MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching

Vol. 11, No. 2, June 2015

Abstracts of Papers in This Issue

Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning Environments of Rural Graduate Early Childhood Special Educators Utilizing Wimba© and Ecampus
Christan Coogle, Kim Floyd

This article presents the findings of early childhood special education graduate student’s experiences within two distance learning environments. Specifically, this study explored the perceptions of students as they interacted with synchronous and asynchronous learning environments specific to Wimba© and Ecampus. Participants included 18 graduate students at a mid-size, public university in a rural eastern state who were completing a degree in early childhood special education. Data collection methods included transcribed discussion board posts, live class meeting transcriptions, and survey responses. Results suggest that students perceived benefits to both synchronous and asynchronous learning environments. Also discussed are specific learning activities and strategies which students identified as beneficial to their learning experiences.

Keywords: Synchronous Learning Environments, Asynchronous Learning Environments, Graduate Students, Wimba, Ecampus


What Do Current College Students Think about MOOCs?
Andrew W. Cole, Ph.D, C. Erik Timmerman, Ph.D

Faculty, administrators, and media outlets express a range of opinions about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). As any adoption of MOOCs should ultimately be done to benefit students, this study examines current college students’ understandings of MOOCs. Thematic analysis on qualitative data reveal a pattern of student perceptions that MOOCs can contribute to lifelong learning but are inferior to traditional “for credit” college courses. Student attitudes toward MOOCs revolve around 6 primary themes: reliability, accessibility, content, learning, communication, and outcomes. As the themes identified in the current data mirror previously published MOOC commentaries in many ways, pedagogical discussion of MOOCs should move beyond polarized evaluations and incorporate student perspectives in further empirical investigation of MOOCs as a learning environment.

Keywords: MOOCs, undergraduate students, automated instruction, online learning, learning environments


Reporting Plagiarism in the Online Classroom
Rick Holbeck, Scott Greenberger, Lori Cooper, John Steele, Stephanie Maher Palenque, Stefan Koukoudeas

Plagiarism and academic dishonesty are phenomena that have a long history. With the advent of the Internet, and easily accessible information, there has been some debate on whether the rate of student plagiarism differs by modality. To understand the challenges of implementing a plagiarism protocol for online courses, the current study surveyed a group of online faculty. Specifically, how faculty approached instances of plagiarism and their perceptions of the current plagiarism protocol were examined. The findings indicated that there was variation in degree and timing of plagiarism reported by online faculty. Results also showed that online faculty members were more inclined to follow the protocol if plagiarism reports were easier to submit, took less time to submit, and/or the submission forms were integrated into the learning management system. In addition, participants indicated their desire to receive updated training on the plagiarism protocol, including the specific steps to submit plagiarism report documents. The study contributes to an understanding of difficulties inherent in implementing plagiarism policy, specifically in an online education context. Lastly, the current study indicates the importance of making clear the theoretical approach to defining plagiarism policy, as well as the possible implications for implementation in practice.

Keywords: Online Teaching, Plagiarism, Academic Dishonesty, Faculty, Program Evaluation


Expanding The Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) to Examine Faculty Use of Learning Management Systems (LMSs) In Higher Education Institutions
Nafsaniath Fathema, David Shannon, Margaret Ross

Universities have made a considerable investment in the use of Learning Management Systems (LMSs) to facilitate their teaching learning processes; however these systems are not used by the faculty members to their fullest capabilities. To address this issue, this study investigated factors that affect faculty members’ LMSs usage behavior, focusing on user related variables and their pivotal role in determining faculty attitudes toward LMSs. This study offers an empirical evaluation of an extension of Davis’s (1989)’s Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) to investigate how faculty members’ beliefs and attitudes influence their intention and actual use of LMSs under conditions of non-mandatory use of LMSs in higher education institutions. Data were obtained from 560 faculty members (from two universities) and analyzed using Structural Equation Modeling. The study results revealed that the three proposed external variables: system quality; perceived self-efficacy and facilitations conditions were significant predictors of faculty attitude towards LMSs. Similar to prior research findings, the study results further confirmed the validity of the extended TAM in determining users’ technology acceptance behavior. The study also addressed the implications of the findings for researchers and practitioners.

