Thought-Leaders in Asynchronous Online Learning Environments

Volume, Issue - Date: 
Volume 16, Issue 1 - January 2012
Jim Waters, Cabrini College
Cabrini College
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online learning, discussion boards, collaboration, thought-leaders
The growth of online learning has exposed fundamental gaps in our knowledge, both theoretical and pragmatic. This research investigated some questions of the role of emergent leaders in online leaning and the influence of different behaviors. Firstly are there any common factors that identify thought-leaders? Secondly does the presence of thought-leaders affect student perceptions of online discussion? Finally it addressed the question of perceived influence vs. actual influence. Student interactions in Asynchronous Online Discussion boards were analyzed and student backgrounds and perceptions gathered. Clear patterns of strong emergent leadership behaviors were evident in the majority of courses. Thought-leaders could be distinguished from non-thought-leaders from both their professional backgrounds and the role-behaviors they exhibited. Student perceptions of peers as thought-leaders were highly influenced by factors such as the extent to which students could bring relevant professional experience into the discussions.