MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching

Vol.7, No.3, September 2011

Abstracts of Papers in This Issue

Student Perceptions of Teaching Presence, Social Presence and Cognitive Presence in a Virtual World
Ross McKerlich, Marianne Riis, Terry Anderson, and Brad Eastman

Presence - or having a sense of active participation - in distance education has increased with the expanding use of and affordances of communications technologies. Virtual worlds have been on the forefront of popular and education technology in the last three years and innovative methods of teaching and learning are emerging in these contexts.  Using the recently validated community of inquiry (COI) instrument, this study focuses on students’ perceptions of teaching, social and cognitive presence in virtual world contexts. The authors examine whether the COI Instrument can effectively be applied to virtual world learning events. The results are exciting: in a diverse sample, virtual world learners perceive teaching presence, social presence and cognitive presence.

Keywords : community of inquiry, virtual worlds, teaching presence, social presence, cognitive presence.


Instructor’s Discussion Forum Effort: Is It Worth It?
Michelle Cranney, Lisa Wallace, Jeffrey L. Alexander, and
Laura Alfano

The popularity of virtual education resulted in institutions seeking best practices as a guide to providing a quality education to online students. The purpose of this retrospective, correlation study was to examine online instructors’ discussion forum participation, including time spent on a weekly basis overall in the course and number of posts to discussion forums, to determine if there was a positive effect on students’ overall discussion grades. The study included 10 purposively selected courses. Statistics were used to define the sample population. Statistical calculations indicated no correlation between the numbers of posts to the discussion forums to student grades, but a positive correlation exists between the amount of time spent by the instructor in class to higher discussion grades earned by students. The findings of this study will help to identify criteria that educational institutions can use to develop best practices for online instructors.

Keywords: message board, time investment, facilitator, teacher


Learning Outcomes Associated with Group Assignments
Carol Schmer, Peggy Ward-Smith, and Jane Peterson

A research study was conducted to determine if required participation in group assignments impacted learning outcomes in a nursing theory course. Students enrolled in a required online masters level nursing theory course completed course assignments individually, or within groups, dependent upon the course section. The data collected consisted of responses on a non-graded multiple item test intended to assess knowledge related to nursing theory content, administered after course completion and grade notification, and self-disclosed demographic data. Data were collected from 23 volunteer graduate nursing students. Results demonstrated theory knowledge is not affected by group assignments as long as the course content is consistent, learning outcomes are not affected.

Keywords: cooperative learning, group assignments, online learning, nursing theory, graduate education


The End of Isolation
Elizabeth Alderton, Eric Brunsell, and Damian Bariexca

This research study provides new insight into how teachers use social networking sites, such as Twitter, as professional learning networks. The researchers surveyed and analyzed the public Twitter feeds of classroom teachers to determine the specific purposes for which teachers use Twitter. Study participants also completed surveys dealing with social networking. The K-12 educators in this study engaged in true dialogue, where evidence of actual conversation occurred in Twitter over 61% of the time. Additionally, over 82% of the time, the educators in this study chose to follow other educators or content experts related to their field of teaching so they were able to create a personal learning network meaningful to their professional needs. Analysis of data shows that a majority of tweets were educationally focused and were primarily in the categories of practice/philosophy, questions, and sharing of resources. Additional studies looking at how other online learning communities may be used as professional development venues would be beneficial and add to the knowledge base of online learning, professional development, and learning networks.

Keywords: Professional Learning Network, Teacher Professional Development, Social Networking, Twitter


Developing a Valid and Reliable Instrument to Evaluate The Web-Based Learning Environment in an Australian University Context
Si Fan and Quynh Lê

The Web has permeated many aspects of modern society. Because the popularity of the Web in society is widely recognised, its role in education has attracted a great deal of attention. As two key players in web-based education, students and teaching staff are the end-users whose views and perceptions about the significance of the Web should be used as a basis for implementing web-based education. To achieve this, valid and reliable instruments are needed. This paper describes the development of a research instrument for measuring the views, behaviours and attitudes of students and staff on the role of the Web in a university context. This pilot study involved 92 participants from the University of Tasmania. Cronbach-Alpha coefficients and exploratory factor analysis were used to measure the reliability and construct validity of the instrument. The results indicated that the questionnaire is a reliable and valid tool for researchers and courseware developers to evaluate web-based learning in this context, as well as in other Australian universities. The discussion also provides some insights into the complex relationship between technology and learning in general and user-friendliness and learner-friendliness in particular.

Keywords : web-based education, web-based technologies, web-based resources, e-learning, tertiary education.


