MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching

Vol.5, No.2, June 2009

Abstracts of Papers in This Issue

An Online Course for Students Addressing Academic Dishonesty
Camilla Jones Roberts and Shalin Hai-Jew

At Kansas State University, an institutional strategy to promote academic integrity involves an honor code that is backed up by the K-State Honor and Integrity System, a student judiciary system, and the “Development and Integrity” course for students who have been found in contravention of the code. This article addresses the honor system, related university policies, and the recent development of the online version of the Development and Integrity course. This article includes an introduction, a survey of the literature, relevant pedagogical theories, a brief background, an overview of the course design and development, and lessons learned.

Keywords: Academic dishonesty, online course, development and integrity, honor code, honor and integrity system


Online Learner Authentication: Verifying the Identity of Online Users
Jeffrey L. Bailie and Michael A. Jortberg

This paper addresses how one university has partnered with a corporation to work on the verification of online student identity and describes ongoing efforts to best verify online student identity. Through this collaboration, the university seeks to enhance the credibility of its online evaluation process by employing data forensic techniques commonly used by today’s financial services industry. Detail is presented on how user authentication strategies are being applied to verify remote learner identity during formal online performance appraisals. Additional details on how the existing strategies will be enhanced toward multi-faceted user authentication are discussed.

Keywords: Online Learning Student Authentication, Online Education User Identity


Communities of Integrity in Online Courses: Faculty Member Beliefs and Strategies
Lori McNabb and Alicia Olmstead

This paper describes an investigation into beliefs about academic integrity of faculty members who teach both online and on-campus within the University of Texas System, and their opinions regarding differences between the two environments. The research shows that the majority of faculty members surveyed did not believe that there is a difference in cheating between online and on-campus courses. Additionally, this paper shares the results of a project to determine strategies for creating communities of integrity in online courses. Twelve strategies for faculty members to create an environment of academic integrity were identified within three categories: design, communication, and collaboration.

Keywords: academic integrity, online learning, faculty opinions, virtuous communities, learning communities, course communications, collaborative learning, student cheating


Seven Strategies for Plagiarism-proofing Discussion Threads in Online Courses
Melissa Olt

Online discussions are an integral part of distance education courses. They provide a means for interaction among students and the instructor about course content as well as an opportunity for students to develop critical thinking skills. A growing number of faculty, however, have expressed concern about plagiarism student submissions for online discussions. Rather than instructors policing discussion threads and then engaging in the time-consuming process of documenting occurrences of plagiarism, this paper considers whether it is possible to deter plagiarism of discussion threads through design and facilitation. Seven strategies for plagiarism-proofing online discussion threads are presented.

Keywords : Asynchronous, design, facilitation, distance education, interaction


Implementing Technology to Prevent Online Cheating: A Case Study at a Small Southern Regional University (SSRU)
Wayne Bedford, Janie Gregg and Suzanne Clinton

Online education programs at colleges and universities continue to grow in popularity. As a result, major accrediting agencies require online programs to demonstrate rigor and integrity equivalent to that of similar on-campus programs. Federal Regulations also require online programs to positively identify the student taking course exams. Some universities are turning to technology to combat cheating and verify the identity of the person taking tests. They also use the same technology to monitor the testing environment for evidence of cheating. This paper provides a case study of the process used to evaluate, adopt, and implement Remote Proctor at a small southern regional university (SSRU). Remote Proctor is a device that verifies the student’s identity through the use of biometric and photographic comparison.

Keywords: Cheating, proctor, online testing, pilot study, biometric verification, accreditation.


The Language of Digital Learning Objects: A Cross-disciplinary Study
Gulnara Sadykova and Carla Meskill

In order to determine the similarities and differences between disciplines in how each uses the language of teaching and learning, this study undertook linguistic analysis of 1,691 peer reviews in the MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching) digital learning objects collection. Language concordancing software was used to identify trends particular to the sciences, the humanities and education. Findings specify the variation in word choice, sentence length, sentence structure and descriptive/analytic uses of language that emerged between the disciplines. Analyses suggest both points of convergence and divergence that can guide principles and standards for instructional design and cross-disciplinary dialogue and collaborations around teaching and learning.

Keywords: digital learning objects, discipline specific discourse, cross-disciplinary dialogue, language concordancing.


