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Together alone: A multi-method case examination of an online asynchronous learning network

, Harvard University, United States

Harvard University . Awarded


This study is a multi-method case examination of a college level online learning course. It examines one model of online learning—an asynchronous learning network (ALN) that combines face-to-face interaction with asynchronous learning (hybrid/sequential ALN). The goal of this study is to investigate the processes that govern teacher/student perception of their learning/teaching experiences in a hybrid/sequential ALN course, and to document and describe the patterns of interaction amongst participants. This study focuses on how and to what extent interaction differs when learning through ALN, since there are few extant studies that have sought to analyze interaction throughout the entire duration of a college level course.

Three interrelated questions have guided this inquiry: (1) What are some types and frequencies of participant interactions that occur in a course that combines face-to-face and asynchronous learning, and how do these participants' interactions change over time? (2) How are participants' implicit understandings or perceptions of learning/teaching changed, altered, or enhanced over time? (3) How are participants' roles changed, altered, or enhanced in a course that combines face-to-face and ALN learning? It is argued that a detailed understanding of these questions in an existing real-world setting is one of the key foundations upon which to develop our knowledge of effective teaching and learning through the asynchronous medium.

This study sought to avoid the failings of earlier research by examining the face-to-face and asynchronous interaction of a fixed group of individuals controlling for both method and content to determine the effect of medium upon the process of teaching and learning. This inquiry is unique in that it examines and analyses participant experience from two perspectives through two contrasting, but complementary, research methods: (1) Ethnographic methods explore the internal participant experience through interviewing and observation; (2) discourse analysis investigates participant experience with a previously existing content analysis coding system.

This study offers evidence that the medium of asynchronous learning affords less collaboration than face to-face learning when teaching method is held constant. Although this is an exploratory investigation and is limited in scope, by seeking to contribute to a deeper understanding of the effect of asynchronous learning on student/teacher interaction, perception of learning, and role, this study has potentially broad implications for teaching practice and curriculum design in adult learning settings using the same or similar technologies.


Cevetello, J.P. Together alone: A multi-method case examination of an online asynchronous learning network. Ph.D. thesis, Harvard University. Retrieved March 20, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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