MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching

Vol. 3, No. 4, December 2007


Abstracts of Papers in This Issue


Creativity in Online Courses: Perceptions of MBA Student,. Alma Mintu-Wimsatt, Theresa Sadler, and Kendra Ingram

Creativity is a key competency skill sought after by many employers. And yet, one of the major criticisms of business schools relates to its lack of programs that promote creative and/or innovative thinking. This could be compounded by the fact that a large number of business programs are currently offered online. Consequently, the issue of whether online education stifles or enhances students’ creativity is brought to the forefront. Using this question, the authors engaged in an inquiry process dealing with MBA students’ perceptions of how online courses impact their creativity. Based on students’ feedback, it appears that taking online courses generally enhances their creativity. They are not only more inclined to be creative thinkers, but also more likely to be organized and exercise critical thinking. The students noted, however, that online instructors are largely instrumental in enhancing creativity. They also suggested that creativity cannot be integrated equally in all types of business courses

KEY WORDS: Distance education, Innovative thinking, Graduate business students, Marketing Management course


Selecting a Virtual Classroom System: Elluminate Live vs. Macromedia Breeze (Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional), Shauna Schullo, Amy Hilbelink, Melissa Venable, and Ann E. Barron

Synchronous, virtual classroom systems can provide high levels of interaction for distance learning initiatives. With the rapid evolution of technology,continuous product evaluation is necessary to ensure optimal methods and resources for connecting students, instructors, and educational content in rich, online learning communities. This article presents the analysis of two online, synchronous learning solutions (Elluminate Live and Breeze),focusing on their abilities to meet both technical and pedagogical needs in higher education. To make a solid comparison, the systems were examined in online classrooms with instructors, guest speakers, and students. Pros and cons relative to usability, instructional needs, technical aspects, and compatibility are outlined for both systems.

Keywords: Synchronous communication, learning technology, online learning, distance learning, virtual learning environments


Best Practices in Undergraduate Adult-Centered Online Learning: Mechanisms for Course Design and Delivery, Mary Rose Grant and Heather R. Thornton

This study was conducted to explore and identify best practices used by full-time and part-time faculty in adult-centered online learning environments. Using a modified version of the instrument made available by the Teaching, Learning and Technology (TLT) Group (2005), faculty were surveyed and asked to identify and describe teaching practices implemented in their online courses that paralleled those described by Chickering and Ehrmann (l996) in the Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education for online environments. In addition, researchers verified the usefulness of these practices with students by comparing them with comments on student evaluations. Results revealed three themes within best practices for online instruction: course design, instructional effectiveness, and interactivity or interconnectivity. Using these three themes, best practices in course design and delivery are proposed to improve opportunities for student-instructor interaction, teaching strategies that encourage retention and behaviors that influence learning and course satisfaction. This study has implications for planning faculty development activities which assists faculty in integrating best practices and effective teaching principles for online learning into undergraduate adult education.

Keywords: Adult Education, Distance Education, Faculty Development, Part-time Faculty, Non-traditional Students, Instructional Effectiveness, Interactivity, Interconnectivity, Qualitative Study


Instructional Strategies: What Do Online Students Prefer?, Kristen Cuthrell and Anna Lyon

This study examined student opinions and preferences regarding the impact of six varied instructional strategies in an online graduate curriculum course. The primary research questions were 1) Which online instructional module did students most prefer? 2) Which online instructional module did students least prefer? Students enrolled in two curriculum courses in a Master’s of Art in Education program rated the instructional strategies in the online courses and described their most and least preferred technique. All participants were female and included both pre-service and in-service teachers. Data were gathered through student reflections and a survey administered at the conclusion of the class. Student reflections were coded for themes while survey data was analyzed for frequency counts. Results indicated that students preferred independent, passive modes of instruction in online courses because of ease, convenience, and comfort level. Overall reflections indicated student appreciation of a mix of instructional strategies that incorporated more interactive technological modes of instruction with independent, passive modes of instruction. These findings suggest when developing online courses, university professors not assume one instructional strategy fits all. As a result, online courses should provide a balance of instructional approaches.

