MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching

Vol. 10, No. 4, December 2014

Abstracts of Papers in This Issue

The Role of the Business Major in Student Perceptions of Learning and Satisfaction with Course Format
Douglas M. Sanford, Jr., Douglas N. Ross, Al Rosenbloom, Dan Singer, and Vince Luchsinger

This study examines the association between course format (face-to-face, blended, and online) and students’ perceived outcomes (perceived learning and satisfaction) for accounting, finance, management, and marketing majors. This analysis revealed that for management majors, the online format was positively associated with perceived learning, while face-to-face classes were positively associated with learning satisfaction. In contrast, marketing majors indicated that the face-to-face format was negatively associated with perceived learning. Accounting and finance majors indicated that the online and face-to-face formats did not associate with either satisfaction or perceived learning. While our findings suggest a striking contrast between the results for each major, different students perceive course formats uniquely. Thus, our analysis does not support a claim for superiority of one format over another. All respondents were enrolled in the strategic management capstone course.

Keywords: course format, online learning, learning outcome, perceived learning, business discipline majors


Examining the Effects of Metacognitive Scaffolding on Students' Design Problem Solving and Metacognitive Skills in an Online Environment
Yun-Jo An and Li Cao

Complex, ill-structured problem solving is not a linear, straightforward process. Rather it is an iterative and cyclical process and involves ongoing monitoring and evaluation. Therefore, metacognition is critical for successful problem solving. Although there is no question about the importance of scaffolding in complex, ill-structured problem solving, relatively little attention has been given to metacognitive scaffolding. Using mixed-methods research, this study investigated the effects of metacognitive scaffolding on students' complex problem solving processes and outcomes in the domain of instructional design as well as on their metacognitive skills in an online environment. Both qualitative and quantitative data were collected from multiple sources, including online surveys, planning sheets, technology- enhanced lessons, and reflection papers. The results of the study revealed that metacognitive scaffolding had positive effects on students’ design problem solving processes but did not have a significant effect on design outcomes. Regarding metacognitive skills, the experimental group showed significant improvement in the planning subscale.

Keywords: metacognition, metacognitive scaffolding, ill-structured problem solving, complex problem solving, design problems, metacognitive skills, online learning, instructional design


Classrooms Without Walls: A Comparison of Instructor Performance in online Courses Differing in Class Size
Chris Sorensen, Ph.D.

It is difficult to deny that online learning has had steady growth in recent years. A benefit to any institution implementing online courses is not needing a physical space for a group of students. In an online classroom, there are no physical barriers limiting the number of desks that can be placed in the classroom. With the potential to have larger class sizes, how might that affect instructors’ ability to perform their teaching duties? The purpose of this study was to look at instructors’ performance while teaching online courses and how class size might influence their performance. The results of this study suggest that there may be some negative consequences in terms of instructor performance and the quality of instruction in online courses with larger class sizes.

Keywords: Online Learning, Instructor Expertise, Instructor Feedback, Quality Instruction, Higher Education


Social Network Analysis of Undergraduate Education Student Interaction in Online Peer Mentoring Settings
Regina Ruane, Ph.D. and Emmanuel F. Koku, Ph.D.

This study uses social network analysis to examine the patterns of student interactions in online peer mentoring sites within an undergraduate teacher education program. The peer mentoring sites were developed to provide both newcomers and more experienced peers the opportunity to discuss, share, and learn both from and with one another. The study demonstrated that the online peer mentoring sites supported interaction among first-year and third-year students. In particular, the networks formed by these interactions were sparse; online students did not seek or share course-related advice and information across the sites as a whole, but were selective with those whom they sought out for support, information, or guidance. This study has implications for future research to determine why students chose to use the peer mentoring sites to interact with their peers and what these interactions provided them. Such data could inform the ways the sites helped support students both in their transition and advancement in the program, and could be useful in assisting future development of the peer mentoring sites and similar learning spaces.

