLC. Week 13-Functioning Closure Groups share their Enable 15 Effectively Curriculum work, difficulties, participants to: stories, and things they learned. -address challenges as they discovered their similarities and differences, and acquired a shared sense of purpose. Experience functioning as a community to celebrate its success. 55

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Summary The primary objective of this research was to study the effect of developing an Online Learning Community in teacher education courses. Data collected from different methods included questionnaires, interviews, and electronic messages. The questions examined are: 1. How do pre-service teachers perceive their "Sense of Community" as a result of their online participation? As compared with the non-participants control group? 2. What level of technology competencies do pre-service teachers report before and after the online participation? 3. Is there a significant difference in perceived technology competencies between users and nonusers of the Online Learning Community? 4. How do pre-service teachers perceive the usefulness of an online community for their learning? 5. To what extent do pre-service teachers make use of online tools and supports by participating and interacting together? 56

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CHAPTER4 FINDINGS The study examined the effects of engaging preservice teachers in an Online Learning Community (OLC) developed for one of their study courses. Collected data were used to understand how such a web-based learning community affected preservice teachers' technological proficiency, attitudes toward using OLC for learning, and Sense of Community (the three dependent variables). The independent variable was the Online Learning Community (the treatment). An alpha of .05 was used for all statistical tests. Both control and treatment groups used traditional lecture-based methods. The OLC was a supplemental tool used with the treatment groups. Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was applied to test the main effect of the treatment variable on the continuous dependent variables, controlling for the effects of selected other continuous covariate variables. Data from the pre test questionnaire was used as a covariate to reduce the sampling limitations for any pre-existing differences. This procedure added more confidence in assessing the actual contribution of the treatment. ANCOV A in such quasi-experimental design is often recommended (Keppel & Zedeck, 1989). 57

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This chapter begins with descriptive statistics of the sample. The next section discusses the primary data analysis, including the assumptions for ANCOV A, followed by the "Summary of Results" section that answers each of the research questions. Significant results were apparent from analyzing the qualitative data of the interviews and electronic messages. However, quantitative analyses did not show significant differences between the control and the treatment groups. Sample Descriptive Statistics Questions that addressed the sample's demographic information of age, major, place of residence, and years of technology experience were included in the pre-test questionnaire. Table 4.1 presents the descriptive statistics of the Control and Treatment groups for both courses, A and B. The data in the Table indicate that all participants were 22-23 years of age average. Most participants also reported an average of2-5 years of experience in using computer technologies. T bl 4 1 D a e escnpttve s f f ta IS ICS Course Control Group Treatment Group N Mean Std. Dev. N Mean Std. Dev. A Age 13 23.7 1.11 27 23.5 1.01 Yrs-of-exp 13 2.31 .63 27 2.33 .56 B Age 38 22.0 1.03 24 20.5 1.14 Yrs-of-exp 36 2.36 .59 23 2.30 .77 58

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Assumptions for ANCOV A Independence Analysis of covariance assumes independent observations of the dependent variable. For each data-point, the sampling of the error score from the normal population distribution was completely independent of that for any other data value. Independence and observations between groups was then guaranteed. Homogeneity ofVariance This assumption assumed equality of the variance-covariance matrix (Girden, 1992). Levene's test of the homogeneity of variance for each dependent variable determined that the error variance of the dependent variable was equal between groups with no p. value falling below .24 (See Appendix D). Linearity This assumption holds that all variances of the repeated measurements should be equal and all correlations between the pairs of repeated measurements should also be equal. Violation of this assumption increase type I error. Mauchly's test for linearity indicated that the assumption was met (See Appendix D). 59

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Normality Another assumption for ANCOV A is that the dependent measures are normally distributed. Deviations from this assumption are unimportant by the central limit theorem when group size is large--as a rule of thumb,> 20; more if group sizes are unequal or there are outliers (Albert & Ahtola, 1978). The ShapiroWilk test (See Appendix D) was an appropriate tool because ofthe sample size (Spss, 1999). Test for Normality indicates that this assumption was met with no p. value falling below .054 (See Appendix D). Summary of Results by Research Questions Research Question 1: How do preservice teachers perceive their "Sense of Community" as a result of their online participation? As compared with the non participants control group? This question examined how Sense of Community differed across the users and nonusers of the Online Learning Community (Treatment and Control group). The research hypothesis was that Sense of Community would be strongest in the treatment groups. The rationale was that the combination of online learning environments with the traditional course provided a greater range of opportunities for preservice teachers to interact with each other and with their professor. These interactions should result in increased socialization, a stronger sense of being connected to each other, and 60

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increased construction of knowledge through discourse, thus providing stronger feelings that educational goals were being satisfied as a result of their community membership. The score of Sense of Community is the calculated mean of the 40 item-level scores from the Classroom Community Scale (CCS). The CCS pre-test results were used as a covariate in the one-factor ANCOVA analysis to reduce differences in groups' Sense of Community at the beginning of the course. A null hypothesis was tested: HO: there are no differences between the Control and the Treatment groups in their Sense of Community at the end of the course. Table 4.2 displays the Means and Standard Deviation of the Treatment and Control groups. Results from Table 4.3 suggest no statistically significant difference between the Control and the Treatment groups in the Sense of Community, F = (.08), (.7); p< .05 for both courses A and B, respectively. This result led to accept the null hypothesis of equality between the Treatment and the Control groups on their Sense of Community average. Possible explanations are discussed in Chapter 5. 61

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Tabl 4 2 D f St f e escnpve atls 1cs Course Group Mean Std. Deviation N Course A Control 4.13 .35 14 Treatment 3.75 .50 32 Total 3.87 .49 46 Course B Control 4.13 .41 38 Treatment 4.10 .56 24 Total 4.12 .47 62 Dependent Variable: Posttest-Sense of Community Tabl 4 3 ANCOV A T e -ests o fB tw e een-s b' u >wets Effi ects Course Source Type III df Mean F Sig. Sum of Square Squares Course A Corrected 3.50a 2 1.75 10.58 .00 Mode Intercept 1.10 1 1.10 6.58 .014 Pretest 2.04 1 2.08 12.60 .001 Group .54 1 .54 3.26 .08 Error 7.11 43 .17 Course B Corrected 1.42a 2 .71 3.50 .037 Mode Intercept 10.02 1 10.02 49.36 .00 Pretest 1.40 1 1.40 6.91 .01 Group .04 1 .04 .19 .67 Error 11.98 59 .20 Dependent Variable: Posttest-Sense of Community 62

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The Connectedness and Interaction sub scales of the CCS Index were also tested between the Control and Treatment groups. The literature suggested that the characteristics of a Sense of Community include feelings of connectedness and interdependence among members. Therefore, 20 items of the Classroom Community Scale were developed to measure the connectedness among members. The other 20 items measured the interaction. The interaction component addressed issues pertaining to feelings regarding interaction among community members as they pursue the construction ofunderstanding. Additionally, the degree to which members share values and beliefs with each other, regarding the extent to which their educational goals and expectations are being satisfied ANCOV A analyses shows no significant differences in Interaction between the participants in the control and treatment groups for course A (p= .08), and for Course B (F= .52), p < .05. Table 4.4 and 4.5 present descriptive statistics and the ANCOV A analyses for the Interaction subscale. ANCOV A analyses did show significant difference in Connectedness between participants of the control and the treatment groups for course A (P= .04), However, for Course B, ANCOV A analyses shows no significant differences in connectedness between students of the control and the treatment groups (F= .49), p >.05. Tables 4.6 and 4. 7 present descriptive statistics and the ANCOV A analyses for the connectedness subscale. 63

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Tabl 4 4 D f St f f I t f S b e escn_pnve a IS 1csn erac 10n u sea e Course Group Mean Std. Deviation N A Control 4.21 .41 14 Treatment 3.77 .58 32 B Control 3.70 .48 38 Treatment 3.64 .53 24 Tabl 4 5 ANCOVA T t fB tw e -es so e een-s b" u U_ects Effi t ec s Course Source Type III Sum df Mean F Sig. Square Square A Corrected 3.77 2 1.88 7.53 .002 Mode IntercepJ 3.40 1 3.41 13.6 .001 Pretest 1.84 1 1.84 7.38 .009 Group .81 1 .81 3.24 .08 B Corrected 2.62a 2 1.31 6.16 .004 Mode Intercept 5.09 1 5.09 23.9 .00 Pretest 2.57 1 2.57 12.06 .001 Group .09 1 .09 .42 .52 Dependent Variable: Posttest-Interaction Subscale Tabl 4 6 D e escnpt1ve St . C atlStlCSt d onnec e ness s b u sea e Course Group Mean Std. Deviation N A Control 4.13 .44 14 Treatment 3.64 .59 32 B Control 3.54 .45 38 Treatment 3.58 .44 24 64

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Tabl 4 7 ANCOVA T t fB tw e -es so e een-S b' t Effi t u s ec s Course Source Type III Sum df Mean F Sig. Square Square A Corrected 5.22a 2 5.22a 10.9 .00 Mode Intercept 1.97 1 1.97 8.19 .006 Pretest 2.91 1 2.91 12.1 .001 Group 1.09 1 1.09 4.57 .04 B Corrected 1.63a 2 .82 4.66 .01 Mode Intercept 3.71 1 3.71 21.2 .00 Pretest 1.62 1 1.62 9.23 .004 Group .08 1 .08 .48 .49 Dependent Variable: PosttestConnectedness Subscale Research Question 2: What level of technology Competencies do preservice teachers report before and after the online participation? This question examined the change in the technological proficiency of the participants at the end of the courses. The technological proficiency score is the calculated mean of the 11 item-level questions of the ISTE Technology Competence Scale. Dependent Paired Samples Ttest was applied to compare scores collected from the pre and post test survey for the Treatment groups of courses A and B. Results are summarized in Table 4.8. Improvement in participants' technological proficiency were significant for the Treatment groups oft= .020, t= .05, p <=.05 for courses A and B, respectively. However, the improvement of the participants' technological proficiency of the control groups were not significant oft= .842, t= .433, p <=.05 for course A and B, 65

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respectively, as illustrated in Table 4.9. These findings indicated that the technological proficiency for the treatment groups improved significantly as they used the Online Learning Community during the course. Statistics collected from the Blackboard e-learning system illustrated the level of use of the OLC components. Table 4.10 represents frequency of use of the different parts of the Online Learning Community (content area, discussion board, email, groups). The overall participation ofthe preservice teachers was 83%-92% of both the courses A and B, respectively. Figure 4.1 and 4.2 demonstrate the level of use among all participants of the treatment groups. Table 4.8 Treatment GroupsPaired Samples T-test Statistics for Technological Proficiency Course Source Mean Std. n df t (paired Sig.(2Deviation differences) tailed) Treatment Pre test 3.97 .51 32 group A survey Post test 4.17 .42 32 Survey Paired -.21 .48 31 -2.46 .02 samples test Treatment Pre test 3.8 .69 24 group B survey Post test 4.1 .56 24 survey Paired -.35 .70 23 -2.06 .05 samples test 66

