MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching

Vol.7, No.4, December 2011

Abstracts of Papers in This Issue

Student Exam Participation and Performances in a Web-Enhanced Traditional and Hybrid Allied Health Biology Course
Abass S. Abdullahi

This study compares student exam participation, performances and withdrawal rates in a web-enhanced traditional and hybrid Anatomy and Physiology II class. Although hybrid students had the convenience of attempting online tests over a period of a week, there was no difference in exam participation relative to traditional students that did the exams during a regularly scheduled class. About half of hybrid students did not attempt the four hourly online exams a second time, and over three quarter of them did not use their third attempt. Students in the hybrid sections generally waited until the last day, or after reminders were posted a day or two earlier, to make their first attempt. Overall, there were no significant differences in student performances between the traditional and hybrid students. Hybrid students had slight, but insignificant, improvements in performance in the four hourly exams, most likely due to the few students attempting the exams more than once. In contrast, web enhanced traditional students performed slightly better in the comprehensive final exam conducted on campus for both groups. Overall, the grade distribution for the two groups was similar, especially for D and C students, with hybrid students having more withdrawals and a lower failure rate.

Keywords: Distance Learning, Student Participation, Performances, Traditional, Hybrid, Biology, Comprehensive final exams


Exploring the Virtual Classroom: What Students Need to Know (and Teachers Should Consider)
Garry Falloon

Technological improvements in many countries have meant that institutions offering distance education programmes now have more options available to them to communicate and interact with their students, and increasingly, attention is being turned to the potential of Web2 technologies to facilitate synchronous interaction. This study explores the affordances and limitations of an online virtual classroom, Adobe Connect Pro, when used in the learning programmes of two groups of undergraduate and postgraduate education students. Results indicate that while both groups gained value from using the classroom, they also found it a completely new environment, and one to which many had trouble transferring the interaction and communication skills developed in other contexts. The reasons for this related to three specific areas of knowledge – technical, procedural and operational, that were identified as being critical to student performance in this environment. The study suggests that educators and course designers need to embed strategies into their online offerings to enable students to develop these, if they are to gain substantial benefit from the availability of virtual classrooms. Additionally, the study identified that when making design decisions about online learning environments, it is very much a matter of horses for courses when selecting tools for specific purposes. While the virtual classroom proved useful for developing social connection and a sense of community, it may not be so beneficial for supporting deeper learning.

Keywords: online, learning, synchronous, interaction, Web2, community


Development, Implementation, and Evaluation of a Grading Rubric for Online Discussions
Ann M. Solan and Nikolaos Linardopoulos

This paper discusses the development, implementation, and evaluation of a grading rubric for online discussions. Despite the growing popularity of grading rubrics and the parallel growth of online learning, there is a lack of research on the topic of grading online discussions. Grading discussions (sometimes called class participation) in an online learning environment can be particularly challenging. In this paper, the authors share their experience of creating and implementing a comprehensive grading rubric for online discussions that evaluates the following criteria: quantity, quality, timeliness, and writing proficiency. Student perceptions regarding the use of the discussion rubric are also analyzed and areas of future research are suggested.

Keywords: e-learning, assessment, student perceptions, participation guidelines, faculty expectations


A Comparison of Student Learning Outcomes in Traditional and Online Personal Finance Courses
Eddie J. Ary and Christopher W. Brune

Numerous studies have compared student outcomes in online classes and traditional classes, but with mixed results. This paper adds to the existing body of evidence through an examination of students in Personal Finance courses. Primary results indicate that the delivery method made little difference in student performance. Secondary results identify pre-course GPAs, and to a lesser extent ACT scores, as predictors of student success in Personal Finance.

Keywords: online learning outcomes, online learning, distance education, personal finance


A Brief Look at Online Tutorial Experiences of Older Students in Remedial College Mathematics
Greg A. Baugher

Older adult students in college have many challenges besides their busy home lives and employment situations; often they must also successfully learn remedial college mathematics before they can attempt to conquer their required mathematics courses. During this process, many face fears and anxieties for the subject built up from years of struggles with mathematics. Many colleges are using online tutorials as a resource in these courses to give additional instruction, homework scaffolding and feedback, and to deliver assessments. Yet older students often describe themselves as “old school,” preferring to use bound textbooks instead of online resources. Few studies have investigated the effects of the use of online tutorials for older adults in these courses. This brief qualitative study involves interviews from four older students in remedial college mathematics to hear their side of the issue. Some recommendations are offered as a result of what they had to say.