Keywords: Online Learning, Peer Mentoring, Social Network Analysis, Undergraduates, UCINET


Comparison of College Students’ Knowledge across Delivery Formats in a Required Physical Activity and Wellness Course
Cara L. Sidman, PhD; Michelle Lee D'Abundo, PhD, MSH, CHES; and Lea Bullard, MA

As online and blended delivery formats in college physical activity and wellness courses gain popularity, assessment of student learning is needed. The purpose of this study was to investigate differences in college students’ knowledge across four delivery formats in a required physical activity and wellness course. A total of 377 students were randomly selected from the following four formats: 1) online lecture/face-to-face lab (n=114); 2) face-to-face lecture/face-to-face lab (n=58); 3) online lecture/online lab (n=117); and 4) online lecture/web-enhanced lab (n=88). Regardless of delivery format, students on average scored an 84% at the end of a 15-week semester. A one-way analysis of variance indicated there were no significant differences between delivery formats on all but four of the 13 questions. Students in the online lecture, face-to-face lab scored significantly higher on concepts related to lifelong adherence to physical activity and wellness, such as intrinsic motivation and process-oriented, long-term healthy behaviors.

Keywords: online, assessment, basic studies, university, exercise


Are students studying in the online mode faring as well as students studying in the face-to-face mode? Has equivalence in learning been achieved?
Aluwesi Volau Fonolahi, M.G.M. Khan, and Anjeela Jokhan

With the shift in pedagogy from learning in the traditional classroom setting (face-to- face mode) to online learning, it is important to find out how students are faring in the online mode and if equivalence in learning is achieved in the two modes. To answer these questions, the course results of students studying a first year undergraduate mathematics course in the two different modes at The University of the South Pacific were compared. The study revealed that there was no statistical significant difference in the pass rates of the students studying in the two modes but the students studying in the online mode had a significantly higher attrition rate. From the results, it was also discovered that students studying via the online mode achieved higher coursework marks but lower exam marks compared to students studying via the face- to-face mode. Yet the students’ total marks in the two modes were similar, which led to the conclusion that students studying in the online mode are faring just as well as students studying in the face-to-face mode. It was evident that equivalent learning was occurring in the two modes albeit in different ways. The coursework assessments methods in the two modes were also compared.

Keywords: students’ performance, coursework assessment methods, total marks, coursework marks, final exam marks, pass rate, attrition rate, mathematics course


Why Is Response To Intervention (RTI) So Important That We Should Incorporate It Into Teacher Education Programs and How Can Online Learning Help?
Nai-Cheng Kuo, Ph.D.

The reauthorization of Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) in 2004 permits the use of response to intervention (RTI) to explore whether students make adequate progress and what interventions should be provided to them. The implementation of RTI is mandated in many K-12 schools in the U.S. Thus, knowing what and how online learning can help incorporate RTI into university teacher preparation programs is necessary. This study involves examining the use of the IDEA '04 and Research for Inclusive Settings (IRIS) modules with pre-service teachers. The IRIS modules are a comprehensive online resource developed by the IRIS Center which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. As of 2014, over 470,000 K-12 educators worldwide have used IRIS modules as a professional development tool (IRIS, 2014). While existing literature indicates that most users of the IRIS modules found the modules useful, there is little research on how these modules can be used as an online learning program in higher education to prepare pre-service teachers for RTI. The results of the present study show that IRIS modules are beneficial to pre-service teachers. However teacher educators need to interpret pre- service teachers’ online learning outcomes with caution due to the existence of user variations.

Keywords: Response to intervention (RTI), online teaching and learning, IRIS modules, teacher preparation, assessment, special education


Impact of Reflective Practice on Online Teaching Performance in Higher Education
Kimberly LaPrade, Marjaneh Gilpatrick, and David Perkins

The purpose of this study was to assess the effective online instructional practices in higher education at Grand Canyon University/GCU. The GCU College of Education created a formative evaluation instrument for online faculty—Five by Five—based on current recommended best practices in online instruction. The instrument is used by online faculty to reflect on their performance using the following five criteria: communication, engagement, expertise , and use of quality instruction techniques. The instrument designers used these criteria with the intent of aligning the PREK-12 best practices with higher education practices. A quasi-experimental study was conducted with an availability sample of fifty online instructors. The sample was split into equal experimental and control groups. The participants in the experimental were assigned to do a self-evaluation and reflection on their online instruction capabilities using the Five by Five instrument. The researchers analyzed classroom data in terms of the five criteria featured in the Five by Five instrument and compared the performance of the experimental and control groups. The results showed statistically significant positive effects of the utilization of Five by Five by online faculty in terms of their participation in the discussion forums and their use of quality instructional techniques.