Technology and Pedagogy: The Association between Students’ Perceptions of the Quality of Online Courses and the Technologies Employed
Karl L. Wuensch, Shahnaz Aziz, Erol Ozan, Masao Kishore and M. H. N. Tabrizi

A nationwide sample of college and university students completed a survey that asked questions about the pedagogical and technological characteristics of their most recently completed online course. Complete data were obtained from 1,805 students at 46 different universities and colleges in the United States. Findings from multiple regression analyses showed that students’ perceptions of the quality and the difficulty of the course were significantly related to the frequency of use of the various technologies. Specifically, the best predictor of perceived quality of the course was frequency of contact with the instructor via e-mail. These results are interpreted with respect to immediacy and social presence. It is argued that instructors and students can learn to employ technologies such as e-mail and discussion boards in ways that enhance teacher immediacy and social presence beyond what might be expected based on the nature of the medium.

Keywords: E-Mail, Social Presence, Immediacy, Asynchronous, Synchronous, Student Satisfaction, Survey Research.


Faculty Perspective: Training and Course Development for the Online Classroom
Julie Ray

This quantitative study focused on the perceptions of faculty currently instructing online. The sample consisted of a random selection of instructors teaching at least one online class in the Fall of 2008. Of the 300 people surveyed, 111 responded, constituting a 37% response rate. Although researchers tout the importance of training prior to teaching online, this study found that a large percentage of instructors are not receiving any training in pedagogy or technology prior to instructing their first online course. Findings also indicate that current online instructors desire ongoing training opportunities in technology and pedagogy, believe that it is difficult to convert a course from face-to-face to totally online, and think training should be required prior to instructing online for the first time. Additionally, a significant difference was found in the perceived preparation of instructors in both technology and pedagogy as a result of training prior to instructing online.

Keywords: online learning, training, instructional design, professional development, online course development, faculty preparation


The Role of Community in Online Learning Success
William A. Sadera, James Robertson, Liyan Song, and M. Nichelle Midon

The purpose of this paper is to report on the findings of a study examining the relationships between community and student success in online learning. The study was conducted on undergraduate students enrolled in online courses at an accredited university on the east coast of the U.S. Results of the study indicate a strong correlation between learner interaction and engagement, sense of community, and success in online learning.

Keywords: distance education, online learning, community, learning, connectedness,
classroom community scale


Patterns of User Activity in the Different Features of the Blackboard CMS Across All Courses for an Academic Year at Brigham Young University
Michael E. Griffiths and Charles R. Graham

In the past decade, course management systems (CMS) have become an integral part of most institutions of higher education. While there has been a significant amount of research looking at CMS usage at the course level, there has been less research looking at institution-wide CMS usage from a CMS activity database perspective. This article shares findings from a study which analyzes over 36 million student and instructor clicks within the Blackboard CMS across the entire campus of Brigham Young University (BYU) during one full academic year. This research reports overall levels of user activity across campus, patterns of user activity in the different features of Blackboard, and patterns of user activity in the different features of Blackboard within different colleges. The study compares the levels of activity for Blackboard CMS features that are predominantly pedagogical verses predominately administrative in nature.

Keywords course management system,learning management system, LMS, blackboard, student learning, impact, ROI


Co-Authoring in Online Problem-based Learning: Collaborative Approaches and Challenges
Brenda I López Ortiz, Lin Lin and Mary Tipton

This paper examines students’ efforts working together to solve problems and to document their solutions to those problems through online problem-based learning (PBL) projects. In particular, this paper focuses on studying patterns that students adopted in co-authoring project documents that their PBL experience required. This focus will help better understand and contribute to the literature on student paper co-authoring approaches in PBL.

Keywords: collaborative document authoring; problem-based learning; shared cognition; off-load-cognition; cooperative; collaboration; asynchronous; synchronous


Developing an Online Program in Computer Information Systems Using Quality Matters™ Standards
Lissa Pollacia, Jack Russell and Barbara Russell

The dramatic decline in the number of CIS majors since the year 2000 has focused attention on the need to develop new, innovative, and high quality CIS programs to attract more students. This paper describes a multi-disciplinary minor in CIS that has been recently developed for online delivery. To assure quality of the courses in the CIS minor, the authors participated in training to prepare for development of the new courses. These new courses had to meet the standards set out in the Quality Matters (QM) Rubric by MarylandOnline, Inc. An overview of the QM standards and Rubric and how it is used to measure the quality of online courses is described.

