MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching

Vol. 9, No. 1, March 2013

Abstracts of Papers in This Issue

Learning Equity between Online and On-Site Mathematics Courses
Sherry J. Jones and Vena M. Long

This paper reports on a research study that focused on equity in learning as reflected in the final grades of online and on-site students from the same post-secondary mathematics course taught repeatedly over 10 semesters from Fall 2005 through Spring 2011. On-site students attended regular class sessions, while online students only attended an orientation session and a final exam. Mean final course grades for all online and on-site students were compared statistically to see if there was a significant difference in learning. The findings revealed significant differences in online and on-site students' final grades, in favor of on-site student achievement. Statistical tests were also conducted on a number of subsets drawn from all students' final grades in order to search for any underlying nuances that might exist. When the first three semesters of data were removed from the dataset, no significant difference was found between the mean scores for on-site and online students for the seven most recent semesters. It is reasonable to conclude that it is possible for students in both on-site and online sections of a course to achieve equity in mathematics learning as measured by final course grades.

Keywords: achievement, final grades, online vs. face-to-face, difference in learning, equity in learning, post-secondary mathematics education


Students' Perceptions of Online Courses in a Graduate Adolescence Education Program
Barbara A. Burns

Online learning has become a critical concern in higher education. The purpose of this study was to assess the perceptions of graduate students relative to online courses in their program of study. Forty-one graduate students completed a survey about their perceptions of online courses. Results indicate that traditional students may harbor misgivings about the social aspects involved in online courses, that online students have had positive experiences – though the online courses are not always up to their expectations, and that both traditional learners and online learners perceive online learning as convenient though not necessarily conducive to their learning. As online learning continues to grow, institutions of higher education need to monitor the impact of online courses on their programs.

Keywords: student perceptions, online vs. face-to-face, graduate education, teacher education, adolescence education


Online and Campus College Students Like Using an Open Educational Resource Instead of a Traditional Textbook
Brian L. Lindshield and Koushik Adhikari

There has been little research on student use and perception of open educational resources that are used to replace traditional textbooks/e-textbooks. The creation of the Kansas State University Human Nutrition Flexbook, and online and campus students' perceptions and usage of the flexbook, have been reported previously based survey results from a single semester. Results from multiple online and campus semesters are reported in this paper. Both online and campus students rated the flexbook favorably, but online students used the flexbook more frequently, liked the idea of the flexbook more, and rated it as being of higher quality. Online students also liked and used the animations, videos, and links more and liked the appearance and flexibility of the flexbook more than campus students. The majority of students used an electronic flexbook format and more than one flexbook format. The Portable Document Format version, followed by the Google Docs version, were the most commonly used primary formats. Overall, responses across multiple semesters confirm the authors' original findings that students like using the flexbook instead of a traditional textbook.

Keywords: digital textbook, e-textbook, e-book, flexbook, open access, open educational resource (OER), student perceptions


Assessing Faculty Attitudes Toward Technological Change in Graduate Management Education
Owen P. Hall, Jr.

Distance learning has come a long way since Sir Isaac Pitman initiated the first correspondence course in the early 1840s. The changing demands of the global business community call for new and innovative learning systems for enhancing graduate management education. Learning technologies offer an approach for meeting these challenges. However, faculty resistance to change can represent a major barrier to more fully implementing this learning paradigm. The purpose of this paper is twofold: (1) to highlight the results of a survey on faculty perceptions regarding the role of new learning technologies in graduate management education; and (2) to outline an approach for helping bridge the gap between faculty adoption of new learning technologies and the demand for change in delivering world-class business education.

Keywords: graduate management education, Rogers' innovation model, neural nets, classification and regression tree (CART) analysis, learning technologies, learning management system (LMS), implementation strategies, faculty attitudes, faculty collaboration


Preparing Faculty to Use the Quality Matters Model for Course Improvement
Carol Roehrs, Li Wang, and David Kendrick

The number of fully online and hybrid (blended) courses in higher education has increased rapidly in recent years. One factor shown to influence effective online learning is the instructional design of such courses. Because continuous improvement in support of student learning is an important part of online education, many colleges and universities have adopted the Quality Matters (QM) program. QM is based on peer review of courses by faculty members who are trained and certified to assess the design of online courses. They provide feedback to instructors in the form of scores on a rubric and recommendations for change. Another approach to implementing QM standards might be to educate interested faculty members in the use of the rubric so they can review and improve their own courses. This research report summarizes a mixed-methods descriptive study focused on the experiences of faculty participants with different kinds of QM training, self-evaluation of a course, and updating of the course. Qualitative and quantitative data converge to support several main findings about using the QM rubric, identifying and making needed changes without help, wanting help from instructional designers with aspects of course improvement, and needing time in faculty workload to review and improve courses.

Keywords: instructional design, faculty development, faculty training, self-evaluation of online courses, peer review of online courses, Quality Matters


The Complexity of Online Discussion
Jesse Rhoades and Rebecca Rhoades

This paper reports on a study that examined the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) discussion forum. The study's purpose was to observe emergent phenomena within this discussion forum. Additionally, the study provided an assessment of these emergent phenomena and their effects on the overall survival and sustainability of this discussion forum. Examinations of participation, discussion topics, and discussion content were examined through the lens of complexity theory. Through this lens, emergent behaviors could be observed that indicated the NASPE forum had undergone extraordinary changes over the course of its operation. These changes included a dramatic drop off in participation, striking shifts in discussion topics, and fluctuating trends in discussion content. Overall, data demonstrated that this discussion forum underwent evolutionary adaptations in order to survive. These adaptations, however, were found to promote counterproductive discussions as a cost of survival. The study provides a cautionary tale of the application of discussion forums in physical education, and the need for continued examination and careful implementation of this technology.

