MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching

Vol. 3, No. 3,  September 2007

Abstracts of Papers in This Issue

Benefits of Linking Assignments to Online Quizzes in Introductory Biology Courses, Scott T. Cooper, Robin W. Tyser, and Mark B. Sandheinrich

Assignments with linked, online multiple-choice quizzes were developed for a non-majors introductory biology course.  The assignments consisted of readings or websites and accompanying questions to help students comprehend the links between these sources and the key concepts discussed in lecture.  Students were then given two attempts to take an online quiz to test their comprehension of the assignment.  Students indicated that the assignments and quizzes were helpful in understanding the material.  Students who took at least 10 minutes to review the assignment between quiz attempts increased their quiz scores more than those who took less than 10 minutes.  Linking assignments with online quizzes is an effective way to introduce homework into large lecture courses without burdening instructors with excessive grading.

course management, homework, grading, assessment, student engagement

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Blogging Across the Disciplines: Integrating Technology to Enhance Liberal Learning, Angelique Davi, Mark Frydenberg, and Girish J. Gulati

As the use of web logs (blogs) becomes increasingly popular, many faculty members have incorporated them into college courses to engage students in discussing course materials, to foster a sense of community, and to enhance learning.   This study, conducted at a business institution, introduces blogs as a tool to help students prepare for meaningful classroom discussion. The authors assigned a similar blogging exercise in three different courses—expository writing, e-commerce, and government--in order to introduce students to the use of blogs in their disciplines.  This study finds that by completing the required readings and then posting discussion questions and reflections on topics of interest to which their classmates can respond--essentially beginning the conversation prior to the class session--students become more engaged in the course material. This exercise requires students not only to read the required course materials but to engage with them critically in order to move beyond a superficial understanding of the materials.  By using the same assignment and assessment tool in three different courses, the authors argue that blogs can be effective in enhancing class discussion across the disciplines.

Keywords: Blogging, Liberal Learning, Critical Thinking, Enhancing Class Discussion

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Key Elements of Building Online Community: Comparing Faculty and Student Perceptions, Pam Vesely, Lisa Bloom, and John Sherlock


This paper describes survey research of fourteen online courses where instructors and students were asked their perceptions about the challenges and essential elements of community in online classes. Results show that both instructors and students believe building community is very important. The majority of both students and instructors perceived it to be harder to build community online than in traditional classes. Additionally, while the majority of students and instructors both identified the same elements for building online community, there were significant ranking differences. Most striking among the differences was that students ranked instructor modeling as the most important element in building online community, while instructors ranked it fourth. Implications of these findings are discussed and recommendations provided for how instructors can model community behaviors in their online classes.

Keywords:  Virtual Community; Online Community Building; Distance Education; Instructor Modeling; Instructor Presence; Online Student and Instructor Perceptions

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Toward a Model of Experiential E-Learning, Rebecca Carver, Robert King, Wallace Hannum, and Brady Fowler

While e-learning has experienced rapid growth, it is hampered by being based on classroom models of learning. This article demonstrates how concepts of agency, belongingness, and competence that are central to experiential education can explain difficulties students encounter in e-learning courses. This article documents an inter-institutional graduate course on instructional design that was designed as a problem-based, service-learning course taught entirely online. While the underlying model for this course featured more active learning than simple, knowledge transmission models and while considerable learning resources were made available to students, at times students experienced difficulties similar to what has been reported in other e-learning courses. By applying concepts from experiential education, adjustments were made in the course design to support learners developing a stronger sense of agency, belongingness and competence. Typical e-learning environments require students to abandon their familiar ways of achieving agency, belonging, and competence that had been comfortable and effective in traditional classrooms. When stripped of this in e-learning courses, students often flounder. The addition of concepts from experiential education can bolster e-learning environments because these concepts attend to some of those factors that cause students to struggle in e-learning courses.

Key Words: e-learning, experiential education, e-learning models, experiential e-learning taxonomy, lessons learned, problem-based learning, service-learning

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Developing a Public Health Web Game to Complement Traditional Education Methods in the Classroom, Eileen O'Connor and Karen Phillips

Infectious disease outbreaks, whether natural or deliberate, constitute a growing health concern. The impending reality of this situation is indicative of the exigency in which the government recently created the Canadian Public Health Agency. As with other countries, Canada is committed to enhance its capacity to respond to emergencies through increased investment in the interdisciplinary training of medical and public health professionals. This article describes our initiative to create an innovative scenario-based web game of an infectious disease outbreak to be used in medical and public health university-level courses. By providing real-life, concrete examples of health crisis situations, students will develop strong critical-thinking skills while examining the cause and effect relationship of actions. Ultimately, our goal is to transfer current knowledge on best practices in emergency preparedness to university-level students.

