The impact of hierarchical positions on the type of communication within online Communities of Learning

  • Rehm M
  • Mulder R
  • Gijselaers W
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Communities of Learning (CoL) have been suggested to facilitate the learning process among participants of online trainings. Yet, previous studies often detached participants from the social context in which learning took place. The present study addresses this shortcoming by providing empirical evidence from 25 CoL of a global organization, where 249 staff members from different hierarchical positions engaged into collaborative learning via asynchronous discussion forums. We conduct a longitudinal study on the type of communication within these CoL, as well as participants' network positions, in order to investigate the research question: What is the impact of individual's hierarchical positions on the type of communication within CoL? Our results indicate that the higher participants' hierarchical position, the higher their amount of social and cognitive communication, which in turn was also positively related to their network position within CoL. We also identified a sub-group of Stars that outperformed their colleagues and who were at the center of CoL, irrespective of their hierarchical positions. Consequently, we propose design and facilitation strategies to practitioners and organizers of future CoL that can foster the learning processes and outcomes of all participants. Additionally, we consider future research avenues that could be explored further.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Community of learning
  • Content analysis
  • Hierarchical positions
  • Social network analysis
  • Type of communication

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  • Wim GijselaersMaastricht University School of Business & Economics

  • Martin Rehm

  • Regina H. Mulder

  • Mien Segers

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