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Table 4.9 Control GroupsPaired Samples T -test Statistics for Technological p fi ro 1c1ency Course/ Source Mean Std. n df t (paired Sig.(2Group Deviation differences) tailed) Course A Pre test 4.12 .43 38 Treatment survey Post test 4.13 .41 38 survey Paired -.017 .51 37 -.201 .84 samples test Course B Pre test 3.90 .89 14 Treatment survey Post test 4.10 .47 14 survey Paired -.20 .93 13 -.81 .43 samples test T bl 4 10 P a e ercent o fL b h OLCAr ogs 'Y t e ea Online Component Percent of Logs Course A Course B Content Area 7.78% 4.65% Discussion Board 68.01% 61.96% Groups 12.21% 17.33% Email 0.35% 1.10% 67

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Figure 4.1 Level ofParticipation of Course A Students Q) 1/) 15.0 ::;) .... 10.0 0 c Q) u ... Q) D.. The Preservice Teachers' Level of Use-Course A 1 4 7 10 13 16 19 22 25 28 31 34 37 40 43 Preservice Teachers Figure 4.2 Level ofParticipation of Course B Students The Preservice Teachers' Level of Use-Course B Q) 10.0 .. ----------1/) 8.0 :;) 6.0 0 c 4.0 Q) u 2.0 ... Q) D.. 0.0 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 Preservice Teachers 68 I 0 Series1j Jo Series11

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Research Question 3: Is there a significant difference in perceived technology competencies in using online technology tools between users and nonusers of the Online Learning Community? This question investigates the effect of using the Online Learning Community on the technological proficiency of the Treatment groups as compared to the Control groups. The research hypothesis was that Technological Proficiency would be enhanced in the Treatment groups. The rationale was that the combination of an online learning environment with the traditional course provides a greater range of opportunities for preservice teachers to experience the use of ICTs within the course context. Through online membership, their experiences should result in increased skills and confidence in using ICTs for learning. Both the Treatment and the Control groups responded to the ISTE pre and post questionnaires. The pre-test results were used as a covariate in one-factor ANCOV A Analysis to reduce differences between groups' perceived Technology Competence at the beginning of the course. Table 4.11 presents the means, standard deviation, and sample size for both the Treatment and the Control groups. Results indicated no statistically significant difference between the Control and Treatment group in preservice teachers' Technology skills, F = (.679), (.667); p < .05 for both courses A and B, respectively. Possible explanations are discussed in chapter 5. 69

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Tabl 4 11 D e escnptlve s .. tatlstlcs Course Group Mean Std. Deviation N Course A Control 4.10 .47 14 Treatment 4.17 .42 32 Course B Control 4.13 .41 38 Treatment 4.2 .56 26 Dependent Variable: Posttest Technology Skills Tabl 4 12 ANCOVA T t fB tw e es so e S b" t Effi t eenu ,Jec s ec s Source df Mean Square F Sig. Course Corrected 2 .48 2.8 .07 A Model Intercept 1 12.1 71.1 .00 Pretest 1 .92 5.38 .025 Group 1 .03 .17 .68 Error 43 .17 Course Corrected 2 .71 3.5 .04 B Model Intercept 1 10.0 49.4 .00 Pretest 1 1.4 6.9 .01 Group 1 .04 .19 .67 Error 59 .20 Dependent Variable: Posttest Perceived Technology Skills 70

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Research Question 4: How do preservice teachers perceive the usefulness of an online community for their learning, as a result of the online participation? According to the Social Information Processing Model (SIPM) presented in Chapter 1, individuals perceived an e-leaming system to be useful when he/she evaluated it positively, and when people around evaluated it positively (Rogers, 1986; Ajzen & Fishben, 1980; Spencer, 2000). Perceived Usefulness (PU) and Perceived ease of Use (PeoU) were two instruments used to understand how the treatment groups perceived the usefulness of the Online Learning Community. The instruments include 17 items, using a 5-point Likert response format ( 1 = Unlikely, 5= Likely) The following descriptive statistics Tables, 4.13 and 4.14, present the means and standard deviation ofhow participants' perceived the usefulness (PU) of the Online Learning Community and its ease of use (PeoU). The score ofPU and PeoU is the calculated mean of 7 item-level scores each. The posttest results show that the treatment groups in courses A and B both found the Online Learning Community highly useful (Means = 4.28, 4.26, respectively). Moreover, both groups found the Online Learning Community easy to use (Means= 4.56, 4.36, respectively). Finally, Table 4.15 presents the means and standard deviation of others' influence that contributed to the Treatment groups' attitude toward the Online Learning Community. The score of others' influence is the calculated mean of the 2 item-level scores. The results show that the Treatment groups in both courses A and 71

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B perceived high others' influence on the Perceived Usefulness of the Online Learning Community (4.08), (4.31), respectively. Tab le 4.13 Perceived Usefulness (PU) Grou_Q_ Pre Test Post Test Mean N Std. Mean N Std. Dev Dev Treatment A 4.4420 32 .50976 4.2813 32 .58225 Treatment B 4.3810 24 .67358 4.2679 24 .67047 Tab le 4.14 Perceived Ease of Use _(PeoUl Groug_ Pre Test Post Test Mean N Std. Mean N Std. Dev Dev Treatment A 4.2054 32 .55023 4.5625 32 .42306 Treatment B 4.1488 24 .77732 4.3631 24 .73809 Table 4.15 Others' Influence Group Pre Test Post Test Mean N Std. Mean N Std. Dev Dev Experimental A 4.3906 32 .54970 4.0781 32 .86238 Experimental B 4.3125 24 .65628 4.1250 24 .86288 72

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Research Question 5: What features of the Online Learning Community are found useful? And what are the difficulties or problems that emerged? In the posttest questionnaire, the preservice teachers responded to an openended question of what they found useful in using the Online Learning Community and what they found to be difficult. Furthermore, to added more clarification to the reported results, one of the interview questions addressed the benefit and difficulties of using the OLC. After analyzing the collected data, results showed agreement between all participants' responses from the questionnaire and the interview. Regarding its advantages, participants believed that the Online Learning Community created on the Blackboard was useful as: -It facilitated the interactions and communication between learners in the course and also with the instructor. It saved time and effort to reach others easily at any time and at any day of the week. (30) -It supported exchanging information and collaborative learning. It helped participants hear from many students and learn from their experiences in away that could not be achieved in the classroom. (28) -It encouraged students to ask and negotiate which is important for learning and difficult to achieve in the classroom (15) -It enabled students to create and expand relationships and connections between students earlier in the course. (8) -It supported learning, and served as a good source for information provided by both the course instructor and other learners in the course. (8) -It facilitated the presentation of course content in a simple and new way, which increased motivation to learn. (4) Additionally, it was easy to use. (3) 73

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-It enhanced knowledge about the use of the Internet and the web technologies for learning and social interaction. (5) Participants found the idea valuable to be applied in the future to: Connect schools and teachers from different places. (5) Use with school students to enhance motivation for learning and understand their needs (3) Expand access to educational resources and give opportunities for others to contribute to students' learning (i.e. parents) (2) Participants, on the other hand, reported that: -They faced difficulties devoting the time to participate effectively in the OLC and meet the course requirements. Course A students, in particular, reported that they were all graduating that semester and overwhelmed with course work for this course and other courses. -They faced difficulties accessing the OLC. Examples of the technical difficulties that participants reported in the interview are: I faced problems in opening the blackboard on my machine, maybe because of my username or password. The web page downloaded very slowly. I did not have good Internet access at home. We could not connect to the Internet from the student dorm. We did not have enough computers in the student dorm; they close the computer lab around ten which was too early, especially since sometimes we get home around 9 P.M. -It was hard to communicate in a different language. Using the learners' native language in designing all the interfaces of the Online Learning Community and in the interaction is recommended to attract learners to become active members. There was lack of interaction and many did not act as a community member. Several interviewees explained this lack of interaction as being the most difficult aspect experienced in the OLC. Examples of the interview comments: 74

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The biggest problem was the lack of students' interaction and communication with each other. Frankly, if everyone in the class participated in the Online Learning Community, the benefits will be larger; and more time would be saved. In addition to that, the interaction will be better. The most difficult part was the lack of interaction. Sometimes I would put notes on the discussion board and wait for responses, but nothing was posted. The problem was that the students were not enthusiastic to participate nor were they willing to engage in deep discussions. I wanted in our Online Learning Community to discuss more topics, not only the questions that were posted by the instructor. -The instructor was not actively involved in the Online Learning Community. (Note: by design, the course professors were not required to observe their students or be actively involved in the OLC. This participation, however, seems essential, as reported by many participants). Interview Responses The interviewees were purposely selected to include active and non-active participants. Criteria for selecting the active participants were based on the quantity and quality of participation in their weekly discussions and the group project forum. A statistical summary of the interviewees is reported in Table 4.16. To the interview question ofhow often they used the OLC, active participants reported a wide use of the Online Learning Community that ranged from several times daily to 4 times weekly. They explained that they used the Online Learning Community mainly to interact with peers and reflect on the weekly questions. The non-active participants, on the other hand, reported limited use of the Online Learning Community that 75

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ranged from one time weekly to only three times during the course. They used the Online Learning Community mainly to download the course documents and read messages on the discussion board without involvement in the discussions. Table 4.16 Numbers ofthe Interviewees Treatment Group Active Non Active Total Course A 4 5 9 Course B 7 4 11 Total 20 The Interviewees responded to an average of eight questions about their perceptions of the effect of using the OLC on their course learning, connectedness and interaction with classmates, Technology-skills learned, and Attitudes towards online learning experience. All participants' responses were collected and coded. Themes were found by coding individual paragraphs, or in some cases individual sentences or phrases, and looking at the common ones. Since the different data collection methods were used to lend triangulation to the study, the interview questions focused on how the OLC affected the students' interaction and connectedness in the course, their Technological Competence, and facilitated their learning in the course. Table 4.20 summarizes the obtained results from the interview. 76

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Effect on Interaction and Relationship Twenty interviewees were asked how the Online Learning Community affected the interaction and connectedness between learners in the course. Various interviewees indicated that the OLC expanded their chance to know each other better, particularly earlier in the course. The interaction facilitated creating a relationship between individuals through sharing information about interests, expectations and beliefs. Examples of the preservice teachers' comments are: I got to know many students in the class. In other courses, I usually interact with those I knew previously, but this time I had opportunities to know new students and have conversations with them on the Blackboard. After I read some students' contributions, I felt that I wanted to know them more. Actually, it enhanced my relationship with some students in the class who I met for the first time. I got to know most students in the coursetheir major, course expectations and other information that; for sure I would not be able to know without this Online Learning Community. This is the first time I got to know and talk to students other than the ones who sit next to me and who I knew before. This is my first semester in the major, and I do not know any students. They all are older than me. Through the OLC, I got to know, for the first time, many students whom I had heard about before. I communicated with them, got an idea about their personalities, and decided to enhance my relationship with some of them. In addition, these active users believed that the Online Learning Community that was created on the Blackboard supported the interaction and connectedness between participants in the course. The OLC added a new forum to the course, outside the 77

