Group dynamics and social interaction in a South Asian online learning forum for faculty development of medical teachers

Educ Health (Abingdon). 2010 Apr;23(1):311. Epub 2010 Apr 9.


Background: Group dynamics of online medical faculty development programs have not been analyzed and reported in literature. Knowledge of the types of content of posted messages will help to understand group dynamics and promote participation in an asynchronous learning environment. This paper assesses group dynamics and social interactivity in an online learning environment for medical teachers in the South Asian context.

Methods: Participants of a medical education fellowship program conducted by the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (FAIMER) Regional Institute at Christian Medical College, Ludhiana (CMCL) in India interact on a listserv called the Mentoring-Learning Web (ML-Web). Monthly topics for online discussion are chosen by fellows through a standard tool called "multi-voting". Fellows volunteer to moderate sessions and direct the pace of the discussion. We analyzed the content and process of the discussion of one particular month. The emails were categorized as those that reflected cognitive presence (dealing with construction and exploration of knowledge), teacher presence (dealing with instructional material and learning resources), and social presence, or were administrative in nature. Social emails were further classified as: affective, cohesive and interactive.

Results: Social emails constituted one-third of the total emails. Another one-quarter of the emails dealt with sharing of resources and teacher presence, while cognitive emails comprised 36.2% of the total. More than half of the social emails were affective, while a little less than one-third were cohesive.

Conclusion: Social posts are an inevitable part of online learning. These posts promote bonding between learners and contribute to better interaction and collaboration in online learning. Moderators should be aware of their presence and use them as tools to promote interactivity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Communication
  • Education, Medical / organization & administration*
  • Electronic Mail / organization & administration*
  • Faculty, Medical / organization & administration*
  • Fellowships and Scholarships
  • Group Processes*
  • Humans
  • India
  • Internet / organization & administration*
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Learning
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Organizational
  • Organizational Culture
  • Program Evaluation
  • Teaching