MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching

Vol.5, No.1, March 2009

Abstracts of Papers in This Issue


SOCR Analyses: Design Framework, Implementation and Instructional Examples of a Java Web-based Statistical Analysis Toolkit, Annie Chu, Jenny Cui, and Ivo D. Dinov

The Statistical Online Computational Resource (SOCR) designs web-based tools for educational use in a variety of undergraduate courses (Dinov 2006). Several studies have demonstrated that these resources significantly improve students' motivation and learning experiences (Dinov et al. 2008). SOCR Analyses is a new component that concentrates on data modeling and analysis using parametric and non-parametric techniques supported with graphical model diagnostics. Currently implemented analyses include commonly used models in undergraduate statistics courses like linear models (Simple Linear Regression, Multiple Linear Regression, One-Way and Two-Way ANOVA). In addition, we implemented tests for sample comparisons, such as t-test in the parametric category; and Wilcoxon rank sum test, Kruskal-Wallis test, Friedman's test, in the non-parametric category. SOCR Analyses also include several hypothesis test models, such as Contingency tables, Friedman's test and Fisher's exact test.

The code itself is open source (, hoping to contribute to the efforts of the statistical computing community. The code includes functionality for each specific analysis model and it has general utilities that can be applied in various statistical computing tasks. For example, concrete methods with API (Application Programming Interface) have been implemented in statistical summary, least square solutions of general linear models, rank calculations, etc. HTML interfaces, tutorials, source code, activities, and data are freely available via the web ( Code examples for developers and demos for educators are provided on the SOCR Wiki website.

In this article, the pedagogical utilization of the SOCR Analyses is discussed, as well as the underlying design framework. As the SOCR project is on-going and more functions and tools are being added to it, these resources are constantly improved. The reader is strongly encouraged to check the SOCR site for most updated information and newly added models.

Keywords : distributed learning environment, SOCR, statistical analyses, statistics education, online resources.


Perceptions of Distance Learning Among Faculty of a College of Education, Shirley J. Mills, Martha Jeanne Yanes, and Cindy M. Casebeer

Students and employers laud distance education for its usefulness in overcoming obstacles like location and family and work schedules. College and university administrators hail its cost effectiveness and its usefulness in facilitating enrollment increases. However, faculty members do not necessarily share this enthusiasm. Since the role of faculty members is crucial to the successful implementation of any education program, it is important to understand why faculty members may be reluctant to embrace the non-traditional modes of course delivery standard to distance education. In order to better understand this dynamic, a qualitative study was conducted among faculty of a College of Education at a public regional university located in south Texas to ascertain faculty perception of value and viability of distance education in their context. The results of this study indicate that faculty members studied do not uniformly recognize or embrace the use of distance education. These findings are discussed and recommendations for this College of Education are derived from the analysis.

Keywords : Faculty beliefs, higher education, technology, barriers, distance education


Online Human Touch (OHT) Training & Support: A Conceptual Framework to Increase Faculty and Adjunct Faculty Engagement, Connectivity, and Retention in Online Education, Part 2, Kristen Betts

Enrollment growth in online education now far exceeds overall higher education growth in the United States. As reported by Allen and Seaman (2008), the online enrollment growth rate increased 12% from fall 2006 to fall 2007 while the overall higher education growth rate increased only 1.2%. In fall 2007, there were approximately 3.9 million students enrolled in at least one online course. It is predicted that online enrollments will continue to increase as a result of greater national acceptance of online education by employers, baby boomers returning to college, and a weak economy. Faculty are critical in meeting current and predicted online enrollment increases, particularly since their role extends beyond classroom instruction. Faculty play a vital role in student engagement, retention, and long-term program sustainability. Therefore, the Master of Science in Higher Education Program at Drexel University has developed and implemented the concept of Online Human Touch (OHT) training and support to proactively engage, connect, and retain online faculty. This interactive and personalized approach to working with online faculty has resulted in high retention rates and high levels of satisfaction for faculty and students. This article is the second of a two-part series that focuses on OHT in online education.