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classroom, to communicate with each other and with the course instructor. Comments for the interviews with the active users are: The OLC facilitated our interaction with others, especially since the class time is short and there were no other chances to communicate with peers. The Blackboard gave us a chance and time to talk and interact. I tried to introduce myself to students through sharing my portfolio with them. In response, I found a great interest from students in my work. They expressed their wonderful appreciation, and I felt their respect during the course. Some students gave their thoughts and suggestions on the portfolio. Then we had a good relationship with each other and decided to work as a group on the course final project. Usually we do not have enough time to speak to others during or after the class. I liked the Online Learning Community because it enabled me to hear from everyone in the course. That is not possible in the actual classroom. Some students were quiet in class, and so I was surprised when I read their contribution on the Blackboard. Although I did not like to engage in discussion during the classroom and talk to the professor, I liked the interaction through the Blackboard. Regarding the interaction with the instructor, few students indicated that the OLC was useful to interact with the instructor. They explained that: The Blackboard facilitated our interaction with the course instructor only in the function of sending the homework and making available the notes of the lectures. It facilitates our interaction with the course instructor when he sends the homework and the lecture notes. 78

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However, active participants went further in describing the effect of the OLC on their interaction and connection with others. They explained that the Online Learning Community expanded the extent of their conversations and interaction on topics related to their learning, as well as on topics different from the ones determined by the instructor. They were able to discuss their difficulties and support each other emotionally. I think the Blackboard not only facilitated receiving the homework and downloading the course documents; it gave us opportunities to express ourselves more. I found it to be useful to talk with peers and exchange difficulties easily. The Blackboard enabled me to interact with others and ask for their support. I heard, for example, about a particular student who was as an excellent student and, through the OLC, I was able to create a good relationship with her and ask for her help and opinions on various questions. Also, I gained an advantage from the advice that the instructor posted during the mid-term exam. I was very scared of the exam. Students also supported me every time I felt depressed or asked for help. Furthermore, a sense of connectedness was noticed in some participants' responses. Due to the frequent interactions in the Online Learning Community, active participants felt connected to each other and to the course. Explicit expressions were found in these following comments: If I did not find messages from a specific student, I missed her and asked if there was a reason. I feel now like I missed something when I do not open the Blackboard daily. 79

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The OLC gave me the opportunity to respond to others' needs. This helped me to feel more connected .... I still remember Student A. Her contributions were special in providing advice and support to everyone in the class. I felt connected to her contributions and looked for everything she posted. Some students used the OLC to remind us of the due dates to submit the homework and any changes regarding the classes. This made us care for each other and feel connected. Interestingly, two interviewees added that the 'Introductory/Welcome forum' created at the beginning of the course was useful. They commented that: This is the first time we used something like this. I think all instructors should use the idea of the OLC and the introductory forum in their courses and encourage students to use it. It is very useful for instructors to know their students better, as well as to understand their needs and difficulties. The introductory forum at the beginning of the course was one of the most interesting things in the Online Learning Community. I noticed that most of the contributions were in this forum. I think the special quality of the forum was the openness to discuss various topics, different from the course questions which require us to go back to the course textbooks in order to reply. However, various interviewees indicated that the students' limited participation affected the interaction on the Online Learning Community and consequently affected the connections between all students in the course. Reasons, as some explained, were the heavy work load of the courses and the time limitation. These insufficient interactions might explain the 'no significant difference' between the Control and the 80

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Treatment groups found in the quantitative analyses. Some interviewees described this lack of participations as follows: I think the Online Learning Community would be very useful if all students participate and become active members. The Online Learning Community was a wonderful idea, and I feel sorry that not everyone participated in it. The most negative side of the Online Learning Community was the lack of all students' interaction. Other interviewees explained that the instructor must encourage students to participate in the Online Learning Community, but that was not enough in their case. I noticed that the instructor was not engaged or observing us on the Online Learning Community. I think the Online Learning Community is useful for interaction when the instructor communicates and encourages students to use it. One problem was that the instructor did not follow up with our contributions, especially the posted questions on the discussion board. I believe that the instructor's interaction is important to encourage students. 81

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Effect on Technological Competence Students were asked about technology skills and knowledge they gained through using the Online Learning Community. Initially, at least 11 of the 20 interviewees reported that they used the Blackboard technology in other courses-mainly in the Educational Technology course. However, many indicated that its uses were very limited and focused on downloading the course summaries and PowerPoint presentations and sending the homework assignments. Four of the interviewees added that they had previous experiences with the discussion tools on Blackboard, while others seemed to use the discussion board for the first time. Those who used the discussion tools for the first time explained that the interaction on their Online Learning Community enabled them to gain different technology skills. They learned how to open the discussion forums, find new messages, and how to reply or send new ones. The emphasis on the online discussion in this course provided them with experiences in using the different ICTs, such as the discussion board and email. Examples of the interviewees' comments are as follows: I learned how to send and reply to messages on the discussion board; also how to download online documents. I learned how to use the Blackboard in previous courses. But in this course I got to learn how to use the discussion board. Usually I do not like to use the computer. I use it only for the PowerPoint and Word document applications. When I utilized the Blackboard in this course, I found it very exciting. I learned how to participate in discussion, reply to others, and download documents. I did not know all these applications existed before. 82

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Frankly, I do not use the Internet very often. Sometimes I do search on Google, but in this course, I utilized the Blackboard very intensively to download the course documents, participate in discussions, and communicate with the group. Also, I learned to type faster. I remember that we used it in other courses to send homework only. There were no discussions. I learned now how to use the online discussion tools. It was easy for me to use the Blackboard because we were required to use it in other courses. In this course it is different. I learned more about the discussion board and its uses. I also recognized how to add a personal touch to my posted messages by using the font and color features and adding a signature at the end of the message. I learned this from other students in the OLC. Two interviewees explained that the interaction on the discussion board enabled them to practice keyboard typing for a long time and helped them to become faster in typing. I became faster in typing because of the online discussions. Now I am able to type faster, especially since I am a beginner in English. Moreover, three interviewees indicated that they learned to use WebMail for the first time. I started to receive and send messages through my college e-mail's account for the first time. The Blackboard gave us the opportunity to know each other's email addresses. I started to use Webmail and the discussion board intensively this semester. 83

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First, the OLC encouraged me to use the Internet. I never use the Internet to participate in online discussion. Now, I learned how to use the email system for the University. Also, I learned how to participate in online discussions and add attachments. I had not tried this before. At least 7 of the 20 interviewees indicated that they used the Blackboard or the discussion board for the first time, or the first time in a long while. One student explained that she heard about the use of ICTs and the online discussion but had not used them before. The problem was that we did not use online discussions very much in other courses. Our professors gave us an idea about the use of the discussion board, but we did not have the chance to try it. This is the first time I have used the discussion board. At the beginning, I did not know how to use the Blackboard and clicked on any button. Then, I asked someone who told me how to send and reply, but still I did not learn everything about it. I did my best to learn it. I learned many technological skills after using the Blackboard, since this is the first time for me to use it. I did not know anything about the online discussion before, but I got an idea about it now. The problem was that many students in my group did not know how to use the discussion forum, thus we did not use it well and, instead, we used email. When interviewees were asked about the reason for lack of participation, some indicated that many students lacked the basic skills to use the online technologies and 84

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that the training was not enough for them to know how to use the Blackboard. Examples of their comments are: Some students still do not know how to use email and the online technology tools. They simply do not know how to send an email and attach a file, although some had taken the instructional technology course. The problem with that course, I believe, is that it teaches students the Microsoft Office packageWord, Excel, Access, and Front page, and they do not have a chance to learn other technology skills. Many students prefer to take this course in their last semester because of their fears of computer technologies. I asked my partner in the group to send me her work through Webmail or the Blackboard, but she did not know how to do it until I taught her. Now, she has become an expert. Another interviewee indicated that she did not know how to reply to other messages at the beginning of the semester, but learned to do it after various attempts. Facilitate Learning Students were asked whether they found the OLC useful, and how it supported their learning in the course. Most interviewees (18 out of20) indicated that the interaction on the Online Learning Community was very useful and supported their learning in the course. Initially, they found the questions on the discussion boards beneficial to learn and reflect on what they had already learned. I found the OLC very useful when I read students' responses to the questions. It was like a summary for the subject. It was helpful to 85

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know how different students understood topics discussed in the class. I usually printed their responses and used it as a summary. I liked the Online Learning Community because it supported my understanding of the course. It provided an open forum for conversation and discussion that was hard to find in the formal classroom lectures. We could ask students questions and get their answers. I found the discussions on the Blackboard a good review for the class lecture especially that we did not have enough time for this type of review during the class. This helped us understand the course better. The Online Learning Community supported my understanding to the course since I don't like memorizing. Through the discussions on the Blackboard, I was able to understand the subject and became ready for the exam. Thus, I did not need more than 15 minutes to review the subject for the mid term exam. I remember one student asked a question on the blackboard before the mid term exam then we reviewed the textbook to answer her. That was useful for all students to read different viewpoints and learn from each other. Also, there are many things I do not get in the class and the discussion board helped me to understand them. Others added that the interaction on the Blackboard was helpful in that it facilitated learning from other students in the class through reading their different perspectives. They believed that the discussions enabled them to contribute to their peers' learning process and share information. I found the discussions and students' responses helpful, especially since it helped me recognize other students' opinions on different topics in the course. 86

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It helped me understand the course. Usually I do not study after the lecture. But when I participated in the online discussions, I benefit and learn from others. Also, I benefit from the topics that students discussed regarding the course that we did not have the chance to discuss in the class. The students' contributions were very useful to help me understand the topics of the course and also learn additional information that students added. The questions were useful to know other students' viewpoints on topics we discussed in the class. Sometimes, the discussions helped me learn new concepts I did not get during the lecture. The OLC enabled me to benefit from some excellent students who seemed very quite and shy in the classroom but very active in the OLC. Every time I entered the OLC I looked for their special contributions. The instructor explained the subject in a different way than the students. Some times I found the students' explanation on the discussion board easier and more helpful. Through the discussion forums, interviewees explained that they were able to ask questions at any time and get responses from their peers and the course instructor as well. The discussion forums were very useful, during the exam time in particular. I learned from the questions that were posted during the exam time and the instructor answered them, since he did not have office hours. We got a chance to ask both the instructor and students questions, especially during the exam time. For example, during the mid term exam, I was not sure about some questions and I asked the students on the discussion board. 87

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First, it enabled us to communicate with the instructor where we can ask questions and he answered them outside the classroom. Second, it facilitated the interaction with the students. Other interviewee explained that the Online Learning Community enhanced motivation to learn: The Blackboard motivated me to learn more. I got excited when I found someone posted a math problem on the discussion board. I worked to solve it and check my solution with others. The weekly questions were very useful to understand the course better. In addition to that, the OLC was found useful to facilitate collaboration and exchanging of information. It also encouraged collaboration among students, in that when someone has an answer, she shared that with others on the Blackboard. I found the Blackboard very useful as it facilitated collaboration between my group members. I lived in Al Ain and found it hard to meet and work with others on scheduled time. It was wonderful when someone posted questions where we could all share the answer. Some of these questions were in my mind and I felt glad when I found their answers through the discussions. Interestingly, three interviewees mentioned that the interactions on the OLC improved their English language proficiency. Courses in the UAEU were taught in English, and that was a critical challenge for most students in the College of Education. Thus, some active interviewees indicated that the online discussions were useful to improve their language competency. Personally, the OLC improved my English language fluency. I put the dictionary next to me every time I used the online discussions to find any word that came to my mind. I learned a lot through this. 88

