MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching

Vol.5, No.4, December 2009

Abstracts of Papers in This Issue


Online Teaching Experience: A Qualitative Metasynthesis (QMS)
Jennie De Gagne and Kelley Walters

Qualitative studies of educators who teach online are crucial to provide direction for practice and research as they offer an emic perspective. Using a qualitative metasynthesis (QMS) design, this study investigated the experience of online educators at institutions of higher education in the U. S. Discerning what activities online educators could instigate to bridge the gaps between the best practices and the present instructional realities in online teaching, this study provides an interpretive synthesis of the meaning of teaching online as represented by a body of qualitative literature on online education. The chosen theoretical framework for the study includes the model of critical thinking and community inquiry. The researcher identified nine original qualitative studies involving 203 participants in geographically diverse schools. Close reading of the nine studies identified four key themes that captured the nature and experience of online instructors: (a) work intensity, (b) role changes, (c) teaching strategies, and (d) professional development. Many of these themes were linked to each other and, therefore, contributed to a broader picture of the instructors’ experience. The results of the study substantiate previous research and can benefit all stakeholders including learners, faculty members, and leaders in colleges and universities that offer online education.

Keywords: Online teaching, qualitative study, qualitative metasynthesis, higher education, distance education


Using the Online Learning Environment to Develop Real-Life Collaboration and Knowledge-Sharing Skills: A Theoretical Discussion and Framework for Online Course Design
Lisl Zach and Denise E. Agosto

Previous research has suggested that effective collaboration and knowledge-sharing skills are crucial for successful employment in the modern economy where much professional work is now done in teams. Many of these teams involve participants who are not co-located geographically and who communicate with each other through online media. If current faculty are to prepare students to enter this modern workplace, they must prepare them to succeed at online collaboration and knowledge sharing. This article examines the theoretical basis for using collaborative online learning techniques to teach library and information (LIS) students. It provides examples from a newly-designed three-course online Competitive Intelligence and Knowledge Management (CI/KM) concentration to demonstrate that the online environment is well suited for developing collaboration and knowledge-sharing skills and to illustrate how a number of collaborative techniques can be used in a real online class to develop a sense of community among students. The examples indicate that collaboration and knowledge sharing, while not always easy to achieve, are fostered in the online learning environment and that students become more comfortable with collaborative techniques over time. The article also presents a framework for online course design that maximizes the benefits of collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Keywords: Collaborative learning, knowledge management, group work, learning techniques, library and information science education, course evaluation


Impact of Video Tutorials in an Online Educational Statistics Course
Thomas A. DeVaney

This research describes the evaluation of video tutorials used in a graduate level online statistics course. The evaluation focused on attitudes toward the tutorials and differences in academic performance between online sections that used the tutorials and those that did not. Attitude results were based on 78 students who completed an online survey and indicated positive perceptions of the tutorials. The quantitative findings were supported by narrative comments that suggested the tutorials were an effective component of the course. However, comparisons of sections with and without access to the tutorials showed no statistically significant difference with respect to academic performance. These results suggest that video presentations used as supplemental materials may provide instructional designers with a tool to create online courses that are as effective as traditional face-to-face courses.

Keywords : Virtual learning, Higher Education, Instructional Design, Attitude, Achievement


Perceptions of Interactions in Online Courses
Doreen Gosmire, Marcia Morrison, and Joanne Van Osdel

This study examined the use of synchronous video chat, Elluminate Live™ in online graduate courses. Four types of instructor interaction with students in online courses were compared. The methods included interaction with the instructor only asynchronously, instructor asynchronously plus a reader, instructor asynchronously plus synchronously through Elluminate Live™, and Instructor asynchronously, reader, and Elluminate Live™. One hundred fifty-one graduate students who took online courses in Educational Administration during the spring of 2009 were invited to participate in a twenty-one item online survey developed by the researchers regarding interaction in online courses. Graduate students in online courses in this study perceive the learner-to-content interaction, learner-to-learner interaction, learner-to-instructor interaction in the courses they take positively. When examining learner-to-content interaction this study found that females perceive the interaction significantly more favorably than their male colleagues. Interaction with the instructor was the one area in this study that received a lower level of agreement compared to responses to other survey items. Graduate students in online courses perceive the use of Elluminate Live™ more positively than that of a reader and the instructor synchronously.

