Do Online Graduate Students Who Participate in a Structured Study Buddy Activity Tend to Use Deep Approaches in Their Learning?
The quantitative analysis found no significant difference between the approaches taken by participants and non-participants in the study buddy activity. This finding may have resulted from the survey instrument not being sensitive enough to detect differences in such small samples of participants (n=25) and non-participants (n=6). It is also likely that there really was no difference in the learning approaches of the participants and non-participants; it may be that graduate students in general, because they are typically more mature and capable than undergraduates, are simply more likely to take a deeper approach (Cleveland-Innes & Emes, 2005).
The qualitative analysis supported the idea that students in MDDE 604 are willing and able to engage in at least some deep strategies such as seeking alternative opinions in the literature and applying their learning to their work outside of the course. Further analysis of the qualitative data in relation to the third research question showed that there may have been a difference not detected in the quantitative data, that being that participants in the study buddy activity reported that the deep strategies that they used went beyond searching the relevant literature. Built into the study buddy activity was the need for participants to submit their work to an actual person, a peer who has committed to helping their partner improve their work.
Although it was only implemented on a small scale, the peer review activities associated with the study buddy activity such as providing critical feedback and offering suggestions for improvement appear to encourage those who already take deep approaches to extend the depth of their interactions with the course content and with their peers.