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The interaction developed my language proficiency in writing in English and learning new words. Additionally, five interviewees indicated that the Blackboard was useful to make the course resources available and easy to reach. It increased access to learning. We benefited from the course documents and weekly discussions. It was very useful to have the course documents available on the Blackboard, especially when a student missed the class. The availability of the course documents and also the weekly questions facilitated my learning in the course. I hope it is used in all courses. Regarding its ease ofuse, several interviewees explained that they found the online tools on the Blackboard very easy to use, although some were using them for the first time. I learned many skills after using the Blackboard since this was the first time to try it. I think the Blackboard is easy to use like the web mail. I never used the Blackboard before, but I found it easy to use after you trained me. It was very easy to use the Blackboard technologies. Students can easily learn to use them even without training. Although I did not take the Educational Technology course, I found it very easy to use. Some interviewees indicated that they were encouraged or were affected by their peers to use the OLC. Almost all my friends encouraged me to communicate through the OLC such as ... 89

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I really liked the OLC and encouraged my peers to use it. I told them that they will feel the real use of technology. Also, I avoided taking the Educational Technology course because I was afraid of the technology, but now I feel it will be interesting. Others indicated a change in their attitude toward using the ICTs in learning. Examples of interviewees' comments are: I asked my classmates about the importance of the OLC and some told me it did not affect their learning. However, after I used it frequently, I found it useful and it saved time. Additionally, it supported my learning and understanding the course. This is the first time I used the Blackboard, although I did not want to use it in other courses when the professors offered. I tried to avoid using it, and asked my instructors not to send or post anything on the Blackboard, until this course. I found it very useful, easy to use, and an important source for information. However, two interviewees indicated that the OLC did not support their learning or affect their understanding of the course. Yet, they explained that the experiences they gained were useful for their profession as a teacher. It was not that useful, but as I said, it facilitated interaction. However, it was useful to learn the use of web technologies for teaching in the future. I think it did not affect my understanding of the course. But as a new technology, it was a good opportunity to learn how to use it. For example, I got an idea of how to use the Online Learning Communities, how to communicate and interact with others, how to write and reply to others, and also how to download and attach files. 90

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Analysis of the Electronic Conference Messages Studying the electronic messages added more depth to understand how the participants used the Online Learning Community, and for what purposes. They were encouraged to participate on their course Online Learning Community and reflect on the weekly questions. All messages in the discussion board were downloaded and saved into Word document files. Tables 4.17 and 4.18 present a summary of the total electronic messages posted in the course discussion board throughout the course. The analyses focused on how the preservice teachers used the Online Learning Community, and for what purposes. Also, they focused on the extent of interaction that existed between the participants during the three community-building stages and attitudes toward using the online tools for learning and collaboration. Tabl 4 17 T 1M e ota essages p oste d h OLC fC on t e 0 ourse A Building Time frame Discussion themes #of community during the Messages stages semester posted Forming Week 1-3 Introductory/ Welcome forum 43 community stage Experiencing Week4-12 Ch 1: Learning in Van Hiele 25 community Theory stage Ch2: Manipulation Principles 12 Ch3: Open Discussion 29 Ch 4: Problem Solving 27 Ch5: Active Leamin_g 36 Ch6: Technologies and 25 teaching Functioning Week 13-15 Group discussion 1 -effectively Group discussion 2 2 Group discussion 3 14 Group discussion 4 -91

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Tabl 418T 1M e ota essages p oste d h OLC fC on t e 0 ourse B Building Time frame Discussion themes Course B community during the stages semester Forming Week 1-3 Introductory Forum 114 community stage Experiencing Week 4-12 Ch 1: Manage Classroom 54 community Ch2: Motivation 32 stage Ch3: Open Discussion 39 Ch 4: Using Computer in the 25 classroom Ch5: Manage Students 7 Behavior Functioning Week 13-15 Group discussion .1 -effectively Group discussion 2 25 Group discussion 3 5 Group discussion 4 14 Group discussion 5 10 Group discussion 6 4 A general review of the posted electronic messages indicated more active participation among students in the Course B Online Learning Community than students in Course A. Moreover, most of the electronic messages that were posted in the Course A discussion forums seemed to be directed to the course instructor, while students in Course B were interacting mainly with each other. However, active participation was identified as low in the Online Learning Communities of both the courses A and B. The percentage of the students identified as active community 92

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members, based on their weekly interactive discussions, was 43% of the total students in course A and 45% of the total students in course B, as described in Table ( 4.19). Tabl 419P e t ercen a_g_es o fAf Prf t C IVe a ICIPan s Course Total N Active Percentage participants A (Teaching Methods of 32 14 Mathematics) 43 B (Classroom Environment) 24 11 45 Analyzing the electronic messages was done at two different times to verify the concluded themes. All messages reflected two main uses of the Online Learning Community by the preservice teachers. The first use was for moral and social support, and the second one was for intellectual support. Table 4.21 provides a summary of the obtained results (Note: all participants' quotes provided in the following sections were taken directly from the online conference and were not checked for spelling errors). 93

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Use for Social Support Analysis of the electronic messages revealed a social use of the Online Learning Community that started at the beginning of the course and continued throughout the course, particularly during the exam times. A high level of social interaction took place in the introductory forum. After participants introduced themselves required for the forming community stage as described in Table 3.1, they started to ask general questions that helped them know each other better. Examples of the questions participants exchanged in the introductory forum were (direct excerpts from the online conference): I want to know your opinion about the characteristics of the best teacher as you see it? What is your opinion about inclusion disability student with regular student in the same class? What is your wisdom? Participants then engaged in deeper discussions related to the course, exchanging advice on how to study the course and overcome difficulties they faced. Some had also started to share information with others through educational websites, flashes, and personal portfolios. Examples of some direct excerpts from the online conference are as follows: 94

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I want to ask you some question if you don't mind!! What is your opinion about the course? Did you understand what is it talking about? I will be grateful if you answer this question. I would like you to tell me your opinion in this course? And do you think that this course will benefit us in real life?? I like this course because it's very important to me as a student teacher and I'm sure that will be useful for my career in future. I think this course helps us in the school and the classroom. In addition it helps me know how to organize my classroom in the future. I understand this course but I have some difficulties expressing my idea which makes me feel uncomfortable. But for sure I will try so hard to pass these difficulties. One of my dreams is to be a good English teacher in the future and all of her students will respect her. I'm interesting in using the computer. I started doing my electronic portfolio and I hope if you can look at it. Pis, click on index (the main page). As a result, participants started to recognize each other and forge relationships with peers with whom they found similarities. Thus, some participants included names in their messages, showing the ones with which they connected. All these introductory interactions took place in the Introductory Forum that was created at the beginning of the course. Although it was initially created for participants to introduce themselves at the beginning of the course, they kept using this forum throughout the semester as an open forum for social and moral support, especially during the exam times. One participant explained that the Online Learning Community was a wonderful place to express their feelings about the exams, and that this was hardly happening in other courses. In fact, creating the open forum, along with the other 95

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course discussion forums, allowed these social support discussions to start and continue. Examples of messages that participants exchanged for moral support before the mid term exam are (Note: these are direct excerpts from the online conference): I hope you are ready for your exams. Work hard and good luck for everybody. Best wishes. I have too many projects and exams these days. And I don't have enough time to finish all these projects. (So, what is your advice for me??) Thank you for encouraging us to work hard and be ready for the exam. And I will ask you the same question Student A asked before. Please sister helps us. Thank you for asking ... I really do not know what the right strategy is. But about myself, I will forget about projects for a few days to study hard. Then, I will return to them. Talk to your teachers to consider your situation. Below are also direct excerpts of some messages that were exchanged after the mid term exam and before the final exam. I am so happy today. The mid term exam was nice. The exam was not difficult, but one hour was not enough to answer all questions. Each question required us to write a short essay. We required time to think before writing the answers. Anyway, I did my best. There were many ideas that I want to write, but the time was not enough to write them all. Also, there was no time for thinking about the answer. That is my feeling. I hope you all are ready for final exams. I want to advice you try to finish your work before the final. I am so worry because I have a lot of work and I don't know how I will finish it. I hope you are doing fine in your projects. I wonder when you will present your first task. Do not worry. Smile and every thing will be fine. 96

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Today is the last day to submit the work. Submit it. This social use of the Online Learning Community was found in previous studies. Roddy (1999), for example, found that an electronic network helped teachers engage in dialogue and conversations that were focused primarily on giving and receiving emotional and moral support. Use for Instructional Support Analyzing the electronic messages also revealed an intellectual use of the Online Learning Community. Participants went through a series of conversations and discussions on selected topics of their course. A high percentage of these discussions took the form of reflective learning where participants articulated the knowledge acquired during the lecture and explained their viewpoints. Participants in Course B, however, showed more active reflection and involvement in their weekly discussions. They were engaged in collaborative interactions that involved giving feedback and exchanging information. Examples of the participants' messages are (direct excerpts from the online conference): I'm interested with your reflection. I want to add something to your reflection that also the class should be safe and comfortable to the students to feel that they are in their house and they are all one family. Thank u for your nice sentences. Really motivation is like a power leads the person to do good things or bad things. But do you think that we can controls our behavior I mean we can controls our motivation. 97

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First thing, thank you for your useful information, Really you give new ideas a bout how to use computer usefully, before I read your passage I think that computer only for teaching or only for presentations but you give me new ideas bout how to use computer in different ways. I am glad we have finished the mid term exam. It was easy but there is one question I am not sure about it. Would you please tell me how you solve the second problems? Yes, I am glad too we are done with that one. I will show you how I solved the problem ...... I also wanted to know how to solve the second question, I think I did the same steps as you guys did, but unfortunately I exchanged the sings. Interestingly, in the Course B online conference, it seemed that participants formed deeper connections and acted as active members in thoughtful discussions that showed respect for each other's viewpoints. Their online conversation moved beyond "yes, I agree" to more intellectual discussion that involved testing values and beliefs. Examples of their thoughtful discussion include: Your information is useful. Thank you ... You said psychosocial environment is more important than physical environment. I do not want you to reduce the value of the physical one. They both are important. Imagine your class is empty of equipment, the chairs are everywhere, the lighting is not good and the class is hot or too cold! How would you build a good psychosocial environment? Remember that, physical environment paves the way for you to do that... I think the opposite is true. I mean if we have a perfect classroom organ1zmg, but the students feel unsafe then you are doing nothing ... !! 98

