MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching

Vol. 9, No. 3, September 2013

Abstracts of Papers in This Issue

An Exploration of Students' Experiences of Learning in an Online Primary Teacher Education Program
Margaret Cain and Sharon Phillip

This study examined students' experiences of learning in the Bachelor of Education Primary (Language Arts) program offered by the School of Education, The University of the West Indies (UWI), Trinidad, in partnership with UWI Open Campus (UWIOC). It is the first and only online program offered by the School at the University's St. Augustine Campus. A qualitative methodology was used to explore the experiences of eight students, who were selected using a purposive sampling strategy. The participants were selected from UWIOC sites in five islands in which the program is offered. Data were collected through audiotaped interviews, which were conducted face-to-face with students in Trinidad and Tobago and via Skype with students in the other islands. The findings suggest that, generally, the students' expectations of learning in the online program were met. Human, technology-related, and course-related factors seemed to facilitate students' learning in the program. The findings also indicate that students experienced some human, technology-related, and course-related challenges in the program.

Keywords: online teacher education, student expectations, facilitating factors, challenges, qualitative study, phenomenological study


Quality of Interactions in Face-to-Face and Hybrid Career Development Courses: An Exploration of Students' Perceptions
Siu-Man Raymond Ting and Laura M. Gonzalez

Online counselor education is growing, but there has been little conclusive research about its effectiveness. This paper reports on an exploratory study in which the perceptions of students in a hybrid career development and counseling class were compared to those of students in a face-to-face offering of the same class. Student-to-student and student-to-instructor interactions were examined and several themes were identified: nature of interactions, sufficiency of interactions, different types of communication, impact of interactions on learning, and enhancement of relationships. Both delivery formats were found to have benefits and challenges. The paper concludes with a discussion of the practical implications and areas in need of future research.

Keywords: online counselor education, face-to-face course, hybrid course, student interactions, student perceptions


The Use of E-Learning Tools for Improving Hispanic Students' Academic Performance
Jennie Johnson and Edith Galy

Most research in higher education related to Hispanic students has focused on institutional-level strategies to determine ways of improving graduation and retention rates. Reports published by the U.S. Census Bureau, Department of Education, and Department of Labor have identified the growth of the Hispanic population in the United States as a challenge for both higher education and the future of the U.S. workforce as university retention, graduation rates, and grade point averages remain low for Hispanics, trailing whites and all other minority groups. At the same time, technology has proliferated in classrooms, institutions have proffered both online courses and complete degree programs, and instructors have increased the use of e-learning tools in both online and campus-based classes. To build upon a limited research base focused on Hispanic student success, the study reported in this paper was conducted at the classroom level in a Hispanic-serving higher education institution. It involved students in a Bachelor of Business Administration program undertaking both online and campus-based courses that made use of various e-learning tools, and examined the impact that technology acceptance constructs had on students' academic performance. Results indicated that three constructs – computer self-efficacy, ability to work independently, and time management – were statistically significant predictors of course performance for Hispanic students. Perceived value and age were used as control variables.

Keywords: Hispanic students, higher education, e-learning tools, computer self-efficacy, working independently, time management, academic performance


Adjunct versus Full-Time Faculty: Comparison of Student Outcomes in the Online Classroom
Brian Mueller, B. Jean Mandernach, and Kelly Sanderson

Interrelated to the growth of online learning programs is the increasing reliance on adjunct faculty to teach these courses. This surge in the number of courses taught by adjunct faculty members has sparked debate concerning the relative effectiveness of adjunct versus full-time faculty. The current study examines student performance as a function being taught by either adjunct or full-time online faculty. Findings reveal a performance and satisfaction advantage for students in the course sections taught by full-time online faculty. Implications include the need for universities to examine faculty development, support, incentives, and community for online adjunct faculty in order to ensure excellence across all modes of instruction.