Keywords: learning management systems (LMSs), technology acceptance model (TAM), attitude, usage, Canvas, structural equation modeling


Predicting Undergraduate Students' Acceptance of Second Life for Teaching Chemistry
Zahira Merchant, Ernest Goetz, Wendy Keeney-Kennicutt

This study used the technology acceptance model to explore undergraduate students’ perceptions of the virtual world of Second Life (SL) and their intention to use it to learn a chemistry concept. A total of 136 undergraduate students participated in the study by completing a learning task in SL and a self-report measure consisting of 6 variables: perceived ease of use, perceived usefulness, perceived enjoyment, facilitating conditions, attitude, and intention to use. Structural equation modeling was used to test the technology acceptance model. Results supported 6 of the 7 hypothesized relationships. Most notably, perceived enjoyment, perceived usefulness, and attitude towards use predicted students’ intention to use. Moreover, perceived ease of use did not influence students’ attitude to use the technology. These findings suggest that even if students find SL difficult to use, its educational value and usefulness can overcome its difficulty in motivating them to use it.

Keywords: 3-D virtual world, 3-D virtual environments, chemical education, perceived enjoyment, user’s experience, intention to use, attitude to use, perceived ease of use, perceived usefulness, and structural equation modeling analysis


Interaction matters: Strategies to promote engaged learning in an online introductory nutrition course
Jinan Banna, Meng-Fen Grace Lin, Maria Stewart, Marie K. Fialkowski

Fostering interaction in the online classroom is an important consideration in ensuring that students actively create their own knowledge and reach a high level of achievement in science courses. This study focuses on fostering interaction in an online introductory nutrition course offered in a public institution of higher education in Hawai‘i, USA. Interactive features included synchronous discussions and polls in scheduled sessions, and social media tools for sharing of information and resources. Qualitative student feedback was solicited regarding the new course features. Findings indicated that students who attended monthly synchronous sessions valued live interaction with peers and the instructor. Issues identified included technical difficulties during synchronous sessions, lack of participation on the part of fellow students in discussion and inability to attend synchronous sessions due to scheduling conflicts. In addition, few students made use of the opportunity to interact via social media. While students indicated that the interactive components of the course were valuable, several areas in which improvement may be made remain. Future studies may explore potential solutions to issues identified with new features to further promote interaction and foster learning in the course. Recommendations for instructors who interested in offering online science courses in higher education are provided.

Keywords: Student engagement, synchronous communication, E-learning, education, nutrition


Can Using Individual Online Interactive Activities Enhance Exam Results?
Dr. Lydia MacKenzie, Dr. Kim Ballard

It has been suggested that the use of active learning instructional strategies, both in traditional face-to-face classrooms as well as online courses, enhances learning and results in better learning outcomes. Recently, an asynchronous online Principles of Marketing course offered by a large, public Midwestern university was revised to include the use of a publisher's individual online interactive activities including multiple choice, "drag and drop" matching exercises, and video and traditional case discussions, as active learning strategies to reinforce course concepts. This study examines whether the inclusion of these activities significantly improved learning outcomes as measured by performance scores on two required exams.

Keywords: active learning strategies, asynchronous, community of inquiry learning effectiveness, online education


E-learning Opens Door to the Global Community: Novice Users' Experiences of E-learning in a Somali University
Mohammed Omer, Tina Klomsri, Matti Tedre, Iskra Popova, Marie Klingberg-Allvin, Fadumo Osman

E-learning has become one of the primary ways of delivering education around the globe. In Somalia, which is a country torn within and from the global community by a prolonged civil war, University of Hargeisa has in collaboration with Dalarna University in Sweden adopted, for the first time, e-learning. This study explores barriers and facilitators to e-learning usage, experienced by students in Somalia’s higher edu¬cation, using the University of Hargeisa as case study. Interviews were conducted with students to explore how University of Hargeisa’s novice users perceived e-learning, and what factors positively and negatively affected their e-learning experiences. The Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT) model was used as a framework for interpreting the results. The findings show that, in general, the students have a very positive attitude towards e-learning, and they perceived that e-learning enhanced their educational expe¬rience. The communication aspect was found to be especially important for Somali students, as it facilitated a feeling of belonging to the global community of students and scholars and alleviated the war-torn country’s isolation. However, some socio-cultural aspects of students’ communities negatively affected their e-learning experience. This study ends with recommendations based on the empirical findings to promote the use and enhance the experience of e-learning in post conflict Somali educational institutions.

