Just a few thoughts to share from this article. Hakkinen & Jarvela are interested in the quality and nature of virtual interaction in the higher ed context. They wanted to know whether students’ sharing and constructing of perspectives improved with pedagogical changes (it did, though the pedagogy they describe wasn’t super innovative).
The authors state that “reciprocal understanding is an important factor for reaching educationally high-level discussion” (p. 443). However, they also claim that it is especially challenging to reach “reciprocal understanding, shared values and goals between participants in networked environment” (p. 435). I would like to see more research about how this reciprocity is best fostered in online settings.
The courses they studied were “blended,” though they never use that term. There were face-to-face sessions in addition to the asynchronous, online discussions. They did not give a lot of detail about what the F2F sessions comprised; it would be interesting to know how the activities facilitated reciprocal understanding.
Hakkinen, P. & Jarvela, S. (2006). Sharing and constructing perspectives in web-based conferencing. Computers & Education, 47(4): 433-447. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2004.10.015. http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S036013150400171X.