MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching

Vol.4, No. 1,  March 2008

Abstracts of Papers in This Issue

An Investigation of Faculty and Student Experiences and the Move to Online Learning Following Hurricane Katrina, Sandra Hartman
Mary Jo DeMatteis

In this paper, we provide a discussion of the experiences of faculty and students from the University of New Orleans during and following hurricanes Katrina and Rita to consider the implications for online teaching and learning. In addition to anecdotal discussion of faculty experiences, we examine representative postings from approximately 300 business students at the graduate and undergraduate levels.  We consider what lessons can be learned about the role of the university in a disaster situation, the Katrina disaster, in this case.  Our emphasis is on the role of online instruction in such situations.  We provide a number of general findings about the student experiences and illustrate what occurred with excerpts from their online postings.

Keywords: online learning, disaster recovery, online teaching, student support, universities and disaster

Powerful E-Learning: A Preliminary Study of Learner Experiences, Barbara Rivera and Gordon Rowland

This study continues a program of research into the nature of powerful learning experiences, with a focus this time on e-learning contexts. It was conducted using structured phone interviews with adult learners pursuing undergraduate degrees through e-learning coursework. Among other things, data suggest that meaningful social interaction and emotions may be important components in powerful learning experiences. In addition, the data suggest that powerful learning can indeed occur in e-learning environments. Results of this study combine with those from three previous studies to point toward practices of instructional designers and educators that may contribute to powerful learning in e-learning environments. Further examination of powerful learning in such environments holds promise.

Keywords: meaningful learning, powerful learning, e-learning, adult learning, instructional design

Computer Literacy in a Traditional Nursing Program: A 7-Year Study to Identify Computer-Based Skills Needed for Success, Mona Ternus and George F. Shuster

Computer literacy is critical to student success in higher education today. Assessment of student knowledge related to computers is generally for either hardware capabilities or overall ability, without an assessment of specific computer competencies. The focus of this study was to identify the literacy level of nursing students over a 7-year period to assess which computer competencies need the most support and development and to determine how literacy levels varied in successive years. A convenience sample (N = 401) of undergraduate nursing students admitted from 1999 to 2005 were given an assessment of computer literacy at the beginning of the upper-division nursing program. Results indicated that the literacy of students increased with each successive group of students. Literacy varied across technological functions, with students having the lowest literacy levels in the data inquiry skill set, and students who owned computers were more computer literate than those who did not. An assessment of general computer literacy can provide an overall appraisal of computer competency, but it is important to examine the separate dimensions of specific skills within general knowledge, as these are the points on which faculty will need to focus.

Keywords: computer skills, online learning, student assessment


 Persistence in Online Classes: A Study of Perceptions among Stakeholders, Denise Stanford-Bowers

Because online learning presents unique challenges for not only learners but faculty and administrators as well, those involved in these cyber-environments must think beyond the boundaries of the traditional classroom.  This study examined the perceptions of online persistence factors, those characteristics which influence student retention, as seen by the three major stakeholders in community college distance education programs:  administrators, faculty, and students.  The purpose of the study was to determine which factors are most important among the three groups and where those perceptions converge since lack of convergence could be a factor resulting in high attrition rates of some online courses. While the results of this study indicated that the perceptions of administrators and faculty are more closely aligned than either is with the students' perceptions, they also show a recognition among all groups of stakeholders of online learning as an evolving phenomenon which requires attention to even the most minute details which are sometimes overlooked, not emphasized, or taken for granted.  This recognition indicates a necessary paradigm shift, which will lead to improvements in online learning policy, design, and pedagogy, is in the making.    

Keywords:  online learning, retention, attrition, online learning communities, adult learners
 HTML     PDF  

Development of an Advanced Classroom Technology Laboratory: An “incubator” for next generation learning, Jacqueline Gilbert

This article explains the history of an Advanced Computer Technology (ACT) laboratory at Middle Tennessee State University Honors College. The ACT laboratory serves as an incubator classroom, and as a testing and experimental learning environment for faculty and students. Interviews with four administrators involved with the planning and procurement of the room (along with five faculty who had actual experience in teaching with the new equipment) are provided. This article details the history of the room’s inception, along with a list of advantages and suggestions for improvement from faculty who have taught classes in this space. An actual schematic of the current room is provided to help readers envision its capabilities. 