Keywords: Somalia higher education, Post conflict setting E-learning, Novice users, New technology acceptance and adoption, Learning experience


Universal Design in Online Education: Employing Organization Change
Katherine J. Kirkpatrick

With the rise in online education, universal design is an emerging trend aimed at providing available education opportunities to all students, accommodating for all disabilities. However, universal design in online education remains an ambiguous and lofty goal for an academic organization to undertake. This case analysis employs an organization change theoretical framework via archival document analysis to examine a failed universal design change initiative at a 1,500-student college. This analysis unpacks the complications inherent in the failed initiative via elucidation of the college’s actions comparatively with foundational tenets of organization change, particularly the diffusion of innovations model. Elicitations from this analysis include possibilities for future universal design change initiatives, as well as an overarching call for academic organizations to consider organization change tenets in organizational decision-making.

Keywords: academic organization, universal design, organization change, diffusion of innovations


Continuously Improving Online Course Design using the Plan-Do-Study-Act Cycle
Elizabeth A. Gazza

Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) is a specific type continuous improvement process that can be used to inform practice in online education. This article describes how the PDSA cycle was used to enhance a new online health policy course in an accelerated online Registered Nurse-to-Bachelor of Science (RN-BS) program at one Southeastern University. A goal of course development and delivery was to ensure that students could access and understand all directions and guidelines included in the new online course. A General Questions Forum (GQF) was used as the central repository for student questions. Questions (n=61) in the form of textual data were analyzed for similarities and differences and five themes were identified: (a) clarifying information, (b) figuring it out, (c) using technology and tools, (d) seeking confirmation, and (e) needing more information. Actions to improve the course included clarifying directions, facilitating transfer of knowledge, strengthening the link to technology support, providing opportunities for feedback, and improving course navigation. Recommendations for course enhancement are useful to individuals who design and/or teach online courses and reflect use of data in the decision-making process.

Keywords: continuous improvement; PDSA; online learning; quality improvement; online forum; course design


Literacy Candidates' Perception of Competence in an Online MS in Literacy Program
Mary Shea, Rosemary Murray

This article describes how college instructors in a graduate literacy degree program surveyed candidates to determine their sense of self-efficacy as literacy intervention teachers after completing the professional sequence of diagnosis, practicum I and practicum II in the program. Results were positive. Candidates’ sense of competence with regard to delivering appropriate literacy intervention services increased across the span of these courses. Recognizing that a program or span of clinical courses can never fully prepare candidates for all of the challenges in the multi-faceted role of a school literacy specialist/literacy coach, the authors sought to determine whether the program’s professional sequence created a positive trajectory of growth in candidates’ sense of self-confidence related to designing and implementing literacy interventions.


The Effectiveness of Online Learning: Beyond No Significant Difference and Future Horizons
Tuan Nguyen

The physical "brick and mortar" classroom is starting to lose its monopoly as the place of learning. The Internet has made online learning possible, and many researchers and educators are interested in online learning to enhance and improve student learning outcomes while combating the reduction in resources, particularly in higher education. It is imperative that researchers and educators consider the effectiveness of online learning compared to traditional face-to-face format and the factors that influence the effectiveness of online courses. This study examines the evidence of the effectiveness of online learning by organizing and summarizing the findings and challenges of online learning into positive, negative, mixed, and null findings. Particular attention is paid to the meta-analyses on the effectiveness of online learning, the heterogenous outcomes of student learning and the endogenous issue of learning environment choice. Taken as a whole, there is robust evidence to suggest online learning is generally at least as effective as the traditional format. Moreover, this body of literature suggests that researchers should move beyond the "no significant difference" phenomenon and consider the next stage of online learning.

Keywords: no significant difference, online learning, hybrid learning, blended learning, higher education, selection bias


Students' Impression Management in MOOCs: An Opportunity for Existential Learning?
Hjördis Becker-Lindenthal

The article considers students' impression management on discussion boards of massive open online courses (MOOCs) by applying the conceptual framework provided by Simmel and Goffman. Students exhibit different motives and functions of impression management, ranging from the need to "fit in" over self-experimentation to Machiavellian interests. This holds for education in conventional classrooms as much as for online courses, and indulging in impression management strategies and receiving (indirect) feedback for it can be considered part of existential learning. However, the article argues that in the lean medium of a MOOC, it is more difficult for a teacher to interpret students' impression management and to react accordingly. This constitutes a challenge for the humanities, which conventionally aim at a holistic education including students’ personal development.

Keywords: massive open online course, self-presentation, humanities, holistic education, teaching philosophy, existentialism, Georg Simmel, Erving Goffman


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