KEYWORDS: Emergency management, epidemics, goal-based scenarios, infectious disease, public health, simulation, game, students, training, online education.

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Promoting Academic Integrity in Online Distance Learning Courses, Robert T. Kitahara and Frederick Westfall

In committing to provide a quality education using online Distance Learning (DL) as the delivery mechanism, a university must face new challenges to ensuring academic integrity in the behavior of its students.  In addition to the predictable challenges associated with the online format of DL courses there are additional challenges stimulated by the attitudes of the current student population and the increasing permissiveness of our society.  This paper introduces issues relevant to promoting academic integrity with an example of a university’s published Standards of Conduct, exemplifies the nature of the problem with recent cases of academic dishonesty, reviews the current literature highlighting the extent of the problem, and assesses a technology-based approach to its solution.

Keywords:  Cheating, ethics, proctoring systems, remote proctor

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Plugging into Students' Digital DNA: Five Myths Prohibiting Proper Podcasting Pedagogy in the New Classroom Domain, Luanne Fose and Martin Mehl

In the spring of 2006, California Polytechnic State University (San Luis Obispo) experimented in a formal pilot of limited scope tonotions (myths of podcasting pedagogy) and the device’s design propensity for educational ict through both quantitative and qualitative methodologies.

What specific educational contributions stem from adapting, adopting, and diffusing dynamic podcasting technology as a communication device in the classroom domain?  Three core concepts will be examined, which currently challenge the technological and academic implementation of podcasting pedagogy: 1) Method: Toy vs. Tool; 2) Content: Novelty vs. Knowledge; and 3) Delivery: Convenience vs. Competence.

Keywords:  Podcasting Pedagogy, Digital DNA, iPods in the Classroom, Technological Myths, Online Teaching Tools, Technology and Learning, American with Disabilities Act

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Face-to-face or Cyberspace: Analysis of Course Delivery in a Graduate Educational Research Course, Robert S. Legutko

Student attitudes and outcomes in a graduate educational research course in both direct instruction and online delivery methods were compared over four semesters. A -test for independent samples determined that there were no significant differences in 11 out of 13 questionnaire response means for items measuring student attitudes, and an analysis of student outcomes yielded a significant difference in just one out of six assessments. Also, online delivery group means were higher for items measuring instructor’s overall teaching effectiveness, overall quality of the course, organization of the course, and understanding of concepts and principles in the field. It may then be concluded that online courses in graduate research can be developed for instruction, conducted similarly, and yield similar results as direct instruction.


Keywords: distance learning/education, online learning/education, graduate research, asynchronous learning/education

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Can Automated Scoring Surpass Hand Grading of Students' Constructed Responses and Error Patterns in Mathematics?, Nava L. Livne, Oren E. Livne and Charles A. Wight

A unique online parsing system that produces partial-credit scoring of students’ constructed responses to mathematical questions is presented. The parser is the core of a free college readiness website in mathematics. The software generates immediate error analysis for each student response. The response is scored on a continuous scale, based on its overall correctness and the fraction of correct elements. The parser scoring was validated against human scoring of 207 real-world student responses (r = 0.91). Moreover, the software generates more consistent scores than teachers in some cases. The parser analysis of students’ errors on 124 additional responses showed that the errors were factored into two groups: structural (possibly conceptual), and computational (could result from typographical errors). The two error groups explained 55% of students’ scores variance (structural errors: 36%; computational errors: 19%). In contrast, these groups explained only 33% of the teacher score variance (structural: 18%; computational: 15%). There was a low agreement among teachers on error classification, and their classification was weakly correlated to the parser’s error groups. Overall, the parser’s total scoring closely matched human scoring, but the machine was found to surpass humans in systematically distinguishing between students’ error patterns.

   Keywords: parser, assessment, automated partial-credit scoring, computer grading, error analysis, online learning,
   artificial intelligence, natural languages

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Is Online Life a Breeze?: A Case Study for Promoting Synchronous Learning in a Blended Graduate Course, Yun Jeong Park and Curtis J. Bonk

This case study examines a synchronous online teaching practice in a blended course in which distance and residential students jointly perform multi-media presentation and verbal critique to improve individual students’ projects in media design. The research focused on the pedagogical strategies, tools, and issues associated with synchronous teaching. The researchers looked at how learning was promoted, and how interaction was mediated using a combination of communication tools - Breeze (now called Adobe Connect Professional) shared screen and Breeze voice, telephone, or text-based discussion. Online instructors’ perceptions of the benefits as well as disadvantages of the synchronous mode were identified and discussed. Based on the findings, suggestions are offered to instructors and institutions interested in the integration of synchronous technology into their courses and programs.

Key words: synchronous online teaching, online pedagogy, online teaching guidelines, synchronous technology (tool), blended learning

   HTML ( 195 kb)   PDF ( 364  kb)


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Last Modified : 2007/09/15