Keywords:  ACT laboratory, Community Collaboration, Leaderful practice, Flexibility, Communication

 Achievement and Satisfaction in an Online versus a Traditional Health and Wellness Course, Anna Block, Brian Udermann, Manny Felix, David Reineke, and Steven R. Murray

Online education has become a rapidly developing educational alternative.  Many universities deliver online courses across a variety of disciplines.  However, few studies have evaluated the efficiency of online health and wellness courses.  The purpose of this study was to examine achievement and satisfaction in students who participated in an online or a traditional lecture based health and wellness class.  Eighteen subjects in an online health and wellness class and nineteen subjects in a traditional lecture-based class participated in this study.  Outcomes included performance on a 50-point written exam (pre- and posttest) and three regular course exams.  All participants completed a satisfaction survey. The online participants completed a perception survey.  No significant differences were found between online and traditional courses in the 50-point written exam or in the three regular course exams.  Significant differences were found in age, employment status, year in school, and the degree to which participants felt that they were encouraged to participate in class discussions.  Overall, perceptions of the online course were positive.  Data suggests that an online health and wellness class was an acceptable alternative to a traditional lecture-based class, when achievement on exams was the primary outcome measure. 

Key Words:  distance education, physical education, lecture-based, knowledge acquisition, no significant difference, perceptions, employment status, age, class standing

Introducing Social Software to K-12 Teachers in a Research Setting, Jacqueline Waggoner and James B. Carroll

Twelve K-12 teachers who were enrolled in a graduate qualitative research course were introduced to collaborative software to use as part of work on group research projects. Data were gathered from one-on-one interviews, technology use surveys, and instructor reflections. Three themes appeared: a) the importance of developing learning communities when using these tools; b) overcoming inertia needed to gets students to learn new software; and  c) the conflict of technology use with instructional approaches.

Keywords: collaborative software, technology, graduate teaching, on-campus courses, teacher education

An investigation into the perceptions of first time online undergraduate learners on orientation events, Melanie Wilson

Orientation programs have been used for years in face-to-face universities and colleges to help prepare new students adjust to their new college community by providing key information about school resources and providing an opportunity socially interact with other students. These orientation efforts have been a vital component in increasing a students’ likelihood of persisting in their program of study (i.e. not dropping out).  Distance Education institutions (often with online course offerings) tend to have significantly higher drop out rates than their face-to-face counterparts, and thus orienting new online students to their new online learning environment is a logical progression.  However, orientation events need to be customized to the population if they are to have a significant impact on persistence. This study explores the perceptions that a group of online undergraduate students had of three different types of orientation events. These events included a traditional face-to-face orientation session, a pre-recorded course orientation video, and a live webinar. These perceptions were revealed in responses to an online survey and comments within and after the webinar.  The study concludes with suggestions for further research and presents possible alternatives to the traditional methods of student orientation.

Keywords: orientation; induction; attrition; drop out; persistence; higher education; student perception; webinars

Integrated, Multidisciplinary and Technology-Enhanced Science Education: The Next Frontier, Ivo Dinov

Contemporary science education at all levels presents several critical pedagogical and social challenges to educators and learners alike. Among these challenges are the widening Intergenerational Information Technology (IIT) divide and the need for a comprehensive and balanced multidisciplinary training. In the past few years, it has become clear that one significant hurdle impedes the efforts to integrate information technology in the classroom – the Intergenerational IT divide. The IIT gap reflects a different growing misalignment between providers and recipients of the science and technology educational content in terms of the expected vs. supplied, needed vs. perceived and contextual vs. abstract specialized learning. The common K-12 teacher or college instructor is much less familiar with, and slower to adapt to, the new ether of communication and novel IT resources. The transfer and blending of data, research challenges and methodologies between diverse areas of science is also critical in motivating wider spectra of students, demonstrating cross-disciplinary methodological concepts and synergies, as well as for engaging students in research projects. This article discusses the problems faced by modern science educators and suggests some methods and vision for coping with the increasing IIT divide and the social need to train “complete” and broadly educated citizens.