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I think the both are equally because each one completes other. For example, if student have a good psychological environment, then they new a good physical environment. Students feel comfortable with teacher but there are no material help teacher and students to go on to do better. The instructor said that one of the main topics to be included in the exam is School culture. I think that School culture is the, "beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that characterize a school in terms of: How people treat and feel about each other; the extent to which people feel included and appreciated; and Rituals and traditions reflecting collaboration and collegiality." (1993). School culture is NOT about religion, race, socio-economic status, size of the school, or the latest standardized test scores. I hope you learn a new thing. And here is the Source I found: http://www .schoolculture.net/whatisit.html During the last weeks of the semester, participants worked in groups on their final projects (each group consisted of 5-8 members). Groups that interacted through their discussion forums seemed to have a shared purpose developed at that stage of the community-building process (functioning effectively stage). Participants had open communication and a realistic understanding of each others' perceptions and needs. Excerpts of posted messages from the different group forums are: GROUP 1 Hi group, (Student B) and I want to tell that we changed the topic of our project from "Classroom Rules" to "Time Management" because there is no enough resources. Hope you don't mind and if you have any questions please ask. Keep on touch:) Hi, changes are ok, the most important thing is to get a good project and get a good grade. In addition, I searched for my part and found a lot of information. 99

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Congratulation we finished presenting our project. Thanks for your efforts especially (Student A) and good luck for you all. GROUP2 How are you and how were your exams? I hope you did fine ......... Now its time to work (; I want to remind you that we are talking about misbehavior problem in classroom. So you should include that in your part. According to my part I attached it with this email. Sorry for my late .. .I will not attend the class today ... forgive me!!!!!!!!!!!!! GROUP3 I want to ask you about your opinion on doing this collaborative project. Every student has to do her work and if there is any discussion or if any body want to add any thing we have to add it. That's all because I want our project to be an ideal project. Thank you every body" I agree with Samya. I want to divide the project between us. So each student searches about one part. Then we will make appointment and we will talk about the project. Please if you agree with me email me. Have a nice day What is the problem?? I don't see any body active?? Please. Do your work faster because we have to do our presentation. GOOD LUCK(* __ *) We need to make appointment in this week. See which day is good for you and tell me. What are you doing??? I still working on the project. What about you guys ... 100

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Technology-Use Support Very few messages were found that discussed technological issues of the participants. Initially, participants posted messages at the beginning of the course to make sure that they were using the OLC correctly. Those messages were directed mainly to the course instructor and the researcher, mostly from those who were using the Blackboard for the first time. Examples of these messages are (All the following excerpts were taking directly from the online conference): Hi Dr. AAA, this is my first time to use black board and wondering if I am doing that right ... I am a graduate student next semester and wondering if I am doing ok on the Blackboard. I use the computer and the Interne but this is the first time I use this type of technology and type thing on the Blackboard. Some participants also indicated a positive attitude toward using the information and learning technologies. For example, some were searching the Internet to share information with their peers in the Online Learning Community. Others were creating PowerPoint presentations and posting them on the discussion board to hear comments from others. This article I found it in the Internet. After reading it please gives me your opinion depends on what we have studied before in the chapter Classroom environment: the basics. When I searched the Internet I found powerful information and I would like to share it with you all and it is mainly about the 101

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computer and its applications have a major role to play in the education of some children with special learning need. I will be glad to see my attached small PowerPoint about two kind of intelligent However, there were no messages reflecting individuals' perceptions of their technology skills or concern about the use ofiCTs, or with the design or functionality of the Online Learning Community. Although some students faced difficulties in using the Blackboard during the course, as appeared in the interviews, they did not discuss these difficulties in their electronic messages; probably because participants preferred to talk about their technical difficulties in the classroom where it is easier to ask for help and receive hands-on training. 102

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Summary Overall results of one way ANCOV A across the two different courses indicated no significant differences in preservice teachers' Sense of Community and Technology Competency between the treatment and control groups. However, improvement in technology skills at the end of the course was significant for preservice teachers in the treatment groups using a paired sample T -test. Perceived usefulness and ease of use were high among all participants who used the Online Learning Community. Results from the qualitative analyses showed frequent use of the Online Learning Community for social and moral support. Electronic messages also demonstrated different intellectual activities in which the community members engaged and used the OLC. The twenty interviewees gave a close picture of the effect of using the Online Learning Community that facilitated creating a relationship and supporting the interaction between students. Improvement in technological competency using the online tools was indicated by several interviewees. 103

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Table 4.20 Themes Obtained from the Interview Obtained Results Themes Effect on Interaction The interviewees indicated that the Online Learning and Relationship Community developed in their course: -Facilitated creating a relationship between individuals through sharing information about interests, expectations for the course, and difficulties. -Added a new forum to the course to communicate with each other and with the course instructor. -Expanded the extent of conversations and interaction on topics related to their learning. They were able to discuss their difficulties and support each other emotionally. -Active participants expressed sense of connectedness with each other and with the course due to the frequent interactions in the Online Learning Community. Effect on -Many interviewees explained learning different Technological skills in using the discussion board and the email Competence system. Some added that the online interaction enabled them to practice keyboard typing. -They also valued the experience that enabled understanding the use of the Internet and the web technologies for learning and social interaction for the future profession as educators. Facilitate Learning Most interviewees indicated that: -The discussions in the Online Learning Community were useful to learn and reflect on what they had learned. -The OLC facilitated learning from other students in the class through reading their different perspectives; -Encouraged the preservice teachers to contribute to their peers' learning process and share information. 104

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Table 4.20 Themes Obtained from the Interview (Cont.) Facilitate Learning -They were able to ask questions at any time and get responses from peers and the course instructor as well. -The Online Learning Community enhanced motivation to learn. -It facilitated collaboration and exchanging of information. -The interactions on the OLC improved the English language proficiency for the active participants. -It increased access to learning through making the course resources available on the Blackboard and easy to reach at any time. -They found the online tools on the Blackboard very easy to use, although some were using them for the first time. 105

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Table 4 21 Themes Obtained from the Electronic Messages Use for Social Support Electronic messages in the Online Learning Communities showed that the participants: Instructional Support Technology-use Support -Started with asking general questions that helped them know each other better. -Then, engaged in deeper discussions related to the course, exchanged advice on how to study the course and overcome difficulties they faced. Also, they shared information through posting educational websites, flashes, and personal portfolios. -Recognized each other and were able to forge relationships with peers they found similarities with. Thus, some participants included names in their messages that showed the ones they got connected with. -Found a place to exchange views about the exams, and that was hardly happening in other courses. -Participants went through a series of conversations and discussions on selected topics of their course. A high percentage of these discussions took the form of reflective learning where participants articulated the knowledge acquired during the lecture and explained their viewpoints. -They were engaged in collaborative interactions that involved giving feedback and exchanging information. -Very few messages were found that discussed technological issues of the participants. Initially, some participants posted messages to make sure that they were using the OLC correctly. Those messages were directed mainly to the course instructor and the researcher. 106

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Table 4.21 Themes Obtained from the Electronic Messages (Cont.) Technology-use Support -Some participants indicated a positive attitude toward using the information and learning technologies. For example, some were searching the Internet to share information with their peers in the Online Learning Community. Others were creating PowerPoint presentations and posting them on the discussion board to hear comments from others. -There were no messages reflecting individuals' perceptions of their Technology Proficiency or concern about the use of ICTs, or with the design or functionality of the Online Learning Community. 107

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CHAPTERS DISCUSSION This research involved an Online Learning Community developed in two pre service teachers' undergraduate courses to study the effect on Sense of Community, Technology skills, and Attitudes toward technology-based learning. A mixed-method design was used to understand how the preservice teachers utilized the Online Learning Community (OLC) and the effect of the OLC on their interaction, connectedness, and technological proficiency in the two traditional lecture-based courses (A, B). Each course consisted of two sections taught by the same instructor, with one section receiving the online treatment and other as a control group. The quantitative part of the mixed design included pre and post test questionnaires consisting of three instruments to measure the three dependent variables. The Sense of Classroom Community Index (SCCI) measured the preservice teachers' Sense of Community; the ISTE Technology Competence Scale evaluated the perceived Technology Proficiency; and Perceived Usefulness (PU) and Perceived Ease of Use (PeoU) were two instruments used to understand teachers' perception and attitudes toward the OLC. The results of the ANCOV A analysis of the quantitative data indicated no significant differences in Sense of Community and perceived Technological 108

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Proficiency between the control and the treatment groups, as described in Chapter 4. Moreover, there were no significant differences in Interaction and Connectedness between the two groups, except the sense of Connectedness for the preservice teachers in course A. Participants in both courses perceived the Online Learning Community to be highly useful and easy to use. Themes obtained from analyzing the electronic messages revealed a social use of the Online Learning Community, as well as an intellectual use. The interviews, in addition, indicated that the preservice teachers found the OLC useful in facilitating social relationships between learners. Through the initial introductory discussion forum, they were able to extend relationships and know others in the course more closely. Additionally, the interaction existed in the Online Learning Community supported learning and exchanging of information between the preservice teachers. This chapter discusses these findings, provides possible explanations for the lack of significant differences in Sense of Community and Technological Proficiency, examines stages for developing online learning communities in teacher education, addresses limitations of the study, and offers topics for further investigation. 109

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Sense of Community As discussed in chapter 1, Sense of Community refers to feelings that are established when a group of people are able to discover their similarities and differences and share a sense of purpose. Interaction is critical between members of the community to facilitate the exchange of information and to share faith in the ability to meet needs of other members in the learning community. Sense of Community involves feelings of belonging and connectedness. The preservice teachers in the study did not show significant differences in Sense of Community between treatment and control groups. One possible explanation for the lack of effect of the Online Learning Community is the lack of interaction by many of the preservice teachers. Of the total preservice teachers in the courses, relatively few were found participating actively in the OLC as described in Table 4.15. ANCOV A analysis for the Interaction subscale showed no significant differences between the two groups as explained in Table 4.6. However, results indicated significant differences in the Connectedness between the control and the treatment groups of course A. The control group showed a high level of connectedness with others in the course, probably due to the small size of group 14 students in the class compared to 42 in the treatment section. In spite of that, both the groups of the course A-the control and the treatmentdid not show significant differences in their Interaction and Sense of Community. 110

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Responses to the interview question of what difficulties or problems found in using the Online Learning Community revealed that the lack of participation and the interaction was a critical problem found in the OLC. Several interviewees explained that the limited participation affected their use of the OLC and caused dissatisfaction with the online interaction. Rovai and Jordan (2004) conducted a study that measured Sense of Community between two groups of teachers enrolled in two traditional courses where one incorporated an online component for extended asynchronous discussions. ANCOV A analysis indicated that the group with the blended online discussions scored significantly higher for Sense of Community than the traditional course group. The study reported 92 % participation rates, comparing to 45 % of active participation scored in this study. Thus, the insufficient interactions, as Tinto argued (1975), could affect learners' Sense of Community. 111

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Technological Proficiency Research reported the benefits of preservice teachers using a telecommunications network to increase technological proficiency and information access and retrieval (Casey, 1994; Kenny, 2003). This study examined the effect of preservice teachers' use of the Online Learning Community to understand changes among the treatment groups in technological proficiency during the course and how these differed from the control groups. ANCOV A analysis indicated no significant differences between control and treatment groups using the pre test results as a covariate. The lack of significant differences in perceived Technology Competence between the two groups could be because of the lack of participation in using the OLC by the treatment groups. It is difficult to expect a high rate of improvement in preservice teachers' technological competency without an active use by most participants of the technologies that were integrated into the Online Learning Community by most participants. The treatment might not be exclusive or strong enough. Another explanation for the minimal differences would be the limitation in the selfreport instrument that did not measure the actual technological skills of individuals. There is a possibility that the control groups mistakenly perceived their technological proficiency at the end of the course to be high (Mean for control groups of course A= 4.13, B= 4.1). Chau (1996) and Szajna (1996) assert that self-reported measures are not accurate representations of actual technological proficiency. Thus, 112

