TitelDe invloed van Hiërarchische Posities op Communities of Learning
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsRehm, M, Verstegen, D, Beausaert, S, Gijselaers, W, Segers, M
JournalTijdschrift voor Hoger Onderwijs
KeywordsCollaborative Learning, Community of Learning, Hierarchical Positions

Communities of Learning (CoL) can facilitate the learning process among participants of online learning modules. Yet, previous studies often neglected hierarchical positions as a hurdle to collaborative learning processes. The present article addresses this shortcoming by providing empirical evidence from 25 CoL, organized as part of postacademic education, for 249 staff members of a global organization from different hierarchical positions. They engaged into collaborative learning via discussion forums. We provide the results from four different studies, namely (1) a descriptive case study, (2) an exploratory study investigating the overall impact of hierarchical positions on CoL, (3) a social network study on the influence of participants’ hierarchical positions on their network behaviour, and (4) a content analysis determining the cognitive level of communication. Our results clearly 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 centrality within CoL. However, we also identified a sub-group of “Stars”, who outperformed their colleagues and were at the centre of CoL, irrespective of their hierarchical positions. Based on these findings, we propose a number of strategies that can foster the learning processes and learning outcomes of all participants.

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