Developing Online Tutors and Mentors in Sri Lanka through a Community Building Model: Predictors of Satisfaction

Charlotte Nirmalani Gunawardena, Buddhini Gayathri Jayatilleke, Shantha Fernando, Chulantha Kulasekere, Mark D. Lamontagne, Madduma B. Ekanayake and Thanaraj Thaiyamuthu

This paper discusses the results of a tutor mentor development program that utilized a community building model to train online tutors and mentors in higher education institutions and professional organizations in Sri Lanka. Based on WisCom; an instructional design model for developing online wisdom communities, this tutor mentor development program which utilized a blended format of face-to-face and online activities in MOODLE, attempted to build a learning community between trainees, both academics and professionals who represented diverse disciplines and organizations. A regression model examined predictors of learner satisfaction, using four independent variables: Community Building, Interaction, Course Design, and Learner Support. Interaction emerged as a strong predictor of Learner Satisfaction explaining 50.2% of the variance in Learner Satisfaction. This finding shows the importance of designing interactive learning activities to support learning online, and contradicts the general belief that Sri Lankan participants would be less likely to interact online because they come from a traditional education system that encourages passivity and reception of ideas from a more learned teacher. Qualitative analysis showed evidence of several types of learning online as a result of collaborative group interaction, as well as issues that contributed to non-participation. Factors that motivated participants to stay engaged in learning could be classified into three categories: (1) general enjoyment, interest and motivation; (2) collaborative learning and community building; and (3) knowledge building. These results suggest that the online learning design based on WisCom led to learner satisfaction and supported interaction and collaborative learning in the Sri Lankan socio-cultural context.

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