MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching

Vol. 8, No. 3, September 2012

Abstracts of Papers in This Issue

Student Moderators in Asynchronous Online Discussion: A Question of Questions
Daniel Zingaro
JOLT Best Paper Award recipient

Much current research exalts the benefits of having students facilitate weekly discussions in asynchronous online courses. This study seeks to add to what is known about student moderation through an analysis of the types of questions students use to spur each discussion. Prior experimental work has demonstrated that the types of questions posed by instructors influence the cognitive levels of responses, but little is known about the extent to which student moderators use these various question forms. Question types and the cognitive levels of responses in an online graduate course were analyzed, and it was found that students relied on a small number of question forms. In particular, students rarely asked questions directly related to weekly course readings, and did not ask any questions that made connections to previously studied course material. Questions that constrained student choice led to lower levels of responses compared to other question types.

Keywords: asynchronous online learning, peer facilitation, peer moderation, collaborative learning, graduate students, distance education, quantitative


Online MBA Asynchronous Discussion Workload and Value Perceptions for Instructors and Learners: Working Toward an Integrated Educational Model for Professional Adults
Zvi Goldman

This paper reviews the outcomes of a year-long survey examining the perceived workload and value of asynchronous discussion shared by MBA adult learners and instructors engaged in the same classes. Results are characterized for each stakeholder group (instructors or learners) and compared between them. The different response profiles of learners and instructors are discussed as well as the implications for the Discussion Guideline introduced last year. Class size and course level had a differentiating impact on learners and instructors. The research further found a significant relationship between learners and instructors on workload perception, but not on hours spent or value perception. The implications of course and discussion design for an adult learner educational model are discussed.

Keywords: MBA, adult learners, online education, distance education, asynchronous discussion, workload perception, value perception, best practices, adult education model


Evaluating Program Effectiveness for an Online Elementary Education Cohort
Cindy A. Dell

Online classes and even fully online programs are becoming efficient means of providing teacher preparation opportunities to students, especially to those who have limited access to on-campus classes. But teacher education programs and school districts need to be confident that teachers are of high quality and ready to teach. The results of the longitudinal study reported in this paper indicate that cohort members completing an online elementary education program demonstrated the same level of competency as those in a traditional face-to-face program. These findings may give teacher education faculty and policymakers some confidence in implementing quality online programs.

Keywords: programmatic outcomes, student teaching, elementary teacher education, cohorts, learning community, program evaluation, program quality, comparing effectiveness of online and traditional modes, InTASC standards


Student Assessment in Online Learning: Challenges and Effective Practices
Lorna R. Kearns

Assessment of student learning is a fundamental aspect of instruction. Special challenges and affordances exist in assessing student learning in online environments. This two-phase study investigated the types of assessment methods being used in online courses and the ways in which the online environment facilitates or constrains particular methods. In Phase One, syllabi from 24 online courses were reviewed in order to discover the types of method being used to assess student learning and contribute to the overall course grade. Five categories emerged: (1) written assignments; (2) online discussion; (3) fieldwork; (4) quizzes and exams; and (5) presentations. Phase Two consisted of a focus group and interviews with eight online instructors to discuss challenges and effective practices in online assessment. Challenges arose due to the impact of physical distance between the instructor and the students, adaptations resulting from the necessity of using technology for communicating with students, workload and time management issues, and the ongoing need to collect a variety of assessment data and provide feedback. Phase-Two interviewees offered strategies and suggestions to counteract the challenges they identified. The paper concludes with recommendations synthesizing the results of this study with those found in the literature.

Keywords: online learning, online teaching, online assessment, assessment methods, assessment challenges


How a Mobile Social Media Game Can Enhance the Educational Experience
Salvatore Parise and Eliana Crosina

The rise of experiential learning has challenged traditional delivery models and led to an increase in the application of gaming to promote learning in higher education. As such, computer-based games are being used more and more to motivate students, encourage engagement, and ultimately improve learning outcomes. Games, overall, are well aligned with a constructivist model of learning in which students become active participants in the learning process through exploration. The education environment through social media gaming, in particular, changes from passive to active as learning activities require active engagement and tend to leverage one's personal experiences. This case study illustrates the benefits students in a blended learning course derive from using a game designed on the SCVNGR platform for smartphones. Feedback from students indicates increased collaborative learning and teamwork. The case study further elaborates on the broader advantages, challenges, and opportunities of using various digital games for learning and teaching in higher education.

Keywords: digital games, gamification, constructivist learning, experiential learning, social media, mobile learning


An Exploratory Study on the Use of VoiceThread in a Business Policy Course
Marjorie Chan and Prasanthi Pallapu

This paper reports on a two-phase exploratory study that involved student use of the asynchronous multimedia communication tool VoiceThread within a business policy course. In the first phase, students participated in a VoiceThread exercise consisting of an exam review followed by a survey on the use of VoiceThread. Of the 22 participants (from a class of 61 graduating seniors), 64% specified they would like to use VoiceThread for future learning activities, and 73% indicated they would recommend VoiceThread to peers for the purpose of delivering presentations. In the second phase, 13 of the 22 respondents to the first phase were sent follow-up questions to elicit their perspectives as to whether the use of VoiceThread satisfied Chickering and Gamson's (1987) Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. Eight of the 13 students responded, with almost all responses being positive with respect to the Seven Principles. The results lend some initial support to the idea that VoiceThread can be an effective tool for facilitating learning activities in business and other courses.

Keywords: VoiceThread, asynchronous audio communication, asynchronous video communication, interaction, collaboration, Web 2.0, Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education


It's Showtime: Using Movies to Teach Leadership in Online Courses
Maureen Hannay and Rosemary Venne

Online learning is now widely recognized and accepted as a viable alternative to face-to-face teaching. It has opened up learning opportunities for people of many ages in many different locations that previously did not have access to a wide range of educational choices. The continuing challenge is to ensure that online courses embrace the best of both worlds, combining the flexibility and accessibility afforded by the electronic format with the benefits of interaction and communication as seen in the face-to-face classroom. Carefully choosing movies that demonstrate course concepts and integrating them into the online course curriculum provides an excellent platform for learner–learner exchange and engagement and can increase communication and collaboration among participants. This paper recommends the movie Twelve O'Clock High as one choice for enriching the online learning experience for students studying leadership as it provides clear representations of theoretical concepts and examples of effective and ineffective leadership behavior.

Keywords: film, learner–learner interaction, collaborative learning, virtual teams, teaching tools, course enrichment


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