Key words: Online education, distance education, faculty, part-time faculty, engagement, faculty development, adjunct faculty, retention, attrition, community development, faculty engagement, communication, training


The Role of Instructor Interactivity in Promoting Critical Thinking in Online and Face-to-Face Classrooms, B. Jean Mandernach, Krista D. Forrest, Jamie L. Babutzke, and Lanay R. Manker

The current rise in online learning programs mandates that postsecondary faculty examine means of transferring successful, established critical thinking instructional strategies from the traditional classroom into the online environment. Theoretical arguments support, and even favor, the use of asynchronous learning technologies to promote students’ critical thinking skills. The purpose of the current study is to examine students’ application of critical thinking strategies when learning in a traditional, face-to-face environment compared to an asynchronous, online classroom. Results indicate that the mode of instructional delivery (face-to-face or online) is not as influential as the instructor’s level of interactivity in promoting active engagement with course material. Findings suggest that the asynchronous component of online learning does not inherently prompt students toward enhanced critical thinking, but may serve as a vehicle for online instructors to encourage increased engagement and critical thinking.

Key words: asynchronous threaded discussions, online learning, critical thinking, instructor interactivity


Development and Examination of an Individualized Online Adjunct to In-Class Education, Shawn Davis and Bryant Kilbourn

The present study was an investigation of the effectiveness of an individualized class website serving as an adjunct to traditional in-class instruction in improving class performance, class attendance, and the overall class experience. Participating individuals were enrolled in either an undergraduate-level cognitive psychology course consisting of in-class instruction and a generic, non-individualized class website or in a similar course with the same in-class instruction and a class website that contained highly-individualized information (i.e., automated individual feedback on test performance, personalized study suggestions based on test performance, and a personal record of class attendance). As hypothesized, individuals in the individualized section performed significantly better on exams as the class progressed. No significant differences were found, however, in class absences between the two course sections. A significant positive correlation between the number of times the class website was accessed and final class average was found only for individuals in the test section.

Keywords : Internet, tailored, website, personalized, study skills, cognition


Listening to Students: Investigating the Effectiveness of an Online Graduate Teaching Strategies Course , Kathryn Lee

In an effort to meet the increasing needs of the graduate student population at a large southwestern state university, several online courses have been developed and implemented to assist students in meeting the academic requirements for a Master’s degree in Education and/or post baccalaureate teacher certification. The purpose of this exploratory study was to gather information on graduate students’ perceptions of the effectiveness of an online course designed to teach instructional strategies used in face-to-face (FTF) secondary classrooms, estimate the perceived ease of transfer of the strategies to a FTF classroom, and gain insight into the online graduate student population. Students were administered a web-based survey after they had completed the course. The instrument explored their perceptions on the effectiveness of the various online and fieldwork activities. Findings showed that the respondents rated the field experience activities within the 25-hour practicum among the highest and the routine weekly readings and summaries among the lowest. Implications of these results are discussed.

Keywords: online learning; online teaching; teacher education; instructional strategies; secondary education


The Comparison between Asynchronous Online Discussion and Traditional Classroom Discussion in an Undergraduate Education Course, Kelly O'Neal

While there is agreement that participation in online asynchronous discussions can enhance student learning, it has also been identified that there is a need to study the impact of participation in online asynchronous discussions compared to traditional discussions on student course content knowledge. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of using asynchronous discussions in an online course compared to traditional classroom face-to-face discussions . There were 44 participants in the study who were enrolled in an undergraduate course for elementary and secondary education majors related to teaching children with disabilities in the regular classroom. Twenty-two participants were enrolled in the online section of the course that accessed the course through home computers. Twenty-two participants were enrolled in the traditional section of the course that met in a classroom at the university. The instructional program for both groups included the same required textbook, syllabus, and activities. Qualitative data were collected through transcribed course discussions and printed threaded discussions t o measure the quality of discussions related to course content. Several similar themes emerged for both groups of students indicating that both groups had similar discussions related to the course content. The results of this study have direct implications for using asynchronous discussions in an online learning environment.