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further studies are required to use more reliable measurement tools to assess Technological skills of online learners. However, the paired t-test analysis indicated significant improvement in the technological proficiency of the preservice teachers in the treatment groups and not in the control groups (Tables 4.8, 4.9). The paired t-test (which helps to understand the within-group differences) focuses on the difference between the paired data of individuals before and at the end of the course. Thus, it seemed that the use of the Online Learning Community affected the technological proficiency of the active preservice teachers who used the Online Learning Community, although the total changes were not significant due to the lack of participation, as compared to the control group. This outcome was indicated in the ANCOV A analyses. 113

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Attitudes Toward Online Learning Based on the questionnaires results, the preservice teachers showed a positive attitude toward using the Online Learning Community. In the pre test questionnaire, they indicated high initial expectations of the usefulness; this expectation remained high in the post-test questionnaire. They perceived the use of OLC as useful to quickly accomplish tasks required for the course and to collaborate with peers. They also believed it was useful in improving learning performance and facilitating continuous learning in the future (see Table 4.1 0). The Ease of Use perception was also high among preservice teachers in the treatment groups, probably because the Online Learning Community was developed on the Blackboard platform with which they were familiar. In addition to that, several interviewees indicated that they found the Blackboard system easy to learn and use, although some were using it for the first time. Peers' influence on attitudes toward using the OLC system was scored high in the preservice teachers' responses to the questionnaire (Mean for group A=4.39, and for group B= 4.31 ). Participants in the interview also indicated that their friends in the class perceived the OLC as highly useful and encouraged them to use it. Because the OLC was a new method, they sought each other's opinions about the helpfulness and ease ofuse of the OLC. Furthermore, the group work increased peer influence by encouraging others within the group to use the OLC. Thus, the social information processing model (SIPM) presented in the theoretical framework, explained that an 114

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individual perceives an e-learning system to be useful when he/she evaluates it positively and the people around evaluate it positively as well (Rogers, 1986; Ajzen & Fishben, 1980; Spencer, 2000). As one interviewee explained, there is a possibility that even the preservice teachers who did not use the OLC very often evaluated it positively because of the influence of others. "Although I did not use it very much but I heard from my friends in the class it was useful ... Findings from the Qualitative Analysis Data collected from the interviews and the electronic messages illustrated how the preservice teachers responded to the treatment and perceived the usefulness of the OLC. The Online Learning Community appeared to be effective for giving and receiving social and moral support. These findings are consistent with previous research, which suggested that using a telecommunications network can provide preservice teachers with socio-emotional support (Roddy, 1999; Bodzin & Park, 1998). As suggested in socio-cultural theory, this facilitation of social interaction is considered essential for learning (Jaramillo, 1996; Putnam & Borko, 2000). Moreover, the interaction and social connections established within the OLC provided active participants with a sense of online presence that facilitated reflective learning and collaboration, as suggested in the theoretical framework. Social presence is perceived as the generator of increased learning and satisfaction (Spencer, 2000). Thus, most interviewees mentioned that the interaction in the Online Learning 115

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Community was useful and supported their learning in the course. It enabled them to contribute to their peers' learning process, reflect on the learned topics, and share information and educational resources. Moreover, the asynchronous nature of the discussion facilitated the interaction with peers and instructors. Participants were able to ask questions and receive responses at any time of the day and the week, especially during the exam times. The Online Learning Community was also perceived as useful to support collaboration and group work. Results from previous studies are parallel with these findings. Thomas, Clift and Sugimoto (1996) and Casey (1996), for instance, reported that preservice teachers perceived as useful telecommunication networks that increased time to reflect on what they were learning helped meet their course requirements, and maintained contact between students and instructors. In addition to that, some interviewees who actively participated indicated that the online discussions were useful in improving their English language competency. Results from Felix's study (2001) ofpreservice teachers concluded that the web is a useful environment for language learning, especially as a support for face-to-face teaching. He found that preservice teachers' comfort with and enjoyment of using the web increased significantly during their studies. Thus, this research recommends using the OLC system in courses at the College of Education to enhance students' language proficiency. This is an especially important issue for students in the UAEU, as most courses are required to be taught in English, beginning in the Fall of 2004. 116

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Increases in technological proficiency and understanding of the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in education were two effects of using the Online Learning Community that the preservice teachers reported. Several interviewees, for example, indicated improvement in their technological competency in using the electronic bulletin board. Responses from the open-ended question and the interview also revealed that the preservice teachers found the OLC to be useful for understanding the use of the Internet, and the web technologies for learning and social interaction. These two effects could contribute to the goal of preparing preservice teachers to integrate technology to improve technology skills and learn about its applications in education. Participants indicated that the flexibility and the openness found in the online discussions of this research were significant to create unstressful, enjoyable and simulating online interaction. Participation in the weekly discussions was available at any time and open for the class members to discuss in addition to the assigned weekly questions topics of their choosing. This openness in the discussions added an element of conversation to the online discussion that made it different from just receiving responses to an assigned question. In parallel with this, a study of the effect of engaging preservice science teachers in an electronic professional community on the World Wide Web indicated that the open structure of the discussion forums appeared to be an important factor in the free exchange of ideas, questions, and other types of dialogue among preservice science teachers (Bodzin & Park, 1998). A considerable 117

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comment to add here is that in spite of the openness in the discussions, participants did not post personal issues considered unacceptable or out of the course focus that are experienced in some open online discussions. The preservice teachers used the OLC for learning purposefullyeven with the lack of their professor's presence that was part of the study design. The Treatment Design Considering the three main Frames for developing an Online Learning Community (Social, Instruction, and Technology), that are suggested in the OLC model in chapter 1 (Figure 1.2), participants were engaged in different activities throughout various stages. These stages are described in Table 3.4. Each stage of the social frame is facilitated by activities from the instruction frame (e.g. the Functioning Effectively stage of the social frame is facilitated by activities designed for the closure curriculum stage of the instruction frame). At the Forming Community stage, the first stage of the Social frame, the initiation curriculum that included participants' introductions to themselves in the online forum was conducted (such as names, majors, experiences, interest, expectation about the course, and things they would like others to know about them). An open online discussion forum called "Welcome" was created to enable participants introduce themselves and recognize others in the course closely. Responses were varied among participants. Some preservice teachers perceived the 118

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act of posting to the discussion forum as being merely a response to an assigned task. Others, however, went further by asking questions, exchanging information and engaging in discussions that helped them start making on-line acquaintances with some peers in the class, although they still did not recognize each other in person. Most interviews indicated that the Welcome forum created at the beginning enabled them through the openness in the discussions to know others in the course more closely and facilitated social relationships. Curriculum for the next stage, Experiencing Community, involved weekly online discussions to reflect on topics discussed in the class and share information and resources related to the course, such as articles and relevant web sites. Participants worked on small group projects. Each group had an online discussion forum to discuss progress in the project. Participants indicated that the act of reflection was useful to enhance their learning and articulate the information acquired from the lecture. Reading other reflections and hearing different perspectives enabled them to test understanding and construct new knowledge. Interviewees explained that the online discussions promoted a level of reflective interaction that is often lacking in regular face-to face traditional courses. Engaging participants in a series of conversations and discussions in this stage aimed to support sharing common goals, engaging in common experiences, and developing a shared language within the community of preservice teachers in the 119

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course. The final group projects also provided opportunities to increase the interaction and collaboration, as well as enhance the connection between community members. The interaction and collaborative activities extended into the third stage of the online community development, Functioning Effectively. Participants at this stage were invited to share results and experiences, and engaged in reflective discussions that were suggested in the Closure Curriculum of the Instruction Frame. However, because of the design of the experimental courses and the time pressure at the end of the semester, the preservice teachers in this study did not present and share final results with others in the OLC. Course A, for example, did not require a final presentation for the group project and Course B required the preservice teachers to present their final project in the class. The interactions that were required in all the community development stages helped learners develop social relationships with each other and form a learning community. This particular social and physical context facilitated the learning process that always involves interactions among people on some level and is suggested to take place in communities (Scardamalia & Beretier, 1996; Wenger, 1998). Moreover, the online interactions enabled learners to share views and develop multiple representations of experiences gained from their course. Such multiple perspectives provided learners with flexibility and support in reorganizing their knowledge base to add new experiences (Speck & Knipe, 2001 ). The different stages suggested in the OLC model (Figure 1.2) facilitated developing a sense of social 120

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presence that supported participants in constructing meanings from the online interactions. Since the technology platform has the ability to provide the means for interaction (Seufert, Lechner, & Stanoevska, 2002), the college Blackboard platform was used to implement the services and activities for developing the OLC. Most participants were familiar with this technology and received efficient technical support as needed. The comfort level with the structural design of the Blackboard facilitated mapping the Social and Instruction frames to the applied technology in scenarios and workflow processes that met the community requirements. However, although a level of authentic community was established as a result of the active participation of some preservice teachers, the lack of the entire class participation was a challenge that affected the total results. Thus, studying factors to increase participation seems significant for developing successful OLC. Results from this study indicate a need for considering the characteristics of the learners and the learning context in order to encourage participation. Learners' characteristics include learning styles, personality characteristics, learners' comfort level and previous experience using telecommunications technology, as well as learners' skills, knowledge, and needs. Further factors of learning context are also needed such as institutional environment, course delivery method, and instructor presence since many participants in the study sought their instructor's role in the OLC. Considering these factors with the three main frames of the OLC (Social, Instruction, and 121

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Technology) might increase the online interaction and the sense of presence and connectedness among learners that is necessary to enhance the effectiveness of OLC. Further study is recommended to examine the effects of the factors suggested in developing effective Online Learning Community (see Figure 5.1). Learning context: Learners Characteristics. Learning styles, personality characteristics, learners' comfort level and previous experience using telecommunications technology, attitudes towards using ICTs, skills and Institutional environment Course delivery method (online, in-class, hybrid) Instructor presence (Social Frame) Community View (Instruction Frame) Implantation and service view knowledge v r----------0-----d-.---------'\ rgan1zat10n es1 gn Forming Experiencing Functioning Community f--Community 1--Effectively Setting roles, protocols, language, and scenarios for internctinn 1 t r n erac 10n an d h c anne I d es1gn Initiation Experiencing Closure Curriculum Community 1--Curriculum Curriculum Provide services of information content, learning objectives negotiation course design, course delivery and evaluation Technological design Technology Frame (Internet (WWW), Intranet, Groupware, Synchronous/asynchronous communication technology, Infrastructure view content-management-systems, course authoring tools, etc Figure 5.1 Factors for Developing OLC 122

