Own pace, own space, own face, human, and tool support.
Mediators in web-based self-regulation learning
The focus of the study is to identify how mediation supports a web-based course on self-regulation. In the context of education, mediation can be defined as a supporter or promoter of learning. Mediation selects, interprets, and amplifies objects for human learners. The study creates an integrated view of mediators as learning promoters based on Vygotsky’s (1978) and Feuerstein’s theories (1990, 1991) for studying mediators in web-based learning. This study presents an integrated definition of mediators which focuses on the task, quality and types of mediators and suggests the following: (1) mediators are learning promoters who trigger, support, and amplify learning; (2) learning requires high-quality mediators, and the quality of mediation is ensured by mediated learning experiences; and (3) mediators can be social/human mediators or tool/symbolic mediators. This integrated view is then evaluated based on the empirical research results. The study analyzes an asynchronous web-based learning environment (IQ Form) from the perspective of mediation; this learning environment was designed for the Finnish Virtual University (FVU). The research setting involves students from the Karelia University of Applied Sciences. The IQ Form environment aims to help students take charge of their own learning process, i.e., develop their self-regulative strategies and skills. The IQ Learn section of IQ Form includes tests, a tutorial with assignments, and a diary to develop students’ learning skills and strategies. The research focuses on mediators that support learning self-regulation by analyzing students’ experiences of learning support on a web-based course for learning self-regulation. The methodological approach used, on a philosophical level, qualitatively relies on phenomenology, while at the methodological level, the approach relies on the qualitative research tradition. The study includes two pre-studies and one actual research phase. The main source of data was 14 interviews of first-year students in a Business Information Technology degree program. In addition, 12 students were included in the two pre-studies. The interview data were also supported by the students’ 56 diary texts, which were comprised of written assignments sent to their online teacher and background information collected from the students. The data analysis developed into a triangulation between qualitative clustering, a structured empirical phenomenological analysis, and a narrative analysis. The phenomenological analysis was decisive for finding the mediators. The research results suggest five kinds of mediators in this web-based selfregulation setting. The phenomenological analysis made it possible to discover the mediators supporting or triggering students’ learning processes. The mediators found were the following: own pace, own space, own face, human and tool. The mediators own pace, space and face were born situationally due to the special circumstances of web-based learning; they were not pre-designed or arranged as were the human and tool mediators. As a mediator, own pace promoted experiences of being able to study when the time and the mood of the student were right for studying and made it possible to pause and let the student’s thoughts to mature. Own space promoted concentration and informal studying experiences. It provided the students with the experience of having their own place in which to think deeper without disturbances from the classroom or peer students. Own face triggered experiences of daring to having private, personal thoughts among the students about their learning. The human and tool mediators are the traditional mediators connected to the learning context and pedagogical idea of the course. They are, to an extent, uncontrollable by the student. The human mediator (online teacher) triggered the experience of trust, guidance, and monitoring. In terms of the tool mediator (tests, tutorial, and diary), the tests promoted students’ understanding of themselves as learners, the tutorial helped students to analyze themselves as learners via the assignments, and the diary made students to elaborate and produce thoughts about themselves as learner, which many students experienced as very demanding. The mediators found in the study increased the students’ sense of being in charge of their studies and learning. This study proposes that attention should be given to mediating factors and their particular features in web-based learning. Mediators should be offered that encourage learners to take charge, make their own space in learning, and carry their personal thoughts without fear of being critiziced. The role of the human mediator in web-based learning of selfregulation should also be further developed. The future research tasks need to focus on learners’ experiences of mediation in order to identify the mediators in various settings. Research is needed on which mediators are functional in technology enhanced instruction, it’s individual and social learning spaces. Studies are also needed about how technology based mediators can be adapted to the needs of various groups of learners. Keywords: mediation, mediators, self-regulation, digital learning environments, individual learning spaces, social learning spaces