Abstract

Integration of virtual learning environments in the learning process may lead to the realization of an educational vision in which autonomous learners realize their personal potential. But the physical separation between teacher and students may lead to “transactional distance”, which may in turn can cause a sense of threat and create anger, gaps in understanding, or misconceptions among the learners about themselves and about the learning process. Students may grasp the situation as a “challenge” or a “threat”. The aim of the study is to determine the factors that are critical to feelings of challenge and threat among student teachers in virtual and blended courses. The sample included 578 participants, divided into two research groups: virtual and blended. In a mixed-method study, participants answered a threat/challenge questionnaire, open-ended, and closed questions. The authors found three critical factors giving rise to a threat or challenge: negative feelings, a sense of threat, and a sense of challenge. A large portion of students considered forums as a “space for dialogue” with the instructor and the other students, and believed that differential interpersonal communication may lead to lowering feelings of threat and increasing the sense of challenge.

Keywords
Feelings, Threat, Challenge, Virtual Course, Blended Course, Preservice Teachers, Interactions, Transactional Distance.

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