Collaborative Tools to Enhance Engagement in a Blended Learning Master’s Programme.

This paper explores the contribution of collaborative tools towards enhancing engagement with online learning in a blended learning MSc. in Community Systems Health Research by an Irish/Malawian partnership. The MSc. utilized a number of technologies to support a collaborative and effective online learning environment. These included Padlet, Twitter, and Wikispaces, - tools specifically selected to enhance learner-content, learner-learner and learner-instructor communications.

The aim of the case study reported in this article is to explore the contribution of collaborative tools to enhance student engagement with online learning in the context of a blended learning programme delivered to students in Malawi. Physical distance from students can make engagement challenging. Specifically, this case study explores the extent of engagement and the influence of learning technologies, staff, and other factors on student engagement. Participation across online activities was measured, and the influences on that participation were investigated. Additional factors impacting engagement in this MSc included learner and teacher capabilities, the development of informal collaboration and the limited technical infrastructure in Malawi.

The lessons learned from the programme included the importance of developing social online presence for all, the collaborative affordances of specific learning technologies, and the need to adopt best practices for facilitating learning in the online space.