In Online but off-topic, Paulus (2009) completed a study of the conversations that occur in groups, specifically during online learning, that are not strictly on-topic. These off-topic discussions were ones that included the logistics of completing tasks. They are still relevant to the learning environment, but are not discoursing on the subject matter.

She found that certain actions help to create a close group. These include grounding (group members finding common ground between themselves) and immediacy (behaviors that reduce distance between the members). More specifically, the grounding strategies used by the participants in her study, “included indicating responsiveness, taking responsibility and maintaining relationships.” (Paulus, 2009, p.242)

These ideas are well backed by other research and included in our Student Guide. Some online techniques that I would like to try to use are sending weekly updates on group projects (maybe even in video format) and sending friendly e-mails to get to know my peers better. I believe I need to continue to interact in a way that shows I value and depend on my peers by showing warmth, empathy, and my true personality. I can do this through typing out a prayer for the requests posted, being sympathetic when someone is struggling and asking questions before taking offense.

I would love to also get together with my classmates and make use of that offline scaffolding technique. I live about 3 hours away, but I might be able to drive down if my schedule permits on the chosen day. I would love to meet face to face. I am not good at putting faces and posts together and would do much better meeting people in person.

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Paulus, T.. (2009). Online but off-topic: negotiating common ground in small learning groups. Instructional Science, 37(3), 227-245.  Retrieved February 8, 2011, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1894674491).

White, K.W., & Baker, J.B. (Eds.) (2003). The student guide to successful online learning: A handbook of tips, strategies and techniques. Allyn & Bacon, Publishers.

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