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Quality of the Online Learning Community Treatment The treatment in this research consisted of providing preservice teachers with a tool for the creation of an online community and supporting its use. Because the Online Learning Community was intended to be voluntary and learner-centered in order for the preservice teachers to enhance interaction and access to learning, reaction, responsiveness, and participation varied. Observation during the experiment suggested that the quality of the treatment experienced by individual preservice teachers varied, as well. Some participants were motivated, demonstrated willingness to comment and encourage others to continue interacting, and were more attentive to and involved in continuance of the interaction and social network. Those active participants seemed to use the tool on a regular basis and enjoy the learner-centered discussions. Others, however, demonstrated limited use of the online tools. Overall results of this research study indicated that the preservice teachers, regardless of their participation level, perceived the Online Learning Community to be useful for learning and social interaction. Responses from the interviews particularly revealed this constructive perception of the Online Learning Community that represented views ofboth active and non-active participants. The interviews were open conversation that gave the preservice teachers the ability to express thoughts freely and the confidence to explain how they evaluated their experiences with the Online Learning Community. The interviewees, in response, valued the openness of the interview and decided to answer the questions directly with what they actually 123

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believed rather than reading the questions in advance. The conversational environment added reliability to the interviews' responses that illustrate their personal perceptions. Although interviewees (both the active and non active participants) indicated positive outcomes related to the Online Learning Community, the treatment did not lead to effects large enough to impact the class overall. Findings from the questionnaire, in fact, revealed the lack of all class members' active participation that is required in such authentic community building. When the preservice teachers failed to engage deeply in the Online Learning Community, the total effect of interaction was diminished. Even fully engaged participants would be adversely affected by others' disengagement, especially in the online discussions. Cultural Consideration In view of the cultural background and the learning needs in the UAE, the Online Learning Community seems to be an effective tool to support students' learning in the country. Given the fact that many students in the UAE, females in particular, are reluctant to speak and negotiate in front of people, the OLC has the ability to support dialogue and reflection on experiences among learners. Moreover, the study revealed that the flexibility of the asynchronous online discussions facilitates reflective thinking and improves skills in English, the language for learning in most educational institutions in the UAE. Supporting learners in the 124

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country to learn in English is considered a requirement that consumes a huge expenditure. Therefore, providing learners with a tool to develop Online Learning Community in their learning settings has the ability to improve learning achievement and satisfaction through having enough time to read, think, write, and speak in a different language. Considering the segregation in the educational system, having a male faculty with all women students in the colleges and the universities can be a challenge for some students. Using the Online Learning Communities system would provide such learners with chances to express abilities and concerns and engage in intellectual discussions. Observation during this study revealed also leading roles of some preservice teachers who actively participated in their Online Learning Community although they seemed quiet and hardly recognized in class. Such student-centered learning environments are required to encourage students take a responsibility of their learning process, as well as learn about and experience the most essential leadership skills required to function effectively in the workplace. The need for creative and innovative leaders in the country to meet the rapid change in the society increases the demand to embrace such e-learning opportunities. Since there are very rare opportunities for both genders to meet and exchange ideas and difficulties, the OLC system also holds a great deal of promise to engage students from both women and men colleges to share and discuss experiences. 125

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Instructors and trainers can join learners and professionals of both genders to learn and collaborate with each other in convenient and efficient way. Recommendation For course instructors who need to integrate technologies in their teaching method and to prepare students with skills and knowledge in using ICTs in education, Online Learning Community is one strategy to consider. Instructors are encouraged to support developing an authentic learning community for students in cyberspace to increase interaction, collaboration, and attitudes towards using technologies for learning. The OLC can be a voluntary outlet for participation controlled by students to negotiate aspiration, express feelings, exchange views, and develop a social network. Learners need to take the main role in discussions in order to be active community members and meet each other's needs. For a course-based OLC, instructors are encouraged to take part in the online discussions, as learners always seek the presence of an instructor or mentor in the online environments. However, role of instructor must meet the purpose for building the online learning community in the course, giving learners the main role in the discussions. Taking in to consideration the characteristics of learners and the institutional context, as well as course requirements is recommended for building a successful Online Learning Community. At the program level, OLC is suggested to 126

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be controlled by students and supported by faculty members to encourage participation and maintain high levels of discussion. Technologies to be used must facilitate engaging learners in various activities throughout the different suggested Social and Instruction stages. The ease of use and access of the selected technologies would increase learners' acceptance and confidence to participate and interact with the online learning environment. A recommendation for implementing the idea of Online Learning Community in the teacher preparation program was suggested by some participants in the study. These preservice teachers believed that developing online community in their program would meet their continuous needs for a forum to discuss challenges, gain support from more experienced students in the program, exchange experiences, and become connected to others in the program. Thus, program directors are encouraged to support developing Online Learning Community among cohort students. Activities suggested in the research for the three community development stages might be different when building a campus online community. Moderating such open Online Learning Communities is essential. Both faculty members and students must take a role in moderating the discussions and be attentive to the continuance of interaction and social networking. Everyone's participation is recommended in order to enrich the discussion and increase effectiveness (college faculty, program director, outside experts, etc). In order to encourage communication and memberships, resources and services need to be provided and updated for the community members. So that the 127

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participants can minimize conflicts, the rules, directions, and objectives should be stated and clearly defined. Limitations with the Study There were limitations with the sample in this research and with the instrument used to collect data. First, the sample of the study was small and did not represent all preservice teachers in the College of Education at the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU). It was limited to two courses and participants were not randomly selected. Therefore, it is difficult to generalize the results to other preservice teachers in the College or in other educational institutions. Moreover, the self-report instrument that was used to measure the technological proficiency of the preservice teachers in the study was not sufficient. The used tool reflected the perceived technological proficiency of participants that might be different from their actual skills. Therefore, further research is needed to examine the affect of Online Learning Community systems on the technological competency of teachers. A limitation in the study was also found with the necessary assumption that participants honestly and diligently completed the questionnaires. Based on observations, some participants did not necessarily place a high priority on carefully and thoughtfully answering the questionnaires and found it long. 128

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Regarding performance, there was a limitation as participants viewed, to some extent, the Online Learning Community as a novel activity. Moreover, other potential reactive effects on external validity could have occurred as a result of pretest sensitization, or the feeling of participating in an experiment. The reliability of coding the open-ended comments and the electronic conference messages was another problem. The initial plan was to have an expert coder do the analysis independently and compare with the first results. Unfortunately, that was not available at the time of the study. To overcome this, the coding process was done several times at different periods in order to verify the emergent themes. The survey comments were initially coded as individual sentences or phrases, and then the common comments were reported. Three weeks later, the survey comments were reviewed and examined carefully to recode them. Four out of the 56 comments were recoded, resulting in an intra-rater reliability of93%. The coding process for the online conference messages was different, as sentences were longer and included different information. Analyses were done first by looking at the purpose of the online comments in each discussion forum. In the first analysis, various categories were defined and in the second coding process, these were combined into two main themes concluded at the second coding process. Messages were grouped under these defined themes of social and intellectual use. The content of the messages was then reviewed to identify types of information under 129

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each theme. Various keywords were defined from messages of the social use and the same for the intellectual use. Using the same strategy, all the electronic messages were reviewed and recoded after three weeks. In this time, results from other literature were used to verify themes emerging from this research. A third review of the messages was done two weeks later to see if all messages fit into the defined themes. Recommendations for Future Research The research examined the effect on preservice teachers' Sense of Community, Technological Proficiency, and Attitudes toward online learning ofthe inclusion of an Online Learning Community in traditional-lecture based courses. Several future research avenues for both developing Online Learning Communities and understanding their effect on teachers are apparent from this research. First, the results showed that many of the preservice teachers in the experiment did not adequately participate in the Online Learning Community activities. Thus, further research is needed to assess the conditions that would lead to effective participation and membership in the OLC. Investigating the conditions for successful online learning and community membership would be a positive addition to understand strategies for developing the Online Learning Community system. Furthermore, the research indicated variance in attitudes and participation in the Online Learning Community among the preservice teachers. This variance might 130

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be attributed to learning styles, personality characteristics, teachers' comfort levels and previous experience using telecommunications technology, or attitudes towards using information technology. Preservice teachers' access to a networked computer might also have an effect on participation in the OLC, as some participants explained. Thus, further research is needed to investigate possible factors that might contribute to the variance of preservice teachers' attitudes and perceptions toward Online Learning Community systems. Participants found the Online Learning Community useful to facilitate reflective learning and enhance interaction and social relationship with others in the course. These comments spur further research questions about which topic areas promote the most reflective discourse? What aspects of the Online Learning Community do preservice teachers feel foster their social relationship and sense of an electronic community of educators? Which topic areas promote the most exchanges of ideas among preservice teachers? How does peer responsiveness affect the depth of the dialogue? Does interacting with a Web-based forum promote reflection on what the preservice teachers are learning, including teaching approaches and decision making? Although the Online Learning Community was designed in this research to be voluntary student-centered discussions, some preservice teachers found the lack of their instructor interaction and observation as problematic in using the Online Learning Community. Thus, questions regarding what types of observation preservice 131

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teachers need from their instructor and what types of mentoring university instructors need to provide on an Online Learning Community. Interestingly, other participants valued the openness and the student-centered discussions in their Online Learning Community that encouraged social and intellectual interaction and facilitated authentic community building. Therefore, further research is essential to understand what degree of openness is needed in learner-centered online discussions in order to meet learning needs of preservice teachers. Conclusion Online learning communities (OLC) have the potential to enhance social relationships and interaction required for preservice teachers' learning. The OLC developed in this study went through three stages of Forming Community, Experiencing Community, and Functioning Effectively. Activities were varied during the three stages. Effects on preservice teachers were positive and paralleled with previous research of facilitating communication with peers and instructors, supporting collaboration, sharing information, and enhancing attitude toward online learning. Findings from this research illustrated that the preservice teachers used the Online Learning Community for sending and receiving moral and social support. They exchanged advice on how to study for the course and overcome difficulties. Discussions took the form of reflective learning that enabled pre service teachers to articulate knowledge acquired during the lecture and learn from others' viewpoints. 132

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Participants indicated positive attitudes toward using the OLC system for learning. These results, in fact, urge institutions to provide teachers with a tool to develop OLC's and support their use so that preservice teachers can share and develop content, as well as pedagogical and technological expertise (Fahy, 2003). Such an online learning environment has the ability to connect preservice teachers with university faculty and K-12 teachers. Participants in this study suggested establishing an Online Learning Community at the institutional level to support teachers upon entering the program. More experienced members can offer guidance and insight to new students, giving them immediate support while newer students can constantly challenge more experienced members to reconsider previously held conceptions. Results from the questionnaire indicated that a Sense of Community and Technological Proficiency were not significantly different between the treatment and the control groups. Possible reasons for unobservable differences include: a) lack of participation by a high percentage of the preservice teachers in the Online Learning Community, which reduced the interaction necessary for social connection, b) limitation in tools used to measure technological proficiency, and c) limitation with the research sample that included a small group of female and in-campus preservice teachers from two courses. Problems of network access, instructor observation, heavy workload and time limitations were also declared by participants to affect online participation. Therefore, further research is needed to investigate conditions for effective participation in the online learning communities. More research is also 133

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needed to investigate the design of online learning communities for teachers, and how they can optimally be used to increase learning. Effects of engaging teachers in online learning communities are varied and valuable, and require further study. 134

