MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching

Vol. 10, No. 2, June 2014


Abstracts of Papers in This Issue

Student Performance at a Community College: Mode of Delivery, Employment, and Academic Skills as Predictors of Success
Brian G. Wolff, A. Michelle Wood-Kustanowitz, and Jennifer M. Ashkenazi

Numerous studies have been conducted to evaluate differences in online and face-to-face (F2F) student performance. However, relatively little work has been done to evaluate differences in online and F2F student performance at community colleges, which attract different students than 4-year institutions and professional programs. Using multiple and logistic regression models, the authors examined 11 predictors of performance in an environmental biology course taught both online and F2F at a community college in the Midwestern United States. Employment, math proficiency, and mode of delivery proved to be significant predictors of successful course completion. Employment and math proficiency were also found to be significant predictors of final exam performance, but mode of delivery was insignificant at an alpha level of .05. However, differential attrition rates appear likely to have masked a meaningful difference in online and F2F final exam scores. When quiz results were used to estimate the final exam scores for course dropouts, mode of delivery was found to be a significant predictor of final exam performance.

Keywords: online learning performance, working students, academic placement, student preparedness, math placement, community college

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Learning Outcomes in a Stress Management Course: Online versus Face-to-Face
Kristine Fish and Hyun Gu Kang

The purpose of this study was to compare learning outcomes in a stress management course delivered in an online environment with those in the traditional, face-to-face (F2F) classroom. Learning outcomes assessed were exam scores, perceptions relating to awareness of and ability to handle stress, and self-reported decreases in heart rates following five relaxation exercises. Impact of age and ethnicity on learning outcomes was also examined. Online students (n = 56) listened to audio recordings of relaxation techniques, while F2F students (n = 63) received the same material via on-campus classroom delivery. Differences in exam scores for two out of three exams were not statistically significant. F2F students felt more aware of stress compared to online students, but there were no significant differences in perceived ability to manage stress. Age and ethnicity were not significant predictors of the preceding factors. No statistically significant differences were found in heart rate drops following relaxation techniques with the exception of autogenic training, which resulted in greater heart rate drops in online students. For this group of students, taking a stress management course online appeared to be just as effective, and possibly even more effective with learning relaxation techniques, when compared to a classroom-based approach.

Keywords: stress management education, relaxation techniques, classroom instruction, distance education, audio recordings, comparative study, learning outcomes

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Use of Synchronous Virtual Classrooms: Why, Who, and How?
Florence Martin and Michele A. Parker

Virtual classrooms allow students and instructors to communicate synchronously using features such as audio, video, text chat, interactive whiteboard, and application sharing. The purpose of the study reported in this paper was to identify why instructors adopt synchronous virtual classrooms and how they use them after their adoption. An electronic survey was administered asking instructors from various institutions to describe their experience adopting a synchronous virtual classroom in either a blended or online course. In describing their reasons for adopting the technology, respondents most frequently cited institutional resource availability, increasing social presence, enhancing student learning, and the availability of technology. Along with audio chat, the features that most influenced the adoption of virtual classrooms and were used most frequently by respondents were the ability to archive conference sessions, see participants through webcams, and use text-based chat interfaces. Open-ended survey responses revealed that instructors used virtual classrooms to promote interactivity, develop community, and reach students at different locations. There were also distinct trends characterizing the demographics of faculty members who reported using virtual classrooms. These findings provide meaningful data for instructors interested in providing synchronous components in their online teaching and for administrators interested in promoting technology-enhanced learning on their campuses.