Keywords: Instructor Feedback in Online courses; Synchronous Video Chat


The Impact of a Web-based Homework Tool in University Algebra Courses on Student Learning and Strategies
Angela Hodge, Jennifer C. Richardson, and Cindy S.York

This study investigated students’ motivation and perceptions of learning in relation to the use of a web-based homework tool in one College Algebra course. While several studies have been conducted examining web-based homework, few have moved beyond the examination of “equivalency” of the methods. A quantitative research design, specifically a survey design, was employed. Research questions examined (1) if student backgrounds or prior experiences impacted their perceptions of the use of web-based homework tool affecting their learning, and (2) if the web-based homework tool influenced students’ learning strategies or motivation to complete their homework. The results suggest that students were motivated to complete more homework using the web-based tool than with traditional paper-based methods. Additionally, about one-third of the students surveyed felt that the web-based homework did increase their mathematical understanding more so than with traditional paper-based methods. Moreover, students who felt more motivated to complete their homework using the web-based system “were also more likely to acknowledge the need for help and seek out assistance from others.” Implications for the implementation of web-based homework systems are discussed.

Keywords: online learning, homework, mathematics, students' perceptions, motivation, college algebra, web-based homework


An Online Math Problem Solving System for Middle School Students Who are Blind
Carole R. Beal and Erin Shaw

There has been growing interest in designing online learning systems that are accessible to learners with special needs. In this project, an existing online math word problem solving system was modified for use by blind students. Text-to-speech technology was used to present math word problems in audio format, and to provide audio feedback to students about their answers. The adapted system was evaluated with blind middle school students (N = 11). Results indicated that blind students’ problem solving was comparable to that of sighted students who had worked with the original system.

Keywords : Visual impairment, Special education, Mathematics education, Online learning, Middle school students


Exploring the Potential and Perceptions of Social Networking Systems in University Courses
John D. Ophus and Jason T. Abbitt

This project sought to determine the feasibility of using a social networking site, specifically Facebook ®, as a study aide for a biology content course for elementary education majors at a comprehensive Midwestern university. One hundred and ten students were surveyed as to their current social network usage and their possible use of such sites in an educational setting. While initial survey results proved favorable, there were considerable comments regarding aspects of privacy, and possible distractions using such social networking sites for “school work”.

Keywords: Facebook®, Higher Education, Technology Integration


An Application of Contemporary Learning Theory to Online Course Textbook Selection
Gregory Mostyn

For most online classes, textbooks and printed materials remain the primary and preferred source of content. In a post-secondary environment of severe budget constraints, the application of contemporary learning theory to textbook selection and instructor-developed materials is an opportunity to improve online learning outcomes while simultaneously containing institutional and student costs. This may be particularly useful at the community college level, where the majority of online classes are offered and student backgrounds are most diverse. This article reviews the background of contemporary learning theory and shows how it can be applied to capitalize on the opportunity presented.

Keywords: online education, textbook selection, cognitive load theory, textbook cost, community college, instructional design cost, basic accounting education


Assessing English language Student-Teachers’ contributions to on-line discussion forums: Is self-evaluation reporting worth reporting?
Phillip A. Towndrow

This paper presents the outcomes of the author’s explorations into the use of self-evaluation report writing as a means of assessing student-teachers’ contributions to online discussion forums. As part of the requirements for a Bachelor’s degree in education, two groups of student-teachers, one in 2006 and the other in 2007, took in an elective module where partial credit was given for writing two self-evaluation reports (one formative, one summative) based on their online learning experiences. The evidence presented shows the pragmatic and pedagogic benefits of self-assessment especially in terms of allowing student-teachers the time and space to describe their work in detail, reflect on its significance and devise future plans of action both within and beyond the course of study. The paper also draws attention to the potentially negative aspects in self-assessment of making oneself identifiable and knowable. In conclusion, the paper notes that teachers and students require a prior understanding of the ideological, moral and theoretical underpinnings of self-assessment practices if they are to be used productively in the search for pedagogic solutions to issues surrounding the design, implementation and assessment of challenging, open-ended tasks in online learning environments.

