Learning and Affective Support Online in Small Group and Class Contexts


  • Bill Anderson
  • Mary Simpson




online learning, interaction, group discussion, student support, distance education, asynchronous communication


This study was designed to evaluate the use of asynchronous discussion in distance education in terms of student perceptions of its value for learning and for affective support. At the end of the third and sixth years of a distance delivered teacher education programme, students completed a survey to determine the extent to which the nature and characteristics of the online aspects of the programme contributed to learning and afforded affective support. Students perceived considerable value in the online interaction for both learning and support. Small groups and the whole class were seen as the dominant spaces for interaction, but there was considerable differentiation between them in terms of their contribution to affective support. The small group discussions were seen as most important for all aspects of communication but students reported non-participation by some members as a significant problem.

Keywords: online learning; interaction; group discussion; student support; distance education; asynchronous communication

Author Biographies

Bill Anderson

Dr. Bill Anderson is a senior lecturer in the Department of Learning and Teaching at Massey University, New Zealand. His research interests include distance and online education, designing effective online learning environments, and online communication. Bill can be reached via email at w.g.anderson@massey.ac.nz

Mary Simpson

Dr. Mary Simpson is a senior lecturer in the Department of Social and Policy Studies at Massey University, New Zealand. She teaches online courses in distance and online education, research skills, and pre-service teacher professional inquiry and practice. Her current research work is in distance delivered teacher education. Dr. Simpson’s email address is: m.g.simpson@massey.ac.nz




How to Cite

Anderson, B., & Simpson, M. (2004). Learning and Affective Support Online in Small Group and Class Contexts. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 5(3). https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v5i3.208



Research Articles