Keywords :Declining CIS enrollments, CIS minor, multi-disciplinary CIS minor, Quality Matters Rubric, QM Standards


Exploring the Hybrid Course Design in a Graduate-Level Counseling Course
Theresa Coogan

This document shares points to consider for teaching graduate level courses in using a hybrid course design. Exercises, strategies, and tools designed for the cyber classroom that were used by the author in various counseling related masters-level courses at a comprehensive college are provided. Information pertaining to understanding the hybrid design, assisting adult learners to be successful in the cyber classroom, and ways to infuse technology into the course will be addressed. This paper is intended to serve as a point of reference for faculty who teach adult learners at the graduate level as well as faculty who teach counseling related courses. This is paper is not a persuasive argument for the use of hybrid courses, but rather meant to share the authors experiences and observations for others to consider when deciding on course design.

Keywords: hybrid courses; online learning; adult learners; student perceptions; masters-level counseling courses; self-regulated learning


Virtual Tutoring Pilot Program: Questions and Considerations for the Future
Edward F. Wolff, Deborah Pomeroy , Sukey Blanc, and Richard M. Clancy

This case study describes a Virtual Tutoring (VT) pilot project funded through a National Science Foundation (NSF) Math Science Partnership (MSP) sub-award. The project investigated the efficacy of using internet and Smart Board technology to link university and secondary school students. The unique attribute of this project is that in addition to traditional goals of tutoring, in this case supporting high school students struggling in mathematics, further goals were to generate interest in the teaching profession among university student tutors and to stimulate high school teachers’ thinking about the use of technology in teaching and learning. The project faced and overcame many obstacles: changes in school district personnel, difficulty in finding times when both tutors and tutees were available, a shortage of secondary students seeking tutoring, and many technical challenges. As documented by the project’s ethnographer, this pilot project was generally deemed valuable by all involved, including tutors, tutees, teachers, and administrators. This study also pointed to the importance of better understanding the types of learning communities that can best be supported through online linkages between high school students and college students. The technical solutions and other lessons learned should be of considerable use to future projects of this type.

Key words: Online tutoring, university-high school partnerships, Interactive Mathematics Program, recruiting teachers


Two Approaches to Podcasting Use in the Classroom
Donna McLean and Eva Roa White

Podcasting is a logical complement to traditional instruction in higher education since the necessary technology is in place and early research has identified the ways in which it may be usefully applied to an academic setting. When instructors were awarded equipment as part of a system-wide institutional grant, each instructor chose a course for which to develop her own strategy of podcasting use in order to meet her course’s particular needs. These needs reflected two essential drives suggested by Harris and Park (2008) in their typology of podcasting usage characteristics. The first instructor was teaching-driven, employing podcasting to augment teaching, provide additional lecture content and for use in a student discussion assignment. The second instructor attempted podcasting as part of a student assignment. Her goal was more service-driven since the students were required to complete research interviews and then share their results, whether interview or commentary, on the web. Both courses were scheduled to be taught in the fall and needed to be prepared in the summer; although the equipment did not arrive until well into the fall semester. Because the first instructor used teacher-created podcasts and vodcasts, she was able to produce the majority of these (those not requiring student participation) over the summer using the institution’s teaching lab and equipment. The first instructor felt the podcasts and vodcasts were clearly beneficial to the students and to the instructor in terms of delivering supplemental background material for the course. The second instructor had to revise the assignment, given challenges in training, scheduling and equipment availability, but felt that podcasting introduced students to a valuable channel for archiving and sharing research and other work if given more time and better skills training.

Keywords: teaching-driven, service-driven, journalism, literature, podcasts, vodcasts


Blended Learning with Drupal
Douglas L. Holton

This case study describes the design and implementation of a foundations of educational technology course with the support of a web-based application known as Drupal. Drupal is a powerful free and open source web application framework in which one can use wikis, blogs, groups, and other tools to support the classroom learning experiences of students. In this course, distance masters students used these tools to build their own wiki-based knowledge base about the field of educational technology.

