Anxiety/uncertainty management and its relationship to community as an anxiety management mechanism: a mixed methods, across case study of online graduate students

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University of Alabama Libraries

This study examined student perceptions of community formation and maintenance as an anxiety management mechanism before, during, and after a mandatory on campus orientation for an online Master of Library Studies program. Anxiety/Uncertainty Management Theory provided the theoretical foundation for the study. Twenty-one participants were drawn from 171 students enrolled in four successive online cohorts of the program. Participants completed a 40-item online attitude questionnaire and a six-item online written interview. The questionnaire, which was an analogue to the theory, was analyzed using descriptive statistics, and the interview was analyzed along with a prior document analysis of the written materials provided to one of the participating cohorts prior to the orientation. Analysis generally supported the axioms of the theory, especially those associated with seeking common ground with strangers as a basis for confidence about interacting, positive expectations and suspension of negative expectations in their interactions with strangers, and the desire for ethical interactions with strangers. Participants responded with strong agreement to the statements of reduced anxiety when they perceived that they knew how strangers would react, shared language or jargon, had an opportunity to realize and correct any mistakes in communication, and that managing anxiety was a key to effective communication with strangers. However, additional research under similar conditions is needed to further revise and refine the theory and determine the extent of community as a crucial anxiety management mechanism.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Communication, Library science, Educational technology