Keywords: complexity theory, online discussion, emergent behavior, physical education


Design Considerations for Supporting the Reluctant Adoption of Blended Learning
Wendy Freeman and Taunya Tremblay

Blended learning, described as the integration of online and classroom teaching, can range in complexity from the augmentation of traditional instructional methods to transformational course redesign. In this case study, an introductory communication course was redesigned by a team to blend online and classroom learning. Where team design approaches typically involve instructor participation, thereby allowing them to reconceptualize their teaching using technology, this paper examines how various design choices, with little instructor input, affected their ability and willingness to adapt to the blended course environment. Through an analysis of semi-structured interviews with instructors over two iterations of the course design, this paper provides insight into how the instructors, who were experienced with teaching in a traditional setting, struggled with the new format. The analysis reveals three themes connected to pedagogical decision-making – consistency versus flexibility, pedagogical dissonance, and student–instructor engagement – that describe the challenges instructors face in this changing environment. Suggestions are offered for institutions and course designers looking to implement blended learning programs.

Keywords: blended learning, instructional design, adoption, undergraduate education


Migrating Successful Student Engagement Strategies Online: Opportunities and Challenges Using Jigsaw Groups and Problem-Based Learning
Jose A. Amador and Helen Mederer

Online courses may be criticized for failing to engage students. Faculty members teaching in the classroom often employ a number of strategies that capture the interest of students, but may find the migration to the online environment a daunting prospect. This paper describes the transitioning of two common strategies to engage students in the classroom – jigsaw groups and problem-based learning – from face-to-face to online courses in sociology and soil science, respectively. The paper discusses the challenges and opportunities that were found to be common to the implementation of both these strategies online, and provides suggestions for faculty considering this transition.

Keywords: online teaching, engaging teaching strategies, sociology, soil science, problem-based learning, jigsaw groups


Enhancing Pre-Service Teachers' Perceptions of Parenting: A Glimpse into My Virtual Child
Shanna L. Graves

The benefits and challenges of technology-enhanced or virtual field experiences have been discussed in the literature related to teacher education. However, no previous studies seem to have explored the possibilities of the My Virtual Child program. The purpose of this paper is to provide a glimpse into My Virtual Child and share ways in which the program enhanced pre-service teachers' perceptions of parenting. Pre-service teachers enrolled in an undergraduate online Children and Families course shared their perceptions – via reflection papers – of the effectiveness of the My Virtual Child program in relation to understanding parenting. Results reveal that pre-service teachers felt the experience had a positive impact on their thinking about parenting. Specifically, pre-service teachers felt the My Virtual Child program: (1) forced them to think more critically about parenting decisions; (2) gave them a new perspective on parenting and its effects on children's development; and (3) had relevance to real-life situations. The My Virtual Child program was utilized as a virtual field experience in order to provide pre-service teachers with an opportunity to gain insight into parenting and its influence on child development. Hopefully, this new insight into parenting will positively impact pre-service teachers' ability to work with children's families.

Keywords: online simulation, e-simulation, virtual field experience, pre-service teacher education, parenting


Technology Acceptance and Performance in Online Learning Environments: Impact of Self-Regulation
Filiz Tabak and Nhung T. Nguyen

This paper proposes a conceptual model that integrates the technology acceptance model with the self-regulation concept from social cognitive theory. The model explains the antecedents to perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness of online learning systems by learner self-regulatory processes and behaviors, personality differences, and extrinsic factors such as technical support, technology training, and equipment accessibility. Personality variables that are proposed to affect self-regulation and learners' perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness are conscientiousness, openness to experience, general self-efficacy, and risk propensity. Implications for future research and practice are discussed.

Keywords: technology acceptance, performance, self-regulation, personality, perceived ease of use, perceived usefulness


Faculty Leadership in Online Education: Structuring Courses to Impact Student Satisfaction and Persistence
Jeannine Kranzow

With an increasing number of online courses, many faculty members who are inexperienced in online teaching are being asked to teach in an online environment. This author's position is that faculty leadership through curriculum structuring can have a significant impact on student motivation, satisfaction, and persistence in online courses. After a discussion of what initially motivates students in online courses and a discussion of factors that maintain motivation, the topic of online community is examined. Ways in which faculty can purposely design curriculum to encourage student motivation and facilitate student involvement in the online community are discussed.

Keywords: urriculum structure, online pedagogy, student motivation


Face-to-Face versus Online Course Evaluations: A "Consumer's Guide" to Seven Strategies
Ronald A. Berk

The research on student rating scales and other measures of teaching effectiveness in face-to-face (F2F) courses has been accumulating for 90 years. With the burgeoning international development of online and blended/hybrid courses over the past decade, the question of what measures to use has challenged directors of distance education programs. Can the traditional F2F scales already in operation be applied to online courses or do all new scales have to be designed? Despite the increasing number of online courses, attention to their evaluation lags far behind that of F2F courses in terms of available measures, quality of measures, and delivery systems. The salient characteristics of F2F and online courses are compared to determine whether they are really different enough to justify separate scales and evaluation systems. Based on a review of the research and current practices, seven concrete measurement options were generated. They are proffered and critiqued as a state-of-the-art "consumer's guide" to the evaluation of online and blended courses and the faculty who teach them.

Keywords: student rating scales, student evaluation of teaching (SET), teaching effectiveness, blended courses, hybrid courses, web-based courses, distance learning, student–instructor interaction, content delivery, evaluation rubrics, technology tools


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