Keywords: Reflection, online teaching, online instruction, online instructors, professional teaching practice


M-learning to Support Learning English in a Hong Kong University
David M. Kennedy

This paper reports a project designed to explore the elements that help and hinder the adoption of mobile devices in higher education. This study is focused on the use of mobile phones, specifically iPhones, for teaching and learning in the domain of English language at a university in Hong Kong. Using a range of quantitative and qualitative data, the study illustrates how smart phones and tablets might be used effectively for developing more suitable learning designs, and improving digital literacies in students and academic staff. The artifacts developed by students were used in an e-portfolio environment. There was evidence of students engaging with smart phones in the learning environment, which led to improved learning artifacts. A number of challenges were encountered and these are explored in the paper.

Keywords: mobile devices; e-portfolios; media in education; pedagogical issues; English as a second language; staff development


Color and Contrast in E-Learning Design: A Review of the Literature and Recommendations for Instructional Designers and Web Developers
Rick T. Richardson, M.Ed.; Tara L. Drexler, M.Ed.; and Donna M. Delparte, Ph.D.

Judicious choice of color for text and backgrounds of web and e-learning tools can increase the readability of on-screen text and have the added benefits of minimizing extraneous cognitive load and boosting learning retention. A review of empirical research on color and contrast identifies a set of recommendations for establishing luminance contrast between on-screen text and backgrounds that will inform instructional design and web development practices. Visual cueing, as an element of multimedia theory, and web page complexity also play important roles in maximizing readability. Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) and Section 508 guidelines for making web pages usable by individuals with physical and/or visual impairments are not uniformly applied to current design practices; this review uses color blindness to as an example and recommends several online tools to select appropriate page background and text colors, two areas that receive limited attention in current WAI guidelines. Suggestions for future research on the intersection between color and contrast and how it can improve readability for all users, including individuals with visual impairments such as color blindness, and multimedia cognitive load theory are proposed.

Keywords: instructional design, web development, extraneous cognitive load, visual cueing, color, contrast, color blindness, Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), Section 508.


Trends in the Design of E-Learning and Online Learning
Meaghan Lister

Designing online learning involves choosing components which help enhance student learning and allow learners to engage with the content. An analysis of the literature was conducted to identify similarities and differences, to identify patterns and to search for common themes on the design of e-learning and online courses. The findings of the analysis suggest that there are four main considerations when designing e-learning and online courses: i) course structure, ii) content presentation, iii) collaboration and interaction, and iv) timely feedback.

Keywords: e-learning, design, online learning, considerations, collaboration, course structure, content presentation, feedback


The Graduate Virtual Classroom Webinar: A Collaborative and Constructivist Online Teaching Strategy
Michael Power and Annie St-Jacques

Based on research findings derived from interviews and questionnaires collected between 2009 and 2012, this concept paper proposes blended online learning design (BOLD) as a solution to some widespread online learning challenges in higher education. More specifically, it defines the pedagogical underpinnings of the blended online learning design (or BOLD) webinar, a hybrid instructional design and delivery model which maintains quality of instruction while increasing accessibility to higher education and cost- effectiveness in graduate-level courses, all elements that contribute to sustainability in online learning. Set against a backdrop of the graduate seminar, learning activity sequencing, based on a combination of individual, team and group work, is presented, design and delivery solutions are described and student, faculty and administration satisfaction levels reported. Preliminary results point favorably to the BOLD webinar model as increasing sustainability in online graduate studies.

Keywords: Graduate seminar, graduate studies, online learning, blended learning, blended online learning, faculty development.


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