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Abstract

As schools, universities, retail stores and corporations flock to Online and eLearning, there are many compelling arguments to support their decision. Synchronous virtual classroom tools are used to support Online and eLearning interaction to mirror face-to-face learning. Martin (2012) identified that synchronous tools are a relatively new solution to supporting interaction in the virtual classroom. Ward et al. (2010) distinguished a strong, convincing body of literature which shows that synchronous online classrooms, enhanced by two-way audio, allow for real-time oral presentation, discourse, and checks for understanding among tutor and learners. Hrastinski (2008) determined the aural component of the synchronous virtual classroom as offering real time contact between teachers and students, mirroring faceto- face contact. Much of the research to date focuses on synchronous online resources and their link with participation while there is little or no research on the use of a resource to assist with technical issues inhibiting learners from participating. The aim of the study was to address this gap through means of an exploratory case study. The research included investigating, creating and assessing the usefulness of a resource to assist with technological issues impacting learners’ ability to participate. The learners were students undertaking a post graduate qualification at Hibernia College. Data was collected through observations and surveys from 46 sstudents and tutors. This research concluded that audio is particularly important for both knowledge construction and learning but also in creating a social atmosphere. While the technical support resource provided a useful aid to learners in this study, further study will need to be conducted over a prolonged period to investigate the full extent of its usefulness. External factors do effect participation and poses a case for extending Moore’s Theory of Transactional Distance to include external factors similar to Fallon’s (2012) suggestion.

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