Integrating Second Life as a Pedagogical Tool for Interactive Instruction
Susan Martin Meggs, Annette Grady Greer, and Sharon Collins

Technology advances at such a rapid pace that its effective application in higher education is often overlooked and poorly researched prior to its implementation in teaching strategies. The union of technology and pedagogical relevance is a developmental process requiring a review of course goals and objectives and a consideration of whether the technological applications serve to enhance the delivery of instruction. It also requires a well-developed system for delivery of technology instruction that is integrated into the curricular schedule. A strong support staff must be available to facilitate the use of technical applications and to solve problems. This paper provides a case study of the process of designing an innovative curriculum for an introductory lab course in interior design. The course, titled Interior Design Fundamentals Laboratory, provides a conceptual and skills foundation for future interior design professionals. The pedagogy is structured as a collaborative service-learning model incorporating Second Life virtual reality as a delivery mechanism for enhancing the depth of instruction. Relevancy to the millennial generation is considered in the context of the culture of the contemporary teaching and learning environment. The potential for extending applications for global communication and professional exchange is explored. Second Life supports self-directed learning by providing product review, peer interaction, and opportunities for research and critical analysis. The practical, systematic integration of Second Life into a pedagogical framework is feasible and relevant for a wide variety of applications.

Keywords: Virtual Learning, Interior Design, Service-Learning


The Benefits of Online Teaching For Traditional Classroom Pedagogy: A Case Study For Improving Face-to-Face Instruction
Mischelle Taylor Stone and Suzanne Perumean-Chaney

Much of the literature concerned with online education has focused on the development and implementation of strategies and techniques for improving learner outcomes. Other studies have examined the varying levels of expertise both students and instructors possess in using online technology, or how courses delivered in traditional classrooms can be modified for online delivery. Missing from the literature has been a discussion of how teaching online can inform traditional classroom pedagogy. This paper details the authors’ experience with the development and delivery of an online statistics course. The pedagogical and practical benefits of teaching online are identified, and specific suggestions are made for how instructors can use these benefits to improve their traditional classroom pedagogy.

Keywords: online education; Internet education; traditional pedagogy, criminal justice education; online statistics; online student learning


Designing and Orchestrating Online Discussions
David L. Baker

This author’s position is that asynchronous online discussions face an array of resolvable pedagogical and course management challenges. Online discussions can transform mere course chatter into a cyber forum of student-centered learning through meticulous planning, designing and orchestrating. After introducing common issues, a literature review summarizes the contributions that online discussions bring to distance learning. The author then addresses pedagogical and managerial issues that plague online discussions with strategies that instructors may readily employ. In the pedagogical realm, these include insights on organizing online discussions, using groups to facilitate interactions, establishing discussion parameters, and ensuring that the course syllabus introduces online discussion details. In the managerial realm, approaches are offered regarding overseeing discussion windows, using icebreakers, assessing student performance, ongoing communications, maintaining an online presence, netiquette, and a variety of other online discussion tips. In support of online instructors, the article weaves in relevant literature with the hard learned lessons from the author’s ongoing attempts to improve online discussions. It concludes by urging instructors to cultivate improvement continuously through candid self-critique supplemented by student feedback.

Keywords: Asynchronous learning; distance learning, online pedagogy, online groups; online discussions; and discussion assessment.


Teaching Presentation Skills in Online Business Communication Courses
Cindy S. Kenkel

Oral presentations are often eliminated from online courses because of the logistics involved. Communication skills are central to success in any profession, and business is no exception. Merely exposing students to presentation concepts will not adequately address the need to help students develop their professional speaking abilities and presentation skills. Online business courses, like their face-to-face counterparts, should require students to prepare and deliver professional presentations. This paper discusses the specifics of using readily accessible technology (such as video hosting services) and proven pedagogy (including peer evaluations and instructional rubrics) to integrate oral presentations easily into online business communication courses.

Keywords: oral presentations, video submission, peer evaluations, instructional rubrics, video hosting


Strategies for Success for Online Co-Teaching
Michelle Scribner-MacLean and Heather Miller

A co-teaching online environment has the potential to help more efficiently meet the needs of online learners and provide greater satisfaction for instructors. A well-trained pair of instructors can complement each other, meeting student needs in a timely manner, as well as providing students with the opportunity to view topics from different perspectives, and to gain more in-depth feedback about their work. Specific strategies for a successful online co-teaching experience, including: how to create a successful online learning community; achieve effective course management; provide systematic, in-depth assessment of student learning; and providing timely feedback will be addressed. Methods to improve upon one-another’s teaching strengths will be introduced as well as building community between your peer co-teacher and students.

Keywords : co-teaching, team teaching, online teaching


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Last Modified : 2011/09/15