Communication Processes in Virtual Learning Environments and their Impact on Online Lifelong Learning
© The Author(s) 2011
Received: 15 July 2010
Accepted: 15 December 2010
Published: 15 January 2011
Completing a regulated education in a specific area is no guarantee of getting a job or, for that matter, of achieving job security. In view of this situation, adults choose to carry on learning. This article analyses participation in higher-education lifelong learning courses entirely undertaken in virtual learning environments (VLEs). The aim is to establish which aspects of the communication process add quality to online courses. The sample consists of four lifelong learning courses published on WebCT for graduates in general and teachers/lecturers at various educational levels in particular, whose goal is to further their academic training in order to specialise in a specific field. The research combines both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Two main tools were used to gather data: the WebCT “Track Students” tool and the communication tool. The results show that quality in the communication processes of online courses has a direct impact on student participation in online teaching-learning processes. Dealing with students in a personalised manner, designing communication tools that take account of the needs of academic disciplines and of users, offering a variety of discussion topics, coordinating them and directing them in a responsible, effective manner, and offering quick, smooth interaction are some of the intervening variables.