In this work, the phenomenon of students' enthusiasm was explored. 47 graduate students, which took the author's online psychology courses, participated in the study. The tasks included quantification of the students' learning motivation based on the analysis of their online coursework, comparing it with their academic achievement, and the analysis of the developmental tendencies of the group discussions. Methodological techniques used were newly developed or have been previously created by the author (Toom, 2013). Some of the results are: 1) Enthusiasts differed from others, even successful students, in intensity as well as quality of their learning motivation. They were exceptionally cognitively active, curious, and knowledge-oriented, that is, eager to learn without being encouraged or rewarded; 2) They had the best academic achievements; 3) Unlike others also competent as computer users, they demonstrated "helping behavior" � shared information with their less knowledgeable classmates about various aspects of the online study; 4) Classmates preferred to participate in discussions on the psychological topics initiated by enthusiasts more than in the other discussions of the same forum. When clarifying the issues, enthusiasts oriented other students in the new learning environment based on information technologies. When stimulating dialogues, they helped others to develop "a sense of community" and to avoid the feeling of isolation in a virtual classroom. Enthusiastic learners served as a model and good support for their classmates and the professor. We conclude that such a contribution can and must be appreciated and maximally used in a virtual classroom with its specifics and communicational limitations.
Anna Toom, Touro College, USA
Stream: Technology enhanced and distance learning
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