Keywords: course design, student preferences, course development


Enhancing Student Learning with Case-based Learning Objects in a Problem-based Learning Context: The Views of Social Work Students in Scotland and Canada, Neil Ballantyne and Alan Knowles

This paper summarizes the results of an evaluation of students’ perspectives comparing learning from a multimedia case-based learning object with learning from text-based case studies. A secondary goal of the study was to test the reusability of the learning object in different instructional contexts. The learning object was deployed in the context of a problem-based learning approach to teaching social work students in three different courses in two different countries: Scotland (N=39) and Canada (N=57). Students completed a structured survey form including a series of statements using a five point Likert scale to quantify their views of the different case types (text-based and multimedia). Results indicate strong support for the use of multimedia case scenarios in social work education. Students felt their learning was enhanced using multimedia case studies compared to text-based case studies. A number of benefits, disadvantages and recommendations were identified that will help guide the future development, (re)use, and exchange of digitized learning resources in social work education.

Keywords: Learning objects, problem-based learning, multimedia, e-learning, social work education.


Pedagogy Considerations for e-Learning in a Military Learning Environment, Jowati binti Juhary

The National Defence University Malaysia (NDUM) Kuala Lumpur provides an undergraduate education to the future officers of the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF). The establishment is considered to be an elite university because it is the only tertiary military institution in Malaysia. The main curriculum is engineering education; there are seven engineering degrees offered at the NDUM. This paper attempts to analyse the pedagogical issues surrounding the design and development of e-learning courseware for a military learning environment. In so doing, the history of the NDUM and its importance to the country is examined, together with the current practices of teaching cadets. At present, the NDUM has not yet implemented e-learning technologies. However, because the need for e-learning technologies is crucial, it is argued that some pedagogical concerns must be examined carefully before the NDUM embarks on the planning and implementing of new technologies. Three implications are highlighted at the end of the paper.

Keywords: The National Defence University Malaysia; Military Academies; Military Education; E-learning Courseware Design and Development; Student-Centred Learning.


Micro-Level Design for Multimedia-Enhanced Online Courses, Chareen Snelson and Patt Elison-Bowers

Micro-level instructional design refers to the practice of designing and producing small units of instruction. At the micro-level processes such as shifting focus to small-scale design, applying learning theory, managing the technology, and evaluating the micro-design are implemented. The shift in focus to small-scale design centers attention on design of the multimedia products implemented in the online classroom. Theories of multimedia learning are selected and applied to the micro-level design to maximize the potential for effective instructional communication and learning. Managing the technology involves accounting for issues of compression, file size, and appropriate format for Web-based delivery. Evaluation, supported by Web server technologies, may be conducted through iterative cycles in a design based research approach. The result is incremental improvement of micro-design products in addition to new insights about multimedia-enhanced online instruction. This paper describes these processes as they apply to multimedia-enhanced online instruction.

Keywords: Instructional Design, Distance Education, Web-Based Course, Online Instruction, Representation, Multimedia


The Imperatives of Information and Communication Technology for Teachers in Nigeria Higher Education , Peter Zakawa Kwache

The pace of change brought about by new technologies has had a significant effect on the way people live, work, and play worldwide. New and emerging technologies challenge the traditional process of teaching and learning, and the way education is managed. Information Technology (IT), while an important area of study in its own right, is having a major impact across all curriculum areas. Easy worldwide communication provides instant access to a vast array of data, challenge assimilation and assessment skills. Rapid communication, plus increased access to IT in the home, at work, and in educational establishments could mean that learning becomes a truly life-long activity, an activity in which the pace of technological change forces constant evaluation of the teaching-learning process itself. In this paper issues related to the needs and imperatives of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) related technologies to education and in particular teachers’ education are highlighted. The paper also advances some suggestions and/or recommendations for effective integration of ICT in the teaching-learning process, bearing in mind current problems mitigating against the implementation of ICT in the Nigerian education system.

Keywords: life-long activity, network society, autonomy, flexibility, quality education, teacher education, task oriented activities, ICT enhanced learning.


Educationally Valuable Talk: A New Concept for Determining the Quality of Online Conversations, Sedef Uzuner

This paper is about conversations and quality of talk in online discussions. Derived from the tenets of constructivist learning as well as the notion of “exploratory talk”, it characterizes two distinct types of talk: educationally valuable talk (EVT) and educationally less valuable talk (ELVT). The potential of each talk type for collaborative knowledge building is discussed and teaching implications are considered.

Keywords: Quality talk, distance education, online discussions, online conversations, online learning, knowledge building


The Role of the Tutors in the Teaching of Online English for Business Programmes in South Africa: A Case Study, Bernard Nchindila

In the business world where effective communication is most paramount, the role of the tutor in ensuring delivery of quality training is crucial. In the case of workplace training, learners often do not have time to attend face-to-face classes to acquire the needed skills outside working hours. Many of them end up registering for distance training courses. To enhance their chances of success, they supplement their learning approaches with online learning methods. Because this mode of learning is quite new to many in South Africa, they face several challenges which sometimes overwhelm them. Tutors therefore carry a heavy responsibility to help learners by making sure that they understand the needs of their students, that they plan the training programmes well, and that they implement and evaluate the programmes properly.