Keywords: Distance Education; Online Learning; Web-based Instruction ; Asynchronous Discussions; Student Evaluations


The Influence of Multiple Intelligence Theory on Web-Based Learning, Mark Riha and Rebecca A. Robles-Piña

Distance learning represents a growing educational opportunity for many students. Learning institutions have responded by increasing the number of distance learning programs. This article will review the relationship between multiple intelligences and online education. The review will provide an overview of MI theory and online education. It will then compare MI influence in a traditional and online setting focusing on group dynamics, education, curriculum, and the relationship between MI and online education. An understanding of how MI impacts these various categories can help instructors and students create a learning environment conducive to providing a rewarding educational outcome.

Keywords: multiple intelligence, web-based learning, online education, distance learning, Multiple intelligence design


The Effectiveness and Development of Online Discussions, Olla Najah Al-Shalchi

Both synchronous and asynchronous online discussions are an important component of effective distance education. They allow for the students to interact with each other without being in a classroom. In online discussion environments, students are able to build strong ties and relationships with each other. Online discussions can be presented in different ways and serve students for different purposes. In order for them to be effective, instructors must make their expectations clear, provide feedback, and lead the class down the correct path. This article deals with the importance of the effective design of online discussions and discusses ways that instructors can help students have effective discussions.

Keywords : online discussions, effective discussions, purposes of discussions, creating discussions


An Analysis of the History of Online Graduate-Level Courses Taught by an Expert Instructor, Doris Bolliger and Oksana Wasilik

In this case study, four graduate-level online courses delivered by the same instructor over a15-semester time period were analyzed to determine how available resources in the course management system were used to support instructional strategies and how the instructor modified the courses over time. The instructor had significant experience in the field of instructional technology and in the design and delivery of online courses. Several course elements were analyzed including course statistics, content structure, levels of use of resources, course requirements, and levels of interaction. Student course evaluations were analyzed to ascertain levels of student satisfaction with the courses and instructor. A semi-structured interview was conducted with the instructor to determine his rationale for implementing modifications. Results reveal that minor changes were implemented from one semester to the next; however, some important trends emerged in the examination of the instructor’s courses over time.

Keywords: Instructional design, online teaching, faculty, distance learning, higher education, best practices


Hatching CHRPP: Developing an E-learning Tutorial for Research Ethics, Laura-Lee Balkwill, Joan Stevenson, Denise Stockley , and Susan Marlin

A need for a new approach to research ethics education was identified at Queen’s University. The goals were to ensure all graduate students involved in research with human participants were aware of the national standard of research ethics, The Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct of Research Involving Humans (TCPS), and to improve their approach to the research ethics review process at Queen’s University. Existing resources (hard copy of the guidelines, in-house forms, and the TCPS online tutorial) were generally considered by students to be unappealing. A team of experts in research ethics, e-learning, and pedagogy worked together to produce an engaging, interactive online tutorial focused on the practical application of TCPS regulations to real research situations . The development of the design specifications, the adoption of the ICE (ideas, connections, and extensions) learning model, the process of content creation and review, and the issues arising from programming challenges and usability testing are described in this paper.

Keywords: e-learning; online tutorial; research ethics; design specifications; usability testing; ICE model; interactive; learning objects


“We’re Changing Again? No Way!” A Case Study of a Course Management System Transition, Barbara J. Draude, Maria A. Clayton, and Thomas M Brinthaupt

In this paper, the authors describe the institutional-level experiences of changing a Course Management System ( CMS). They address issues pertaining to when and why such CMS transitions might occur, the dynamics of making the change, this institution’s management of the transition process, problems encountered, and lessons learned. They also report the results of a faculty survey assessing the transition experience. Finally, the authors present suggestions on how institutions can prepare for inevitable future CMS upgrades and transitions.

Keywords: Change management, IT upgrades, training, administration, faculty perceptions


From Lecturer to Course Coordinator: Redefining the Role of the University Academic for Online Teaching and Learning, Olabisi Kuboni

One of the important areas of change in contemporary higher education is the adoption of the interactive technologies for teaching and learning and more specifically the reconceptualizing of the classroom as a virtual learning space. This paper reviews the role and function of the course coordinator in the web-based classroom, in the context of the project to transform the distance delivery mode of the University of the West Indies Distance Education Centre (UWIDEC). It does this review through the vehicle of students’ open-ended responses extracted from a course evaluation undertaken during the project period. As a follow-up to that review, the paper presents excerpts of guidelines developed by the project team to enhance the functioning of the course coordinator in the virtual classroom. Finally it makes recommendations for a clearer articulation of the course coordinator role as distinct from that of the conventional lecturer.