Keywords: science education, multidisciplinary, Internet, technology, blended instruction, online resources, intergenerational IT divide, information technology, policy
 HTML      PDF

Culturally Targeted Online Course Redesigns for English Composition and Research Writing: A Case Study, Shalin Hai-Jew

The Enduring Legacies Reservation-Based Project, now in its third year, supports Native American college students of a number of Pacific Northwest tribes.  This paper addresses the pedagogical and e-learning strategies applied to the culturally sensitive curricular redesigns for English Composition 1 and 2 (which involve essay writing and research respectively).  These are foundational and required courses for a number of degree programs and certificates. The curricular redesigns for both courses address issues of cultural sensitivity, learner focus, and strategy, and apply concepts of universal design for more effective learning for a wide range of learners. With the redesigns now in place for a year for the EC1 course and one quarter for EC2, some early findings have emerged as well. 


Keywords:  Online course redesign, cultural sensitivity, The Enduring Legacies Reservation-Based Project, The Evergreen State College (TESC), WashingtonOnline (WAOL), Tribal Based Program, Grays Harbor College (GHC)
 HTML    PDF  

Collaborative online learning: A constructivist example, Donna Ashcraft, Thomas Treadwell, and V. Krishna Kumar

While many other disciplines have implemented constructivist pedagogical changes, psychology has been slower to implement similar educational reform.  In this article we describe a constructivist method to teach group processes.  Pretest/Posttest data indicate this type of learning experience results in significant increases in students’ content knowledge in four targeted areas (American Psychological Association writing style, group processes, social psychology, and research methodology) from the beginning to the end of the semester.  Student perception data indicate students learned “content" as well as "process" information in the online collaborative course.

Keywords: On-Line Collaborative Learning, Electronic Group Development , Social Constructiveness, Video-Conferencing, Webboard, Chat Rooms, File Manager, Course Content Evaluation, Student Perceptions,  Project Guides (peer mentors), CORAL Pedagogy, Social Psychological.

 HTML     PDF  

Pedagogical Strategies for Building Community in Distance Education Courses, Eileen McElrath and Kate McDowell

Community building in online distance education is important to a successful learning experience because it alleviates feelings of isolation for both students and faculty members.  Ruth E. Brown describes the process by which students become part of an online distance education community, identifying three stages: “making friends,” “community conferment,” and the development of “camaraderie” (Brown, 2001).  The purpose of this article is to present concrete, specific, and practical pedagogical strategies to implement Ruth E. Brown’ 3-stage theory of community building in online distance learning courses.  These strategies are based on the authors’ combined 14 years of teaching distance courses in graduate level Library and Information Science (LIS) programs.      

Keywords:  Building community; virtual community; Ruth E. Brown’s 3-stage model; online courses; student stories in theoretical frameworks; distance education



BIO 151: Applied Biology – Developing Creative Learning Partnerships with Blackboard VISTA™, Michael Shelmet, Christopher Shields, and Jane Huggins

Teaching large, undergraduate, non-major biology courses represents an enormous hurdle for any instructor.  Effectiveness in this endeavor requires innovative techniques addressing multiple activities including active student engagement, automated quiz and exam mechanisms, and accurate record keeping. In this particular case study, students were asked to “partner” with the instructor and produce multimedia presentations of important course concepts.  Learning management software (Blackboard VISTA™) was utilized to automate delivery, grading, and recording of quizzes and exams.  A class of 167 students majoring in business was divided into groups of 5-6 individuals per group.  Over the course of the ten-week term, 34 multimedia presentations were given by these groups.  Two major exams and multiple lab activities including quizzes were delivered, graded, and recorded using Blackboard VISTA™. Overall, this large course was effectively taught by encouraging student engagement through active participation in the development of multimedia presentations. Effective management of the course was realized through reliable technological support of administrative functions using Blackboard VISTA™ learning management software.

Keywords:  instructional design, student engagement, multimedia, record keeping, large class, undergraduate, non-majors science




Copyright © 2005 MERLOT. All Rights Reserved.
Portions Copyright by MERLOT Community Members. Used with Permission.
ISSN: 1558-9528
Questions? Email:
Last Modified : 2007/12/15