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Rethinking the nature of online work in asynchronous learning networks


Jan van Aalst, Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC, V5A 1S6, Canada. Email:


Research on asynchronous learning networks (ALNs) has indicated that there are problems with both the quantity and quality of online interactions that can undermine the aim of inquiry. The goal of this paper is to offer a new way of thinking about these problems in the context of knowledge building, a specific form of collaborative inquiry supported by an ALN. Drawing from interviews with teachers following two teacher education courses that introduced teachers to knowledge building, it is argued that we need to rethink the role and purpose of online work in ALNs—as building a communal learning resource. A framework for doing this is proposed in terms of three notions: collaboration, learning how to learn and idea improvement. The framework is expected to contribute to the literature on knowledge building by providing a new way to distinguish knowledge building from other forms of collaborative inquiry.