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A Study of Students' Conceptions of Networked Learning in a Developing Country Setting

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Tan Nguyen
Publication date2017
Number of pages285
Awarding Institution
Place of PublicationLancaster
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Institutional initiatives to foster networked learning practices, based on ‘Western’
models, are increasingly prominent in developing countries; yet, to date, very little
research has explored campus-based students’ conceptions or experiences of those
initiatives. This study investigates students’ conceptions of networked learning in a
particular developing country setting: Can Tho University, Vietnam. The study started
from the conviction that we should not assume that aspects of networked learning will
be conceived by the students there in the same ways as in the countries where the
models were developed.
The study adopted a phenomenographic research approach to elicit and describe the
qualitatively varied ways in which undergraduate students experienced and perceived
four different (though related) phenomena that are associated with networked learning
in the literature and promoted within institutional initiatives. Those four phenomena
relate, in turn, to: a) learning in relation to others and resources; b) the roles of
technology in mediating learning through connections; c) cooperation with others in
learning; and d) working together towards a common goal.
Data were gathered through semi-structured interviews and analysed according to
Dahlgren and Fallsberg’s (1991) seven-stage cycle of data analysis in
phenomenography, so as to elaborate the range of ways in which the phenomena of
study were perceived across the sample of participants. The findings of the study are
presented as outcome spaces, representing the variation in conception of each
With regard to learning in relation to others and resources, three categories of
description were identified: resource access, knowledge transmission and knowledge
construction. Regarding the roles of technology in mediating learning through
connections, three categories emerged: flexibility, tool and medium. These categories
are argued to demonstrate a conceptual variation in the perceived extent and
sophistication of the technological mediation occurring. Concerning cooperation with
others in learning, the analysis of the data led to the emergence of three categories.
These categories identified that cooperation in learning was perceived as group work,
exploratory learning and directing learning.
In addition, qualitative differences in students’ accounts on their conceptions of
working together towards a common goal were constituted by three issues related to
benefits of working together towards a common goal (diversity awareness, increased
understanding and increased performance) and three issues related to challenges of
working together towards a common goal (technological availability, interpersonal
differences and unproductive learning).
The significance of the study derives from how it provides insight into how
undergraduate students experience and perceive ‘networked learning’ in developing
country contexts where learners typically have rather different values and educational
histories than in the ‘West’. For example, the students in this study perceived networked
learning as partially an act of knowledge transmission from teacher to students, contrary
to the Western literature, where the dominant conception invokes an image of students’
active involvement in knowledge construction. On the other hand, students also
experienced networked learning as making-meaning-through-connections, which is
reasonably consistent with findings from studies of Western settings.
It is hoped that the findings will provide new insights of value to practitioners and
educators seeking to design or integrate the networked learning concept into the
curriculum in higher education in the developing world; and, at a higher level of
granularity, empirical knowledge of use to educators and policy makers who wish to
promote more student-centred learning approaches such as networked learning in the
developing world.