This paper examines the learning experiences using student reflections. Data collection was carried out by prompting undergraduate students to reflect on their worst and best experiences, accomplishments, and what they learned through online collaborative activities. The theoretical framework used to explore these experiences was the Community of Inquiry model, which claims the optimal learning experience is at the intersection of three presences (Garrison, Anderson, and Archer, 2000). How can we use these student perceptions of their experiences to create optimal learning experiences in an online environment? Specific teacher characteristics, sense of community, learner effort, sense of improvement and progress, student expectations of online classes, and the impact of feelings and emotion on other presences are some of the themes that surfaced through content qualitative analysis in this study. Students also responded to a validated survey (explicitly prompting the CoI presences) which revealed the impact of lack of student interest in course topics. These themes are valuable because they reveal significant components of students’ learning experiences which can be used to recreate optimal experiences in other settings. This paper builds on the theoretical framework by adding the student perspective and offering a codebook for qualitative content analysis of reflections.
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