Social constructivism and collaborative learning in social networks: the case of an online masters programme in adult learning
This study investigates how students in an online Masters Programme in Adult Learning, although geographically dispersed used SNs to develop a supportive environment that enables collaborative learning to support and deepen their learning. Web 2.0 social software provided the tools for various forms of communication and information sharing amongst student within the social networks. This study shows how the use of Web 2.0 tools such as wikis, podcasts, blogs, chat rooms, social networking sites and email have the potential to expand the learning environment, increase participation and enrich the learning experience. Rapid technological developments transform our world into a global society which is ever changing and interconnected. The SNs as a learning environment in this technological driven global society is complex and not clearly defined; therefore it was not easy for me to understand the nature of the SNs as learning environment. The social nature of this study has therefore urged me to use social constructivism as a conceptual framework to gain insights into how students have used the social networks to develop a supportive environment that enables collaborative learning to support and deepen their learning. The utilisation of social constructivism as theoretical lens has helped to broaden my perceptions of the SNs as learning environment, to deepen my understanding of how learning occurs in the SNs and to comprehend learner behaviour within this pedagogical space. Social constructivists view learning as a social process in which people make sense of their world by interacting with other people (Doolittle & Camp, 1999). Social constructivists belief in the social nature of knowledge, and the belief that knowledge is the result of social interaction and language usage, and, thus, is a shared, rather than an individual, experience (Prawat & Floden, 1994). Furthermore, they believe that this social interaction always occurs within a socio-cultural context, resulting in knowledge that is bound to a specific time and place (Vygotsky, 1978).