Keywords: synchronous, virtual classroom, web conferencing, technology adoption, technology uptake, technology use

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Motivation in Synchronous Hybrid Graduate Business Programs: A Self-Determination Approach to Contrasting Online and On-Campus Students
Nikolaus T. Butz, Robert H. Stupnisky, Erin S. Peterson, and Melissa M. Majerus

Synchronous hybrid delivery, defined as a course option where mutually exclusive groups of online and on-campus students are taught simultaneously using real-time audio and video technology, is becoming more common in higher education. This paper reports on a study whose objective was to investigate how online versus on-campus attendance in synchronous hybrid graduate business programs affects the relationships among students' need satisfaction, motivation, and perceived success. Ryan and Deci's self-determination theory was used to guide the analyses and interpret the results. Survey data involving 112 hybrid graduate business students revealed that need satisfaction significantly predicted several categories of motivation, which in turn predicted perceived success. For online students, perceived favorability of online and on-campus delivery was significantly correlated with key dimensions of need satisfaction and perceived success. The results also indicated that there are few significant differences on types of motivation and psychological needs between online and on-campus hybrid students; an exception was that online students reported significantly lower levels of relatedness than their on-campus counterparts. Differences based on attendance mode, may not be as substantial as was once thought.

Keywords: synchronous hybrid delivery, motivation, self-determination theory, graduate business education

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Conditional Release of Course Materials: Assessing Best Practice Recommendations
Lawanna S. Fisher, Justin G. Gardner, Thomas M. Brinthaupt, and Deana M. Raffo

With advances in learning management systems and online course delivery methods, teachers have a variety of options to control the release of course content based on specific criteria. Despite the availability of such conditional release tools, very little research has assessed student perceptions and experiences with these tools. In a 2011 article, Gardner, Fisher, Raffo, and Brinthaupt put forward a number of best practice recommendations to guide the implementation of conditional release tools. This paper reports on the authors' evaluation of several of those recommendations through a survey of undergraduate student perceptions of the use of conditional release in their courses. The results of the study provide support for the recommendations, with students reporting positive evaluations of and experiences with the conditional release tool. In addition, students with lower overall grades reported being more engaged in the courses compared to those with higher overall grades. Implications of these results for the strategic use of conditional release of course content are presented.

Keywords: conditional release, learning management system (LMS), scaffolding, best practices, student perceptions, online pedagogy, content mastery

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The Influence of Instructor-Generated Video Content on Student Satisfaction with and Engagement in Asynchronous Online Classes
Peter J. Draus, Michael J. Curran, and Melinda S. Trempus

Studies on the influence of video content on student outcomes in online courses generally reveal two consistent and contradictory themes: students perceive value in the content, but there is no measurable difference in student outcomes in courses that use video content. This study examined the influence of instructor-generated video content on student satisfaction (measured by satisfaction surveys), student engagement (measured by number of and length of discussion postings), and performance (grades and persistence). Findings included a high degree of perceived value from students through course surveys, which was consistent with the literature. Grades increased by 3.2% and student persistence rates were unaffected. Number and length of student discussion postings both increased in groups that used instructor-generated video content.

Keywords: instructor-generated video content, student satisfaction, student engagement, online discussion

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Exploring the Dimensions of Self-Efficacy in Virtual World Learning: Environment, Task, and Content
Aimee deNoyelles, Steven Hornik, and Richard D. Johnson

This study explores the dimensionality of college students' self-efficacy related to their academic activities in the open-ended virtual world of Second Life (SL). To do this, relevant dimensions of self-efficacy were theoretically derived, and items to measure these dimensions were developed and then assessed using a survey methodology. Using data from 486 students enrolled in an introductory accounting course supplemented by the use of SL, the results of this study confirm the distinction of three dimensions of self-efficacy: Virtual World-Environment Self-Efficacy (VWE-SE), Learning Domain Self-Efficacy (LD-SE), and Virtual World-Learning Domain Self-Efficacy (VWLD-SE). Additionally, this study found that both VWE-SE and VWLD-SE were correlated with course learning. Implications for research and course design are discussed.