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APPENDIX A QUESTIONNAIRE Nallle -------------------------------------------------------------------Age -----Major ----------------------Place of Residence ---------------------Years ofTechnology Experience: 0-2 yrs 2-5 yrs 5-10 yrs more than 10 yrs Part I: For the following statements please select the number that best reflects your feeling for this particular course. SD = Strongly Disagree, D = Disagree, U = Undecided, A = Agree, SA = Strongly Agree I expect in this course that SD D u A SA 1. I feel that students in this course care about each "' other "' .2 4 E. 2. I feel safe 7 "' 3 4 [, '"' 3. I feel that discussions are not valued in this course 7 3 l c. -' 4. I feel that this course results in only modest 7 2 2 4 .5 learning 5. I feel that there is no group ident!!Y .-" :3 l "' 6. I trust others in this course 2 j ;j G 7. I feel that I am encouraged to ask questions r. .f ;= _...:; 8. I feel that everyone in this course contributes to the ; 2 .3 l G learning process 9. I feel connected to others in this course 7 2 2 l Cw 10. I feel that others are not genuinely concerned with ; 2 3 I G my welfare 11. I feel that there is a free flow of diverse information 2 2 f G 12. I feel that this course does not help me learn new ; .2 3 ,., G concepts 13. I feel that this course does not promote friendships ,. 2 '?.. r4 14. I feel that I can rely on others in this course 7 ::; ,,., 15. I feel that there are sufficient opportunities for ; 3 4 5 socializing 135

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I expect in this course that SD D u A SA 16. I feel that learning is important to everyone in this : course ? .;j 1 7. I feel important in this course 1 l G 18. I feel uneasy exposing gaps in my understanding 2 ;f "' 19. I feel that others do not pay attention to me .. :2 2 ;1 c. 20. I feel that I should he!P others learn 1 3 :l s 21. I do not feel a spirit of community 2 : :5 22. I feel that members of this course on me 2 2 ;j c. 23. I feel that students don't help each other j l "' 24. I feel that I am given ample opportunities to learn ? ,;1 :J 25. I feel that this course is like a family .-, 3 l "' 26. I feel reluctant to speak openly j ;j E. 27. I feel that it is hard to get help when I have a '. 2 3 : S: !question 28. I feel that I am not encouraged to learn by others ; !l G "' 29. I feel isolated in this course :2 s 30. I feel that other students are not reliable 2 3 ,;; 0 31. I feel that I receive timely feedback 2 ?. l c. 32. I feel that my educational needs are not being met ;.:: :? ,;, (:; "' 33. I feel recognized 2 :l -34. I feel uncertain about others in this course ;i ::; -35. I feel that discussions are mostly one-way 2 j .;j E. 36. I feel that other students are important sources of .2 ,;j E. learning .,;;.. 37. I feel out of place in this course :3 :l t; "' -38. I feel confident that others will help me 2 .3 l t; 39. I feel that students interact easily with each other 3 l :5 "' 140. I feel that this course does not promote a desire to 3 .;j learn ..:. 136

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Part II: ISTE General Preparation Profile for Prospective Teachers The following statements reflect fundamental skills for applying information technology in educational settings. Please circle the response that best indicates your level of competence in using each of these skills. SD D u A SA 1. I have a strong understanding of the nature and 7 j 2 4 operation of technology_ systems. 2. I can use technology tools and information resources to increase productivity, promote 7 :.2 2 l 0 creativity, and facilitate academic learning. 3. I can use content-specific tools (e.g., software, simulation, Web tools) to support learning and 7 :; 3 l .G ..: research. 4. I can use technology in the development of 2 3 l .::1 strategies for solving problems in the real world. 5. I can use a variety of media and formats, including telecommunications, to collaborate, 7 2. 2 l .s publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences. 6. I have a positive attitude toward technology uses that support lifelong learning, 7 :'2 .s collaboration, personal pursuits, and .: productivity. I feel competent ... SD D u A SA 1. Using computers to enhance my teaching and 7 i.; :-1 .3 :.l learning. -2. Using computers for planning and organizing 7 activities. ;2 3 4 3. Using computers for on-line communication (e.g., e-mail, bulletin boards or discussion ; 2 ? 4 ; lists, multi-user computer discussion). 4. Using distance learning hardware and 7 E.. software. .2 :2 l 5. Describing instructional principles and research related to the use of computers in 7 ._"2 3 4 G teaching. 137

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Part III: For the following statements, please select the number that best reflects your perception of the Online Learning Community. I found the Online Learning Community: 1. U seftii to accomplish tasks required for the course more quickly Unlikely Likely 2. Useftii to improve my learning performance Unlikely Likely 3. U seftii to continue my future learning and professional growth Unlikely 2 Likely 4. Useful to enhance my effectiveness on learning process with peers Unlikely :2 Likely 5. Useful to facilitate continue my learning Unlikely Likely 6. An excellent medium to facilitate social interaction Unlikely :3 Likely 7. Useful for my future teaching job and to be provided for in service teachers Unlikely Likely 138

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I found the online technologies of the OLC that was created on the course Blackboard 1. Easy to use and interact with Unlikely 2 3 ;; [,. Likely 2. Easy to get them do what I want it to do Unlikely :?, 4 :G Likely -3. Flexible to interact with Unlikely ,' 3 ,.j, \:.G. Likely "' 4. My interaction with them is clear and understandable Unlikely 2 :3 '."1: [i; Likely 5. Easy for me to become skillful using them Unlikely , 2 3 ,;j G Likely 6. Overall, are easy to use Unlikely , '2 i4 !5 Likely 1. I feel comfortable conversing through the OLC Unlikely ti Likely 2. My classmates believe that the OLC is useful to use Unlikely ;..: .t. Likely 3. My classmate encourage me to participate in OLC Unlikely ,. : .2 3: :4 c Likely 4. Overall, I found OLC useful and easy to use Unlikely ,. '2 '3 e: Likely 5. I believe that OLC must be used in other courses Unlikely 2 .. 3 >4: G Likely 139

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From your experience, what are the most noticeable advantages and disadvantages of the online learning communities? Advantages 1-----------------------------------------2----------------------------------------3-----------------------------------------Disadvantages 1------------------------------------------2-------------------------------------------3--------------------------------------------THANK YOU FOR YOUR PARTICIPATING. 140

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APPENDIXB INTERVIEW QUESTIONS How much time did you devote to the interaction in the OLC daily/weekly? How did the OLC enhance the interaction and connectedness between students in the course? How did your use of Online Learning Community affect your technological skills and knowledge? How did the OLC facilitate and support your learning? What did you find useful in using the OLC? What difficulties and problems you found in using the OLC? What types of difficulties did you face with the Internet access or with the OLC system? What are your suggestions to use such e-leaming systems for teacher learning and professional development? 141

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APPENDIXC ANCOV A ASSUMPTIONS TABLES Table C.l Levene's Test of Equality of Error Variances De d V bl P D d V bl pen ent ana e: osttestepen ent ana es Course Variable F Dfl Df2 Sig. A Sense of Community 1.40I I 44 .243 Technology skills .634 I 44 .430 B Sense of Community 1.396 I 60 .242 Technology skills 1.396 I 60 .667 Table C.2 Levene's Test of Equality ofError Variances De pendent Variable: Posttest-Sense of Community Subscale Course Variable F Dfl Df2 Sig. A Community_ interaction .463 I 44 .500 Community_ connectedness I.308 I 44 .259 B Community _interaction .02I I 60 .885 Community_ connectedness .062 I 60 .805 Levene' test for homogeneity of variance indicates that variances for sense of community and technology skills for each group did not differ significantly. Therefore, this test does not violate the homogeneity of variance assumption. Non significance suggests that unequal group sizes should not impact the sensitivity of the ANCOV A test. 142

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Table C.3 Mauchly's Test of Sphericity (b) Within Subjects Approx. Effect Mauchly's W Chi-Square df Sig. Epsilon( a) Greenhous Huynh-Lowere-Geisser Feldt bound Sense of .798 2.983 2 .228 .832 .998 .500 Community Technology .618 .618 2 .734 .956 1.000 .500 Skills attitude 1.000 .000 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 Tests the null hypothesis that the error covariance matrix of the orthonormalized transformed dependent variables is proportional to an identity matrix. a May be used to adjust the degrees of freedom for the averaged tests of significance. Corrected tests are displayed in the Tests of Within-Subjects Effects table. b Design: Intercept Within Subjects Design: skills Tabl C e .4 Test o fN r orma tty Course Section Sha JiroWllk Statistics df Sig. A Sense of Community Control .960 14 .726 Treatment .940 32 .077 Technology skills Control .878 14 .054 Treatment .975 32 .650 Usefulness Treatment .963 32 .244 B Sense of Community Control .971 38 .422 Treatment .974 24 .507 Technology skills Control .963 38 .244 Treatment .929 24 .094 Usefulness Treatment .952 24 .292 143

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APPENDIXD COURSE DESCRIPTIONS (CURR 20444) Teaching Methods of Mathematics in the Elementary Schools Course The three credit hour Teaching Methods of Mathematics course is scheduled in the second term 2005 (February to June). The course is designed to provide teachers of kindergarten and elementary schools with knowledge and applications on issues regarding teaching and learning math such as the new trends on teaching math, learning theories, curriculum, teaching and evaluation methods, using computer, etc. The course outline stated the following objectives: after completing the course, student teachers are expected to: Be aware of the new trends in teaching math considering math a tool for thinking and communication not only a tool for computations. Recognize issues associated with math curricula for kindergarten and elementary levels. Be able to integrate technologies and available resources in teaching math. Be able to plan and implement effective lesson plans. Be able to create leaning environment that encourage creativity and increase learning. Be able to use various strategies to evaluate their teaching methods Assignments: Assignments for this course are multiple: Design lesson plans: Students are required to design lesson plans on one of the topics appropriate for elementary level and present them in the classroom. In-Class Collaborative activities During the semester, students are required o engage in collaborative activities with others in the class and be active members in their group. Online readings Students are required to do online readings and visit web sites related to the course. Mid Term Exam Final Exam 144

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( CURR 313) Classroom Environment in Elementary Education This course aims at enabling students to acquire the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary for improving classroom environment. Topics include importance of classroom environment, teacher role in creating positive classroom environment, developing classroom interaction and classroom management. Emphasis will be placed on creating an effective classroom environment. Course Goals: Candidates will be able to accomplish the following goals: 1. Understand the nature of classroom environment to include organization, allocation and management of time, space, resources and learning activities to promote optimum learning. 2. Understand various effective communication strategies to create an effective learning environment and to communicate with others using advanced online technologies. 3. Analyze classroom environment to make decisions and adjustments to enhance students' learning. 4. Understand the principles of effective classroom management, resources management and conflict management in the classroom. 5 Eve: the effectiveness of instructional strategies and classroom lear:;.;r:g activities for both individuals and groups of students. Requirements and Assessment: Based on the concepts of interaction and active classroom environment, the course is designed on candidate performance through many varied requirements: !.Attendance and active participation. 2.0ral/written report(s) to class on selected issues (individually or in groups). 3.Projects on how to improve classroom environment more effectively. 4.Use oflntemet, Classroom relationship and other resources. 5.Mid-term exam. 6.Final exam. 145

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