Interaction Analysis in Online Learning Communities: The Student Leader
I used Blackboard, WebCT, Moodle, Nicenet and RCampus in teaching reading, writing, vocabulary and grammar courses to freshman students as a supplement to in-class instruction that depended on the textbook. In each online course, there was a student leader. Student leaders had the highest posts and responses (between 50- 150 posts) and the highest student-student and student-instructor interaction. Student leaders were the first to register. They posted their own threads, short paragraphs, poems and/ or stories on the online discussion board. One posted a daily quote, another posted a weekly poem of hers, and a third posted a daily joke. They could locate information from internet sites. They responded to threads posted by me or by their classmates. They created a warm online climate by responding to their classmates, by sending encouraging messages and thank-you notes, and inviting students to respond to their own posts. Student leaders had a higher proficiency level in EFL, were well-read, had a good writing ability, and many were creative writers. They were more competent and more comfortable with technology than their classmates and above all they were highly motivated and eager to learn. This qualitative study explores a sample of student leaders’ role in their online courses, their technological and linguistic competence, their personality traits, the online course environment, their attitutes and online learning experiences, and the instructor’s role and characteristics. It also provides sample posts and responses and reports results of interviews with a sample of student leaders.