Keywords : Student-teacher education, self-evaluation reports, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), formative and summative assessment, collaboration, authenticity, disciplinary power


Connecting Students Globally Through Video-Conference Pedagogy
Alyssa J. O’Brien and Christine L. Alfano

This case study from Stanford University’s Cross-Cultural Rhetoric Project discusses innovative teaching methods used to meet new institutional mandates for global learning and internationalization. Through designing and building Marratech-software enabled video-conference collaboration stations that can connect classes across five continents, the project learned best practices for implementation of global e-Learning at the university level.

Keywords: global learning, video-conference, pedagogical design, innovative technology in teaching, Marratech


The Benefits of Face-to-Face Interaction in the Online Freshman Composition Course
Samuel B Howard

This article recommends that instructors of online freshman composition courses incorporate actual or simulated face-to-face meetings and one-on-one conferences into their curriculums in order to improve the sense of community in the online classroom, mitigate issues with accountability, encourage exploratory discussion, engage diverse learning styles, improve student-instructor interaction, and increase their efficiency as an instructor. With the support of literature, this article claims that the intrinsic learning opportunities and benefits of face-to-face interaction in dealing with freshman composition students outweigh the inherent inconveniences that live or synchronous online features may cause.

Keywords : face-to-face, retention, composition, synchronous communication, community, accountability, exploratory learning, efficiency


Are College Students Prepared for a Technology-Rich Learning Environment
Victoria Ratliff

The majority of today’s college students have grown up in a world immersed in technology – computers, electronic media, cell phones and more. Due to this, educators often expect students to have the technology skills needed to perform in an academic environment. Unfortunately, this is often a misconception. This article reviews the technology readiness of students at a rural community college located in the Southeastern region of the United States, and suggests that it is a responsibility of higher education to assess the skills of incoming students before expecting them to perform in a technology-rich learning environment.

Key Words: Readiness, Technology, Learning Environment, Community College, Student Success


The Narrative Case Study Meets Hypertext: Case Studies in the Digital Age
Meghan Griffin

While English departments address the modern student as “wreader,” hypertext learning reaches beyond the humanities. Extending work done in composition studies, business programs are focusing on digital learning strategies. The case study has been a standard learning tool for business students since Harvard introduced case studies in the 1920s. The Yale School of Management is now pioneering the digital (or “raw”) case method through its MBA program to present case study information in hyperlinked, nonlinear, multimedia formats. 

This paper analyzes the current move in business school pedagogy from the traditional case study method to digital cases. It discusses the impacts of digital case studies and the differences between moving traditional "cooked" cases online versus providing truly "raw" case data that is open-ended and allows for multiple solutions. As seen in examples from the Yale School of Management's publicly available digital cases, digital case pedagogy allows business programs to adopt methods privileged in composition: de-centering the professor, encouraging participation, and equalizing difference by privileging associational thinking. More than just a useful tool to engage millennial students, the digital case, in its privileging of multiple narratives and linked information, acts as a catalyst for new ways of approaching business.   

Keywords : case study, business, e-learning, multi-literacies, gender, raw case, digital pedagogy


Promoting Online Collaborative Social Learning Communities with Student Response Systems
Kathleen Klein

Considering the versatility and pedagogical potential of student response systems (SRSs), this article outlines compelling reasons why student response system (SRS) use may provide one solution for transforming the passive and isolated online learning environment experienced by many students. SRS use combined with sound pedagogical practices can create an active learning environment comprised of a collaborative social learning community capable of effectively meeting varied learning needs. Newly developed SRSs have created the opportunity to explore online SRS use. Incorporation of SRS use within behaviorism, social constructivism, and many other pedagogical approaches makes it a tool worthy of consideration in solving pedagogical dilemmas and creating a positive learning experience. Despite a lack of research related to online SRS use, this article utilizes current SRS and online polling research and information to determine the primary benefits and challenges associated with online SRS use. This article provides information regarding the pedagogical possibilities of SRS use for teachers who incorporate SRSs in online learning environments.

Keywords : clickers, online polling, online learning environment, behaviorism, social constructivism, active learning, student engagement, peer instruction, classroom communication system, TurningPoint


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Last Modified : 2009/12/15