MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching

Vol. 10, No. 3, September 2014

Abstracts of Papers in This Issue

Impact of Instructor Intervention on the Quality and Frequency of Student Discussion Posts in a Blended Classroom
Cheryl A. Murphy and Russell A. Fortner

This quasi-experimental study examined the impact of structured instructor postings on the participation and performance of student discussion groups in a blended classroom. Undergraduate students enrolled in an instructional technology course were assigned to either a treatment (instructor postings; n=97) or control group (no instructor postings; n=98) for three distinct discussion topics spanning a six-week period. A crossover design was used to control for timing and instructor biases. Resulting student posts from all three discussions were compared between the groups with respect to quality and frequency. Quality of student discussion posts was determined based on an assessment scoring rubric, while frequency was measured in terms of the number of student posts. Results indicated that instructor posting did not impact the quality of student posts but did negatively correlate with student participation as measured by the frequency of their posts. These findings suggested that although students received equal quality scores in both situations, different posting strategies were utilized in the presence or absence of instructor posts. Further research is needed to explore specific strategies students employ when posting with and without instructor intervention, and to consider how this knowledge can be used by instructors to support students in online discussions.

Keywords: asynchronous, CMC, participation, facilitation, online learning


Designing a Mobile and Socially Networked Learning Assistant for a University-level Keyword Advertising Course
Partha Mukherjee, Brad Kozlek, Bernard J. Jansen, Allan Gyorke, and Cole W. Camplese

An Internet-based learning assistant leveraging the social attribute features of mobile technology is designed and implemented to incorporate updating course content of an upper-level college technology advertising course in real-time. The mobile application offers an online collaborative environment utilizing the inherent social and location-independent features of mobile technology to improve the teaching and learning environment. The application was implemented in a university-level keyword advertising course and integrated with several course-related web tools, including an enterprise-level social network. Aspects of the effectiveness of the application were evaluated using a series of five hypotheses. The results supported three hypotheses testing the relationship between gender and application use, the variations among tool choices, and the identification of frequently used tools. The two hypotheses not supported were the preference of the mobile application and the use of the social network software as standalone services, as most students desired that the social network service be integrated with an existing, university-level, content management system. Research results indicate that the integration of a mobile application with an existing content management system would be beneficial for increased student engagement with course content, which the university has since implemented.

Keywords: mobile technology, learning assistant, collaborative environment, social network, hypothesis testing


Guidelines for Online Course Moderation and Community Building from a Student’s Perspective
Joan Thormann and Patricia Fidalgo

This study examines students’ responses to questions about how online interactions and community building should be used in online courses. Four categories and 10 suggested guidelines emerged from the data. The categories were Student Needs, Instructor Behavior, Assignments and Community Building. The top three guidelines include 1) creating an environment that allows students to share, feel safe & respected, 2) using synchronous interaction and group assignments and model interactions, and 3) asking thought-provoking/probing questions. The responses are presented by frequency within each category. Since student responses were open-ended there are numerous additional guidelines offered.

Keywords: guidelines for online courses: student moderation; community building; online interaction; online learning; student perspective


Instructor Utilization Of Podcasts In The Online Learning Environment
Supawan Supanakorn-Davila and Doris U. Bolliger

The utilization of podcasts in online learning environments has become common in higher education. The study examined how instructors used podcasts to deliver instructional material and instructors’ experiences with the use of podcasts in online courses. Twenty-five instructors who taught fully online courses at a research university in the United States completed the Instructional Use of Podcasts Survey. Instructors utilized different file types for a variety of purposes in their courses. Instructors shared several benefits and issues pertaining to podcast use in online teaching. Results provide the field with a better understanding of instructors’ use of podcasts and offer guidance to those who may consider the utilization of podcasts in online courses.