Keywords: Online tutorial, older adults, remedial college mathematics, mathematics anxiety, interviews


Using Technology to Reduce the Effects of Missed Classes for Student-Athlete
Lauren DeSantis, Coleen Pantalone, and Frederick Wiseman

Academic athletic advisors have the difficult task of arranging class schedules for student-athletes so that they can take advantage of their educational opportunities, while at the same time taking into account the number of classes that will be missed because of athletic competitions. This paper discusses how the Office of Student-Athlete Support Services at a Division I university attacked the missed class problem by developing an innovative lecture capture technology program to record missed classes. This program greatly reduced the effects of student-athletes being away from class and feedback from both faculty members and student-athletes revealed a high level of satisfaction with the use of this technology. Further, with the success of this program for student-athletes, the use of lecture capture technology increased greatly throughout the university with the widespread support of deans, department heads and senior university administrators.

Keywords: Lecture capture; athletic competitions; excused absences; class recordings; technological innovations


Selecting Delivery Systems and Media to Facilitate Blended Learning: A Systematic Process based on Skill Level, Content Stability, Cost and Instructional Strategy
Atsusi Hirumi, George Bradford , and Leanne Rutherford

Like others, the US Army, is examining the use of emerging instructional technologies, such as but not limited to blended learning (BL) to optimize training. The problem is there are neither established formulas nor published algorithms for determining which aspects of a course to put online and to administer face-to-face (f2f) to facilitate blended learning. To address the problem, a team of Instructional Designers examined existing training and formulated, tested, refined and transferred a process for analyzing and nominating specific aspects of military intelligence (MI) coursework for either residential (f2f) and/or distributed (online) delivery.

The resulting process consisted of three basic stages that addressed five primary questions: Stage I – Basic Instructional Mode Selection. “What aspects of a course should be nominated for blended learning, conventional classroom learning, or distance learning?” Stage IIa – Primary Distance Learning Delivery System Selection. “For those aspects nominated for Distance Learning, what primary system should be used to deliver the contents?” Stage IIb – Primary Face-to-Face Instructional Setting Selection. “For those aspects nominated for Face-to-Face instruction, what primary settings should be used to deliver the contents?” Stage IIIa – Instructional Strategy Selection. “What instructional strategy should be used to design and deliver the coursework?” Stage IIIb – Media and Communication Tool Selection. “What specific media and telecommunications tools should be used to facilitate Distance Learning, Face-to-Face instruction, and Blended Learning coursework?”

The process seeks to optimize training by addressing (a) basic skills and knowledge through the use of distributed learning technologies, and (b) higher order thinking skills in conventional, face-to-face classroom settings. Three additional factors were considered for making media selection decisions including cost, stability and instructional strategy.

Keywords: Media Selection, Blended Learning, Hybrid Training


Differences in Student Characteristics in Face-to-Face and Online Cohorts in a Teacher Preparation Program in Education of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Deirdre M. Curle and Janet R. Jamieson

Over the past decade, teacher preparation programs in education of the deaf and hard of hearing have integrated online learning, but there have been few systematic attempts to determine to what extent, if any, this may be associated with a change in relevant student characteristics. The purpose of the present study was to compare student characteristics of the last four face-to-face and the first four hybrid (combined online and face-to-face) cohorts in a specialist-teacher preparation program that underwent a transition from face-to-face to hybrid formats. Relevant student characteristics, including gender, age, hearing status, teaching experience in general education, signing ability, motivation for entering the profession, and job obtained following graduation were examined for the two groups of students. Predominant findings revealed that the students in the hybrid option were slightly older, more likely to be parents, had more prior teaching experience in general education, were almost twice as likely to come from rural settings and one-third more likely to obtain a first job in a rural setting than students in the face-to-face format. In addition, the findings clarify the need to recruit students who are male, have fluent signing abilities, and/or are deaf or hard of hearing.

