A Case Study of
Online Collaborative Learning
for Union Staff in Developing Countries

Online collaborative learning (OCL) is used by many universities to provide education to geographically dispersed groups of students who can participate at times and locations of their choosing. However, despite its potential for expanding labour education and building new knowledge, OCL is not being used by the international labour movement.

The dissertation investigates the use of OCL by the staff of unions in developing countries. The focus is on exploring if OCL can be effective and viable for these staff members. Effectiveness is related to evidence of learning, perception of learning, and sense of community. Viability is related to the technological and financial capability to participate in online collaborative learning.

Previous investigations concluded that online learning for unions needs to be collaborative, promote community, be based on constructivist learning principles, provide links to learning in the workplace, and possibly grant a certificate recognized as valuable by the participants. Investigators who studied early online labour education projects emphasized the need to determine the process by which groups of unionists learn online.

A case study was conducted. An online course involving 33 union staff members based in 24 developing countries was studied using a mixed mode research strategy. Both quantitative and qualitative research methods were used. A theory and research methods related to online collaborative learning were used to analyse the process of learning in the course. A questionnaire on the development of community amongst the participants was applied. Transcript analysis of messages in the course's online forums was conducted.

Findings include:

  • OCL can be successfully employed for the education of union staff in developing countries.
  • The collaborative creation of a knowledge artefact, such as a document, which has a public life outside of the online course provides a crucial link to activities in the workplace.
  • The task which is set for the group significantly affects the collaborative discourse process
  • The task which is set for the group significantly affects the collaborative discourse process. Online collaborative learning can build a strong sense of community amongst participants
  • A credential, even if it is not accredited by a university or college, is a significant motivator.

Keywords: labour education, unions, online collaborative learning.


This section contains an abstract of my Ph.D dissertation about using online education to train union staff in developing countries. The full (240 page) disseration can be downloaded here:

Ph.D dissertation