Keywords: Podcasts, Online teaching, Instructor utilization, Benefits, Issues


Student Perceptions Of Online Interactive Versus Traditional Lectures; Or How I Managed Not To Fall Asleep With My Eyes Open
John O’Rourke, Susan Main, and Martin Cooper

Universities are increasingly experimenting with the online domain to connect with busy and digital-savvy students and counter the decline in face-to-face lecture attendance More often than not universities are offering videoed lectures or PowerPoints with lecturer voice-overs as a way of delivering content. Evidence suggests that while these techniques may provide the flexibility required, some content needs more personalised delivery. In this article the authors explore the development and delivery of an online lecture format. Using a combination of video, text and interactive cell technology, this online offering was trialed in a unit focused on the education of students with disability in inclusive classrooms. Using the Attitude toward Computer Aided Instruction Scale (ACAIS) (Allen, 1986) the author’s surveyed 159, 3rd year pre-service teachers and asked them to compare the online presentation format with a traditional face-to-face lecture. The students were enthusiastic about using the online format, with data analysis revealing eleven of the twelve ACAIS criteria were highly significant in favour of this approach. The results of the survey are presented and discussed critically in the context of the challenges and opportunities online delivery of course content presents to universities.

Keywords: online learning, online lectures, interactive, university, inclusion, disability


Comparison of Nurse Anesthesia Student 12 Lead EKG Knowledge, Interpretation Skill, Satisfaction and Attitude: Traditional Instruction vs. Asynchronous Online Video Lecture
Laura Palmer, John M. O’Donnell, Dianxu Ren, and Richard Henker

Online education has become increasingly popular for providing learning experiences in all disciplines. Despite continued evidence that online learning is at least equivalent to traditional methods, some educators are reluctant to embrace online educational offerings. This study evaluated whether an online class provided within an otherwise traditional face-to-face (F2F) nurse anesthesia curriculum would produce comparable learning outcomes and be accepted by students as an alternative learning format.

A F2F lecture format for teaching 12 lead EKG interpretation was compared with similar course materials provided in an asynchronous, self-paced, online narrated video format. A pretest/posttest design was used to evaluate concept knowledge change and an analytical skills examination (ASE) determined student ability to accurately interpret EKG readings. The variables of satisfaction, attitude toward online learning, and student time were also evaluated.

Knowledge and analytical skill acquisition were comparable in both groups and satisfaction was equally good with both delivery methods. The student's attitudes concerning online instruction improved after exposure to the online method of teaching. These findings indicate that similar online activities can be successfully incorporated into a Nurse Anesthesia curriculum while maintaining learning outcomes and satisfaction.

Keywords: online learning, distance education, web-based learning, face to face, F2F, student satisfaction, attitude, efficiency, nurse anesthesia


The Importance of Student-Instructor Connections in Graduate Level Online Courses
Sheila A. Joyner, Matthew B. Fuller, Peggy C. Holzweiss, Susan Henderson, and Robert Young

In an effort to determine how best to connect to their online graduate students, the authors analyzed student perspectives of connections with their instructors using a mixed-methods instrument. Participants for this study included 86 graduate students enrolled in an online master’s program in the United States who provided perspectives on student-instructor connections via qualitative questions. Since student-instructor connections are key to retention in both physical and online classrooms, the ultimate goal of the researchers was to determine how students made connections with their instructors through the provided technology. Existing literature regarding student-instructor connections consistently notes the importance of ‘‘instructor presence’’ in an online environment. The results of this study confirm that instructor presence can exist in the online classroom. Participants offered the perspective that course homepages, discussion boards, and other aspects represented the extent to which the instructor was “present” in class. Ideas for improving instructor presence are offered. The authors suggest particular instructional methods to establish student-instructor connections that may be more effective than other methods.


Virtual Teaching Dispositions Scale (VTDS): A Multi-dimensional Instrument to Assess Teaching Dispositions in Virtual Classrooms
Anita G. Welch, Larry Napoleon, Brent Hill, and Elizabeth Roumell

The aim of this study was to make salient the key characteristics and tacit competencies that build an effective repertoire of practice of virtually mediated instruction and to develop and validate a multidimensional instrument to assess the professional teaching dispositions that are associated with effective online instruction - the Virtual Teaching Dispositions Scale (VTDS). Items were developed using a theoretical model developed from the literature and construct validity was established using Q-Sort methodology. The resulting 25 item VTDS instrument was constructed and EFA produced a four factor results. Reliabilty analysis showed that the entire instrument had an unstandardized Cronbach’s alpha of .891 with individual subscales ranging from .739 to .873.