In this article, the writer looks at the role of the tutors in an online programme on English Business Communication in South Africa, using a process-writing approach which was well intended but failed to live up to its expectations. Suggestions for better practice are finally offered.

Keywords: English mentoring, Internet Communication, African learners



Numbers: Using Innovative Online Course Support Strategies to Raise College Course Enrollment, David Montague, Mary Parker, Sandra Hanson and Charles Chastain

This article addresses the administrative issue of achieving satisfactory enrollment numbers in order to avoid canceling summer courses. A case study was developed to measure whether offering a single course with both online and face-to-face students would attract sufficient students to the course and whether this model would significantly alter the instructor’s time commitments to the course. Student perspective was employed to help assess learning and the tool used to bridge both sections of students has been called “hybrid bridging format.”

Keywords: Online, technology, assessment, teaching, criminal justice, investigation.


Exploring the Educational Possibilities for a User-Driven Social Content System in an Undergraduate Course, Jason T. Abbitt

This manuscript describes the implementation and evaluation of a user-driven social content system in an undergraduate educational technology course. In a manner similar to many popular social content and social bookmarking websites, the system used in this pilot study allowed students to post links and brief descriptions of articles and other resources relating to the integration of technology into teaching practices. Users were then required to rate content posted by other users through a simple voting mechanism. In evaluating this activity, usage data for various features of the system, as well as data from a user feedback survey were analyzed to assess user behavior and the perceived usefulness of the system. The results of the study provide insight into common user behavior patterns and suggest that the activity may facilitate student achievement of the identified instructional objectives. The pilot study also provides a basis for future research into the possible uses of this type of activity in similar educational contexts.

Keywords: Social bookmarking, social content, web-based learning, e-learning systems, instructional systems


Addressing Students’ Learning Styles through Skeletal PowerPoint Slides: A Case Study, Cara L. Sidman and Dianne Jones

During this generation of millennial learners, who are heavily stimulated by visual and active involvement, there is a need to create innovative, pedagogical approaches that effectively utilize technology and meet students’ needs. Therefore, the purpose of this paper was to illustrate the process of specifically addressing students’ learning styles through a case study approach. PowerPoint (PPT) and an online course management system were utilized to make interactive skeletal (partial) slides available to students in five required courses in coaching. Students’ learning styles, exam scores, and perceived value of interactive skeletal PPT slides were assessed and then compared between students who elected to use the PPT slides and those who did not. This preliminary investigation revealed that the skeletal slides did not provide enough assistance to significantly increase exam scores when all courses were combined. However, when looking at each type of course separately, significantly higher exam scores were found among the students who elected to use the PPT slides in the higher-level coaching courses. Therefore, future research measuring the impact of this technology among different levels and types of university courses is recommended.

Keywords: skeletal notes, partial notes, learning styles, technology, and note taking


Principles of Finance: The Design and Implementation of an Online Course, Suzanne K. Hayes

This case study outlines the structure and implementation of an online introductory finance course developed at the University of Nebraska-Kearney. The instructor describes the components for an effective online finance classroom. The paper contributes to the body of knowledge for distance education through a first look at an online undergraduate finance course.

Keywords: online education, undergraduate finance, quantitative online course, online syllabus, discussion board


Effectiveness of Student-Centered Learning Strategies in Online Composition Courses, Jacqueline A. F. I Carroll

This research paper examines the extent to which student-centered learning and teaching strategies impact the learning environment for an online composition course as it relates to student satisfaction, learning, and course completion. Two sections of a composition course at a community college were evaluated; one course received enhanced instructional activities that were determined to be student and learner centered, including various opportunities for the use of multimedia resources. The course enhancements were found generally to be meeting their primary objective, which was to create a more satisfactory, online learning experience; increased learning; and increased course completion rates. This paper includes a close examination of ways to utilize Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Training Evaluation in order to go beyond student satisfaction surveys and to begin a focus on learning assessment and desired course outcomes including course completion.

Keywords: Active learning, Heutagogic learning, Collaborative learning, Kirkpatrick’s Evaluating Training Programs, multi-level assessment




Copyright © 2005-2007 MERLOT. All Rights Reserved.
Portions Copyright by MERLOT Community Members. Used with Permission.
Questions? Email:
Last Modified : 2007/12/15