Keywords: adjunct faculty, full-time faculty, online teaching, faculty development, student learning, student performance, student satisfaction


Experiences with Military Online Learners: Toward a Mindful Practice
David Starr-Glass

Active military service members are increasing as constituents of online distance learning environments in America. For instructors, first-time engagement with military learners poses challenges and opportunities. This paper considers military learners through a framework of stereotype, labeling, and culture. It explores the use of stereotypes in new social engagements and provides a brief discussion of the cultural differences that military learners bring to the learning environment. It presents a small-scale phenomenological study of military learners' experiences in online courses, and suggests that their values and concerns do not differ significantly from non-military students. It concludes that, as with all learners, the most effective way of engaging with military students is for the instructor to be actively present, critically aware, and genuinely open. This approach, mindful practice, is presented as a strategy for exploring and developing a deeper understanding of the military learner. Suggestions for such practice are offered in the concluding section.

Keywords: cultural awareness, military culture, stereotyping, educational engagement, mindfulness


Which Instructional Design Models are Educators Using to Design Virtual World Instruction?
Victor J. Soto

The purpose of this study was to identify which instructional design (ID) models are currently used in designing virtual world instruction and why. The goal was to identify specific ID elements being used to develop virtual world instruction that enable effective utilization of the technology to support desired learning experiences for students. A review of the literature revealed that there was limited current research about how ID models are being used to develop instruction in virtual world environments. Although previous research studies have focused on understanding how existing ID models are suitable for designing and developing web-based instruction, research was not found that explains how ID models are being used to develop instruction in virtual world environments. Through the study, it was discovered that analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation (ADDIE) was the most commonly used process for the design of virtual world instruction. It was also deemed the most appropriate since ADDIE summarizes five phases of an ID process. Essential ID elements were also generated to design and develop virtual world instruction.

Keywords: virtual world, 3D multi-user virtual environment (3D MUVE), instructional design, ADDIE model


Using a Video Game as an Advance Organizer: Effects on Development of Procedural and Conceptual Knowledge, Cognitive Load, and Casual Adoption
Jennifer J. Vogel-Walcutt, Katherine Del Giudice, Logan Fiorella, and Denise Nicholson

This paper reports on a study aimed at investigating whether a video game can act as an advance organizer for teaching a military call for fire task in order to improve learning efficiency. Participants were 23 males and 45 females, randomly assigned to one of four conditions. Conditions were developed by a 2 x 2 matrix using video games with and without advance organizers to enhance decision-making skills. Participants completed two increasing levels of training that were followed by posttests in several areas. Results indicate that commercial, off-the-shelf video games do not appear to increase learning effectiveness. However, individuals who utilized an educationally relevant video game prior to learning reported more interest in continuing to learn. Unfortunately, they also reported investing higher cognitive load to acquire equal knowledge compared to the traditional outline advance organizer. These data support recent findings that suggest that ill-structured game-based learning environments can impede learning outcomes due to the extraneous cognitive load imposed by gaming elements.

Keywords: advance organizer, video game, knowledge acquisition, cognitive load, casual adoption


Developing a Supportive Framework for Learning on Biosciences Field Courses through Video-Based Resources
Anne E. Goodenough, Lynne MacTavish, and Adam G. Hart

Field courses are an essential component of the undergraduate experience in many subjects, but are intensive and expensive for participating students. Unpreparedness often means time is used teaching the basics rather than challenging students in exciting and novel situations. Moreover, universal participation is not always possible. Video-based resources covering key concepts and techniques could help participant preparedness and could be used independently by non-participants. This reflective case study details a collaborative project in which students and instructors worked together to make conceptual and instructional videos during a highly applied biosciences field course in South Africa. In 2012, after training from a professional wildlife filmmaker, students were involved in planning, presenting, and filming 25 videos. Students benefited considerably from the filmmaking process as explaining concepts and filming techniques helped reinforce their understanding: an example of "see one, do one, teach one." The online, open-access videos were used by the 2013 cohort to increase preparedness and independently by non-participants to good effect, both internally and at several external institutions. New videos will be added each year to expand the resource base and allow students to gain from the filmmaking experience. This teaching and learning strategy is multidisciplinary, with relevance for a range of subjects.