Keywords: Dispositions, online teacher education, student expectations, scale development, professional development, teacher training, Q-Sort methodology, virtual instruction, distance education


Preferred Teaching Methods in Online Courses: Learners’ Views
Mansureh Kebritchi

Online learning platforms with asynchronous discussion boards provide such a different setting from traditional face-to-face classrooms that they urge educators to investigate online teaching methods. The purpose of this study was twofold: first, to identity the recommended online teaching methods in asynchronous discussion boards, and second, to explore learners’ perceptions about the identified teaching methods and correlate the learners’ perceptions with learners’ characteristics, including computer skills, experiences, and activity ratios in online discussions. Bruner’s classification of two modes of analytical and narrative thought was used as a theoretical framework. Accordingly, two teaching methods, narrative and episodic, were identified. Descriptive survey and correlation designs were used to examine the perspectives of 30 purposefully selected online students through two sets of questionnaires with close and open-ended questions. Findings indicated that the narrative with a higher interactivity level, was the preferred method. The interactivity of online instructors and perceived success of courses were moderately correlated. Participants with stronger computer skills preferred teaching methods with lower interactivity. Some participants did not prefer a specific teaching method for performing various instructional tasks but rather preferred combining the narrative and episodic methods. Such findings inform educators about possible changes to improve the quality of online teaching.

Keywords: online teaching methods, asynchronous discussion, narrative and episodic teaching methods, online learner’ preferences, distance education


Virtually the Same?: Student Perceptions of the Equivalence of Online Classes to Face-to-Face Classes
Carrie Anne Platt, Amber N. W. Raile, and Nan Yu

Given the increasing number of online courses and the established association between student perceptions of learning environments and academic outcomes, this study investigated student perceptions of the equivalence of online classes and face-to-face classes. In contrast to previous studies on student perceptions of equivalence, which primarily used specific online classes as points of reference, this study focused on students’ perceptions of online courses in general. Overall, students did not perceive online and face-to-face classes to be equivalent, but previous exposure to online classes was positively associated with perceptions of general equivalence, comparative flexibility, comparative knowledge gained, and comparative level of interaction in online versus face-to-face classes. The final part of the paper applies these findings to the educational setting by discussing their implications for programs seeking to expand online course offerings.

Keywords: online classes, distance learning, student perceptions, equivalence, online course experience


The Use of BlogTalkRadio in Online Management Classes
Marjorie Chan

This paper reports on a two-step study of students’ perspectives with respect to the use of BlogTalkRadio (BTR) in online management classes. First, a survey was conducted in three online sections of a business policy course, and 70 of 103 students participated. Second, participants were contacted to provide follow-up comments on the practical use of BTR in online management classes, and 9 of 70 participants provided positive comments. BTR is the world’s largest social radio network and podcasts producer. It is a web-based platform for hosting live call-in talk shows which are recorded as podcasts. This study examined whether an instructor hosting executive interviews on BTR with student participation would result in generation of good resource materials for online management classes; enhancement of student-student, student-instructor, and student-content interaction; and student understanding of the application of management concepts in business settings. The results affirmed the research focus, and 80% of the survey participants would recommend the use of BTR in online classes. The planned BTR interview project would satisfy Chickering and Gamson’s (1987) Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. It would promote elements of active learning such as student engagement, connectivity, critical thinking, and knowledge creation.

Keywords: BlogTalkRadio; collaborative learning; interaction; active learning; student engagement; knowledge creation


Using Service Learning to Enhance a Hybrid Course Curriculum in the “Politics of Food”
Monique Mironesco

This case study investigates the benefits and challenges of using service learning to enhance the curriculum in a hybrid course rooted in the politics of the food system in Hawai‘i. Student learning outcomes are assessed, as are students’ notions of civic engagement. Students’ views on the impact of service learning on community partners is discussed, as well as the impact of the course curriculum on the students’ daily lives with regard to their awareness of the industrial agro-food system and sustainable agriculture’s varying degrees of success in contesting the former’s dominance. Challenges to the hybrid service learning model are discussed, as well as benefits and limitations of the multi-method approach used in this study. This paper argues that non-traditional students benefit from various types of access to service learning (online, hybrid, etc.) which increases student retention and student learning.

Keywords: Service learning, hybrid course, civic engagement, community partnerships, sustainable agriculture, qualitative methods, non-traditional students.


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