Keywords: Distributed learning, instructional leadership, change management, learner-centredness, virtual classroom, higher education.


Toward a Philosophy of Multimedia in the Online Classroom: Aligning Multimedia Use with Institutional Goals, Emily Donnelli, Amber Dailey, and B. Jean Mandernach

Institutions desiring to move their online programs to the next generation in innovation often focus their efforts on multimedia development. Because multimedia is now a common benchmark for online course content, institutions encounter the paradox of multimedia inclusion, being forced to consider not only their technological resources but also how multimedia will affect their culture of teaching and learning. As such, the effective integration of multimedia is likely about everything but multimedia; multimedia incorporation has much more to do with institutional culture than with technological tools, faculty education, and infrastructure. Although the literature on multimedia in online learning presents compelling arguments for the educational value of multimedia, this information must be filtered through the lens of the particular institution’s culture and mission. Such an examination will enable institutions to determine a successful, sustainable approach to the integration of multimedia in online courses. The following integrative review presents empirical guidelines and a sequential model to assist universities in creating a workable multimedia philosophy framed within their particular institutional context.

Keywords : Multimedia, online course development, inclusion, institutional mission, instructional culture


Task Context and Computer Self Efficacy in the Era of Web 2.0 Tools, Richard Burkhard and Malu Roldan

Many past studies of computer self efficacy (CSE) have emphasized the impact of psychogenic factors on the users’ CSE, but few have examined the effects of task complexity and novel technologies.  This study looks at the impact on CSE of the complexity of emerging Web 2.0 technologies and the task context in which they are applied. Students in a capstone course applied simple and complex Web 2.0 interaction tools for course assignments and were evaluated on the strength of their CSE for use of the technologies in a complex task context. Findings show significant differences in CSE between users of simple and complex Web 2.0 technologies in general and for the complex task context, suggesting that in complex task conditions, CSE is highly influenced by the complexity of new technologies. Implications for the design of technology-based learning experiences for complex tasks are discussed.

Keywords: Collaboration technologies, Collaborative learning, task complexity, task challenge


My Experience with Teaching Online: Confessions and Observations of a Survivor, David J. St. Clair

This paper describes a journey to create two online economics courses for businesses students. Initial expectations and preconceptions about the goal of online classes, required online technologies, online student characteristics, and prevalent concerns over online student shirking are discussed. Student surveys were conducted to solicit student views on what worked and did not work in the courses. The results suggest that initial expectations and concerns were wrong. In most cases, online students are looking for an alternative to - rather than a replication of - traditional classes. Student responses are used to create a more accurate picture of who online students are and what they are looking for in online courses. Commonly-held views about online technology requirements are not universally valid for all online classes. Online class organization and university policies toward online class instruction need to change to better meet the needs of online students and instructors.

Keywords: Expectations, preconceptions about online instruction, online class structure, online technology, online student characteristics, student surveys, online student needs, policy support for online instruction


Meeting the Challenges of Teaching Large Online Classes: Shifting to a Learner-Focus, Roger W. Berry

Successfully developing and teaching a large online class section requires a shift in focus from teaching to learning. The article discusses four key elements that the author has found to be important to include in the course design when developing a large online class section. These four elements are: (1) A Shift from a Teacher-Focus to a Learner-Focus, (2) Building Trust and Personalizing the Course, (3) Established Deadlines and Timeframes, and (4) Dealing with Online Testing. Results from a questionnaire administered to students enrolled in a large online class section indicated a high level of student satisfaction. In this article the author discusses why the effective use of each of these key elements results in high levels of student satisfaction and reduced instructor workload.

Keywords: Online instruction, Distance learning, Teaching methods, Online testing, Teacher-focus, Learner-focus



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Last Modified : 2009/03/15