Keywords: biology education, ecology education, fieldwork, filmmaking, video, learner-generated content, "see one, do one, teach one"


Improving Undergraduate Sociology Students' Presentation Skills through Reflective Learning in an Online Learning Environment
Natalia V. Smirnova and Irina V. Nuzha

The increasing growth of online learning creates opportunities for language learners to improve their academic proficiency. However, quite often, foreign language educators claim that an online learning environment is not suitable for developing students' oral speaking proficiency. This paper is a case study of teaching academic presentation skills using a blended learning format. It takes a closer look at the existing web-based presentation skills pedagogy, discussing the challenges, perspectives of development, and methods of improving online academic presentation teaching through students' reflective learning practices. It is suggested that reflective learning stages applied to an online course design and proper face-to-face instruction mode foster students' academic oral proficiency and makes online learning highly effective.

Keywords: blended learning, learning management system (LMS), reflection, pedagogical model, self-assessment, business speaking skills, oral presentation skills


Old Concepts, New Tools: An Action Research Project on Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning in Teacher Education
Orly Sela

Social learning has long been seen as a positive direction in education with many advantages for learners. This paper describes an ongoing action research project carried out by a teacher educator at a pre-service teacher education college using social learning in her teaching through the use of computer-supported collaborative learning methods and tools. The paper traces the action research cycles, including analysis of the data collected that facilitated the transition from one cycle to the next. This data comprise class feedback, college student satisfaction surveys, students' reflective writing, and content analysis of online cooperative interaction. The paper concludes with a suggestion for an additional cycle in which an entire course will be offered through a Facebook page instead of the institutional learning management system.

Keywords: social learning, social software, Web 2.0, action research, teacher education


The Efficacy of Online Exam-Review Sessions: Reaching Both High- and Low-Performing Students
Rachel Sturm-Beiss

Teaching mathematics in a class comprised of students with varying levels of preparation and aptitude poses a significant challenge: How does one keep the top performers engaged without losing those who are struggling? In an effort to accommodate commuter students with little schedule flexibility, screencast videos made accessible on YouTube were used as means to deliver optional exam-review sessions in two pre-calculus classes. The screencasts were introduced before the second exam; thereafter, several poor performers began to score better and appeared more motivated in class. Students in both classes completed brief surveys regarding their preparation for the first two in-class exams. An analysis of survey data together with test grades showed that 55% of the students viewed the entire screencast series and that high- and low-performing students viewed the videos in equal proportions. The mean standardized grade of the student group who watched the entire video series increased significantly from the first exam to the second exam. Subsequently, in an effort to promote autonomous mathematical problem-solving skills the author experimented with videos containing embedded math exercises. Positive student feedback suggests that this type of teaching medium is beneficial to and appreciated by the motivated student.

Keywords: screencasting, video, instructional engagement, teaching ancillaries, mathematics education


Instructional Design Collaboration: A Professional Learning and Growth Experience
Barbara Brown, Sarah Elaine Eaton, D. Michele Jacobsen, Sylvie Roy, and Sharon Friesen

High-quality online courses can result from collaborative instructional design and development approaches that draw upon the diverse and relevant expertise of faculty design teams. In this reflective analysis of design and pedagogical practice, the authors explore a collaborative instructional design partnership among education faculty, including the course instructors, which developed while co-designing an online graduate-level course at a Canadian University. A reflective analysis of the collaborative design process is presented using an adapted, four-fold curriculum design framework. Course instructors discuss their approaches to backward instructional design and describe the digital tools used to support collaboration. Benefits from collaborative course design, including ongoing professional dialogue and peer support, academic development of faculty, and improved course design and delivery, are described. Challenges included increased time investment for instructors and a perception of increased workload during design and implementation of the course. Overall, the collaborative design team determined that the course co-design experience resulted in an enhanced course design with meaningful assessment rubrics, and offered a valuable professional learning and online teaching experience for the design team.

Keywords: co-design, curriculum design framework, backward design, digital tools, peer support


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