Keywords: content management system, Web 2.0, wikis, blogs, open source, RSS, student identity, educational technology, instructional technology


Promoting Collaboration in Courses with Perceived Single Correct Solutions
Thomas E. Cooper

With the role of the Internet rapidly increasing in higher education, teachers must search for ways to create meaningful learning experiences for their students. The use of traditional discussion boards to facilitate collaborative problem solving in science and mathematics courses can be problematic with a tendency for discussions to stop once a perceived correct solution has been posted. This paper presents two alternative approaches to collaborative problem-solving that may be more appropriate in such cases. Both methods of facilitation can be called “shared-work” approaches in which students work privately before their work is shared with classmates. One approach, developed by Thomas Banchoff, is an individualized approach in which each student is responsible for constructing his or her own solutions to an assignment in a personal space that is shared with the entire class during a secondary phase. During the secondary phase, the students can add to and finalize their responses while having access to the work of others. A small-groups version of this approach was developed by the author to promote more student-to-student interactions by requiring the students to work in small groups during the second phase.

Keywords: online instruction, problem-solving, collaborative learning, classroom management, course design, delivery methods



Introducing Distance Learning to Novice E-Learners via Course Web Enhancements
Laura Lloyd-Smith

At the most simplistic level, blended learning involves collaboration between the delivery of resources online and what most refer to as “traditional” classroom instruction. This article discusses the benefits of introducing a web-enhanced learning format to novice and sometimes reluctant e-learners. Resistance to distance education is often due to a lack of direct experience and unsubstantiated fear, even for otherwise techno savvy students. The author summarizes a personal experience teaching an Educational Theory and Policy course at Penn State University-Altoona in which inexperienced e-learners were given multiple opportunities to “practice” e-learning utilizing a blended format, thereby creating a comfort zone and knowledge base for future distance learning opportunities.

Keywords: Blended Learning, Reluctant E-Learner, Distance Education, Technology Integration, Online Instruction


Developing Course Material for Online Instruction of Adults
Jane Martin

Many instructors that teach face-to-face use the traditional method of teaching; lecture, discussion, lab, and practice. They move the course to the online environment using the same methodology. Adult instructors do not always have formal training in developing course material and do not always understand the pedagogy of the adult learner. To use the online tools effectively, instructors must be familiar with the technology available to them as well as how to use it. This paper describes effective andragogical methods for adult instruction. It will also present the available tools and the method and reason for using them. By reviewing the research of current methods of instruction, a road map to course design will be recommended. There are effective techniques to presenting face-to-face material in the online environment that will allow the adult student to achieve a higher level of satisfaction of learning and cognitive understanding of the course material.

Keywords: instructor facilitation, pedagogy, andragogy, motivation to learn, Knowles, delivery methods, virtual learning environments, course modules, course design, RSS, wiki


Strategies for Teaching Online Courses within the Sub-Saharan African Context: An Instructor's Recommendations
Stephen Asunka and Hui Soo Chae

To understand better the challenges of implementing online learning in developing countries, the authors studied two consecutive iterations of an online course at a private university in Ghana in 2007-08. Study participants were undergraduate pre-service teachers, and the course - Pedagogical Aspects of ICT - which hitherto had been delivered as a classroom-based lecture, was redesigned and delivered online by the instructors who also served as the researchers. This served the dual purpose of introducing the students to collaborative online learning, and providing the setting for this empirical study. Working within Africa's peculiar context of limited and unreliable technology infrastructure, and with students who preferred the traditional instructor-led approach to student-centered self-directed learning, several issues and challenges came to light. The lessons learnt, instructional strategies adopted, as well as the perspectives that the students shared in their formative and summative evaluations of the course, form the basis of a set of recommendations outlined in this paper. These recommendations therefore mainly relate to strategies that may be relevant to instructors who wish to foster young students' engagement and participation in learner-centered collaborative online learning activities within the context of limited technology infrastructure as pertains in most parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Keywords: Collaborative Online Learning, Ghana. Undergraduate Students' Perceptions, social constructivist pedagogy, learner-centered instruction, Open Source Learning Management System.


The Impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Systems on Future University Paradigms
Lalita Rajasingham

This paper explores the potential of artificial intelligent (AI) systems in the university’s core functions of teaching, learning and knowledge nexus, against the background of rapid technological change, globalisation and challenges facing universities to respond to societies’ needs in the knowledge age. As knowledge and innovation will drive competitive economic advantage in increasingly Internet defined infrastructures, a new university paradigm is needed where telecommunications and computers replace roads, buildings and transport technology that underpinned the industrial university that operated in the industrial age. As the Internet a global communication tool continues to impact on all human activities and enterprise changing the way we shop, bank, do business, entertain ourselves, communicate and think, it is radically changing how, when and what we learn. This paper introduces the idea of a HyperClass based on HyperReality, an advanced form of distributed virtual reality where physical reality and virtual reality, and human intelligence and artificial intelligence intermesh and interact to provide anyone, anywhere, anytime learning, in which teaching could be done by Just in Time Artificially Intelligent Tutors (JITAITs) that will pop up when needed, whilst students use avatars –online simulacra of themselves – to interact as telepresences in classes from different countries and locations.

Keywords : Modern university paradigm, Virtual University, Internet, globalization, avatars, HyperClass, just in time artificially intelligent tutor (JITAIT)


Integrating Multimedia Resources Into Course and Classroom: A Web-Based Approach with Social Science Application
Michael Miller

Description centers on an approach for efficiently incorporating online media resources into course and classroom. Consideration is given to pedagogical rationale, types of media, locating programs and clips, content retrieval and delivery, copyright issues, and problems often experienced by instructors and students using online resources. In addition, lists of selected media-relevant websites appropriate to the social sciences along with samples of digital materials gleaned from these sites are provided.

Keywords: video, audio, syllabus, documentaries, Internet, YouTube, PBS


Best Practices for Integrating Game-Based Learning into Online Teaching
Rudy McDaniel and Peter Telep

This article presents ten guidelines for the effective use of video games in online teaching environments for post-secondary instructors. These guidelines include: taking advantage of existing resources, asking students to be producers instead of just consumers, avoiding being overly prescriptive, being aware of non-media-intense and non-electronic games, staying focused on learning—not technology, orienting and debriefing students as to the value of gaming activities, embracing interdisciplinarity, taking advantage of serious games, considering collaborative technologies and virtual worlds, and playtesting. Recent research in game-based learning is considered to help guide these best practices and numerous ideas for incorporating games into the virtual classroom are provided. Although empirical research about the effectiveness of online video games as educational tools is an important component for sustainability and for improving online learning games, this paper focuses exclusively on the theoretical and applied issues associated with online game-based learning. The authors contend that such teaching practices are useful for engaging with student audiences and encouraging them to take intellectual risks in comfortable and familiar territory.

Keywords: video games, engagement, play, game theory, teaching, pedagogy, applied research, game-based technology, guidelines, best practices


Social Learning in Second Life
Michele Smith and Zane Berge

One of the current trends in distance education is the use of multi-user virtual environments (MUVE) as a training platform. MUVEs are being used for both formal and informal online learning. Second Life is a popular MUVEs being used for education today. Teaching and learning in Second Life requires a paradigm shift by educators, researchers, and learners who must adapt to a new environment of teaching and learning. Although things are done differently, many traditional learning theories can apply to Second Life. Examples of Albert Bandura’s social learning theory in Second Life are explored in this paper.

Keywords: Second Life; social learning theory; MUVE; multi-user virtual environment; virtual worlds; Bandura


Insights on the Google Online Marketing Challenge and Its Successful Classroom Implementation
Theresa B. Flaherty, Bernard. J. Jansen, Charles Hofacker and Jamie Murphy

The Google Online Marketing Challenge, a MERLOT online learning object available at, is a global competition where students work with small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to create a practical and successful online marketing campaign using Google's key advertising product, AdWords. In the competition, students learn critical online marketing skills, including how to maximize targeted and relevant traffic to a client’s Website. Student teams employ marketing techniques to refine and improve the effectiveness of their AdWords campaign over a three-week competition period. The authors, who helped develop the Challenge and ran the Challenge in their classes, share insights and experiences about successful implementation of the Google Online Marketing Challenge in various course formats. The authors also highlight key findings from a survey of professors, students, and businesses that participated in the 2008 competition. While providing descriptive details of how the Challenge works, the primary focus of this paper is on how professors can confidently and effectively implement this teaching innovation as a stand-alone course, an element of a larger course, or as an out-of-class component.

Keywords : online marketing, paid search, experiential learning, search engine marketing, active learning, online advertising, internet marketing, problem based learning, global marketing competition, keyword advertising, marketing, business


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Last Modified : 2009/06/15