Keywords: virtual world, three-dimensional multi-user virtual environment (3D MUVE), Second Life, self-efficacy, financial accounting education

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Does the Online Environment Promote Plagiarism? A Comparative Study of Dissertations from Brick-and-Mortar versus Online Institutions
David C. Ison

In recent years, there has been a concern that the Internet has been contributing to a growth in student plagiarism. This paper reports on a study aimed at investigating if there were differences between plagiarism levels in doctoral dissertations submitted by students enrolled at traditional, brick-and-mortar institutions and those by students attending online counterparts. A sample of 368 dissertations written between 2009 and 2013 (184 from traditional institutions and 184 from online institutions) were mined from an online database and uploaded to Turnitin for analysis. A Mann–Whitney U test was conducted on the similarity indices calculated by Turnitin. The test revealed no significant difference between the originality indices of dissertations from traditional institutions and those of dissertations from online institutions. Although dissertations from online institutions were slightly more likely to involve plagiarism, the traditional schools had more extreme cases of plagiarism. Thus, the notion that online education is more prone to plagiarism is not well supported. However, across both institution types, more than half of all dissertations contained some level of plagiarism. Suggestions for future research include a broader study as well as surveys of faculty and students concerning their understanding of plagiarism and how it could be circumvented.

Keywords: plagiarism, doctoral education, online institution, traditional institution, brick-and-mortar institution, thesis, dissertation, research training, ethics, Turnitin

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Universal Design for Learning in an Online Teacher Education Course: Enhancing Learners' Confidence to Teach Online
Ye He

To prepare teacher candidates for the growing number of online learners they will encounter in their professional practice, it is important that they have the opportunity to experience quality online learning themselves. This paper reports a case study of an online teacher education course that was designed based on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles. Drawing from survey results and statistics collected through the online learning management system, 24 teacher candidates' online learning experiences were shared. The findings of this study illustrate the impact of the online course on teacher candidates' confidence and self-efficacy in learning in an online environment and potentially teaching online in the future. Teacher candidates' perceptions of the benefits and challenges for teaching and learning online are also discussed.

Keywords: Universal Design for Learning (UDL), online teacher education, confidence, self-efficacy

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Enhancing Interdisciplinary Learning with a Learning Management System
Ji Yong Park and Kathy A. Mills

Interdisciplinary learning is a form of knowledge production that is increasingly being embraced as an educational approach in higher education. A role of information and communication technologies (ICT) is to enhance interdisciplinary learning. Issues surrounding the mix of interdisciplinary pedagogic methodologies and emerging digital technologies are worthy of investigation. In this paper, the authors report the findings of a study that examined student perceptions of an interdisciplinary course on information technology (IT) and visual design that utilized a learning management system. Using questionnaire instrumentation, the authors sought the perceptions of first-year university students enrolled in a newly formed interdisciplinary IT course. Results indicate that ICT-based interdisciplinary learners prefer a self-directed and collaborative instructional modality, as well as teacher presence and interventions in the online environment. The types of student participation can significantly influence how students perceive ICT-based interdisciplinary learning design.

Keywords: interdisciplinary learning, learning management system (LMS), information technology (IT) education, visual design education

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The Role of Interactivity in Student Satisfaction and Persistence in Online Learning
Rebecca A. Croxton

Enrollment in online courses is rapidly increasing and attrition rates remain high. This paper presents a literature review addressing the role of interactivity in student satisfaction and persistence in online learning. Empirical literature was reviewed through the lens of Bandura's social cognitive theory, Anderson's interaction equivalency theorem, and Tinto's social integration theory. Findings suggest that interactivity is an important component of satisfaction and persistence for online learners, and that preferences for types of online interactivity vary according to type of learner. Student–instructor interaction was also noted to be a primary variable in online student satisfaction and persistence.

Keywords: social cognitive theory, interaction equivalency theory, social integration theory, interactivity

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How Should I Offer This Course? The Course Delivery Decision Model (CDDM)
Thomas M. Brinthaupt, Maria A. Clayton, Barbara J. Draude, and Paula T. Calahan

The emergence of new methods of course delivery has increased the complexity of determining a course's optimal delivery mode. In this paper, teachers and designers are encouraged to take a systematic approach to making decisions about how a course should be delivered. To support this approach, the Course Delivery Decision Model (CDDM) is intended to help teachers and designers make pedagogically sound decisions regarding what delivery modes best target their learning outcomes. The CDDM guides users through a series of micro- and macro-level delivery mode decisions. Implications are discussed for when and how this model can best be used to determine a course's mode of delivery.

Keywords: course delivery mode, learning outcomes, course design, decision model

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