Keywords: online learning, teacher education, deaf and hard of hearing, rural


What the Best Online Teachers Should Do
T. M. Brinthaupt, L. S. Fisher, J. G. Gardner, D. M. Raffo, and J. B. Woodard

As a core project, a university eLearning Pedagogy Faculty Learning Community (FLC) chose to apply recommendations for the “art” of good teaching to the online realm. There is relatively little discussion of this issue in the literature. In this paper, we use Bain’s (2004) book What the Best College Teachers Do to discuss some of the major ways that the practices of effective teaching in general can be applied to online teaching in particular. Specifically, we explore methods of fostering student engagement, stimulating intellectual development, and building rapport with students when teaching online. This analysis provides a much-needed “art of teaching” set of recommendations that complements the “science of teaching” best practices approach to online pedagogy.

Keywords: best practices; online pedagogy; Ken Bain; effective teaching


Digital Natives: Ten Years After
Apostolos Koutropoulos

A lot has been written about the digital native since the coining of the term about ten years ago. A lot of what has been originally written by the digital native has been taken as common sense and has been repeated many times in many educational contexts, but until recently the true nature of the digital native has not been explored. Because the myth of the digital native is still alive and well, this article aims to examine the findings that have come out of recent research with regard to digital natives and their true nature, as well as turn a critical gaze onto the assumptions, taken as common sense knowledge, of what the characteristics of digital natives are.

Keywords: Digital Natives, Research, Characteristics, Technology, Availability, Usage


Social Media Use in Higher Education: Key Areas to Consider for Educators
Julia E. Rodriguez

The use of social media in higher education classrooms is on the rise as faculty employ a variety of software tools and free web applications to enhance learning, communication, and engagement. Web 2.0 social software exists beyond traditional course management systems and potentially opens up the academic environment to a public space. This article presents important issues for educators to consider as they use these new tools by investigating the ramifications of moving academic activities to a public sphere and examining how laws that govern our academic freedoms and behaviors translate in this new environment. The discussion focuses on concerns specific to incorporating the use of social media and user-generated content into the teaching and learning environment in higher education, touching on compliance with disability and privacy law, intellectual property rights, copyright law, and the fair use exemption providing practical advice with each area of consideration.

Keywords: user-generated content, intellectual property rights, copyright, ADA, FERPA, privacy, fair use


E-Advising Excellence: The New Frontier in Faculty Advising
Leora Waldner, Dayna McDaniel, and Murray Widener

Faculty excellence in online instruction is commonly encouraged. However, faculty excellence in advising receives little attention, and online faculty advising receives even less consideration. This article explores the concept and need for faculty e-advising, defined here as the systematic deployment of online instructional tools in a faculty advising capacity. State of the art e-advising tools that promote excellence include advising organizations, virtual office hours, videos, or video archives. Techniques to encourage and disseminate such advising practices are considered, as well as general limitations and challenges in e-advising. E-advising brings faculty advising to a medium convenient to online students, and in doing so may improve the quality of advising and student academic success while enhancing online student retention among other benefits.

Keywords: Online advising, e-advising, cyber advising, virtual advising, advising best practices, nontraditional students, online instructional tools, faculty advising


Theorizing in Distance Education: The Critical Quest for Conceptual Foundations
Rene Birochi and Marlei Pozzebon

Notwithstanding the increasing importance of distance education in contemporary society, studies of distance education often lack solid foundations to sustain theoretical advances in the field. The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, to revisit five seminal distance education theories and reorganize their tenets into three broad categories: the context of industrial and post-industrial society, distance, and communication. Second, to extend the understanding of these three core concepts, delving deeper into their theoretical foundations which are often borrowed from the domains of philosophy and sociology. The aim of this critical and reflective analysis is to make a contribution to the advance of theory development in the distance education field.

Keywords: distance education, technology-mediated-education, theory development, ICT for education.


Crowdsourcing Higher Education: A Design Proposal for Distributed Learning
Michael Anderson

Higher education faces dual challenges to reduce expenditures and improve learning outcomes through faster graduation rates. These challenges can be met through a personalized learning system (PLS) that employs techniques from previous successful instructional designs. Based on social learning theory, the PLS combines a dynamic menu that tracks individual topic mastery with a social communication interface that connects knowledge-seekers with knowledge-providers. The crowdsourced generation of content from these connections is stored in a library for availability when live mentors are unavailable. The quality of the generated stored content is vetted against subsequent performance by knowledge-seekers whose performance creates recognition for knowledge-providers in a game-like public rating scheme.

Keywords: crowdsourcing, social, personalized, intrinsic motivation



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