MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching

Vol. 8, No. 1, March 2012

Abstracts of Papers in This Issue

Faculty-Perceived Barriers of Online Education
Steven A. Lloyd, Michelle M. Byrne, and Tami S. McCoy

At institutions of higher learning, there is an increased demand and need for online courses. However, the number of faculty developing and teaching these courses does not match the growth in online education. The purpose of this study was to determine the perceived barriers to online teaching experienced by various faculty groups at a public institution located in the southeastern United States using a new survey instrument, which was developed from recent research findings. This study sought to identify the most prevalent barriers to online instruction for the faculty group surveyed. In addition, these findings may identify prevalent barriers for faculty groups in an effort to inform administrative decisions concerning policy, training, and compensation as well as to facilitate involvement for specific types of online instruction for faculty development. A number of novel and important differences were found in the perceived barriers that exist between faculty groups on four constructs identified through an exploratory factor analysis. The factors found were: (1) interpersonal barriers; (2) institutional barriers; (3) training and technology barriers; and (4) cost/benefit analysis barriers. The results of this study may be of use to other institutions as they develop online instruction training programs.

Keywords: online education, instructional technology, perceived barriers, survey research, online faculty


The Effect of Time Online on Grades in Online Sociology Courses
Igor Ryabov

Throughout the past decade, web-based teaching and learning have experienced tremendous growth. Yet, research aimed at evaluating determinants of student learning outcomes in online courses is lagging behind. The majority of studies of online student participation have focused on the use of discussion board or other common communication areas. Little attention has been paid to the role time spent online plays in affecting academic performance of college students. The objective of this study was to estimate the relative importance of time spent online, prior grades, and demographic characteristics of students in terms of their academic performance in online sociology courses. Using a multinomial logistic model, the current study examined the odds of attaining one grade versus another depending on the amount of effort and controlling for gender, major, and year in school. Results suggest that among the effects examined in the study, time spent online and previous achievement matter the most.

Keywords: study time, online learning, student achievement, sociology, multinomial logistic regression


An Online Odyssey: A Case Study of Creating and Delivering an Online Writing Course for Undergraduate Students
Jill A. Singleton-Jackson and Julia A. Colella

Online courses continue to become increasingly prevalent in higher education. The relationship between computers and writing is natural, as computers are now the primary tool for producing writing. The purpose of this case-study paper is to report on the design, development, and delivery of an online course that was created in response to the identification of a need for effective and efficient delivery of writing instruction to large numbers of university students. The paper describes an online academic writing course that evolved from an elective course enrolling 150 students to a required course enrolling over 2,000 arts and social sciences and engineering students at a mid-sized Canadian university. An account of the history of the course is included, along with discussion regarding institutional and student resistance to the course, technological challenges, use of peer review, cheating, course problems, and course successes. Course effectiveness data are also presented. Suggestions are offered for instructors wishing to create similar online writing courses.

Keywords: online writing instruction, academic writing skills, teaching with technology, student peer review, peer assessment


Enhancing the Acquisition of Research Skills in Online Doctoral Programs: The Ewing Model©
Helen Ewing, Kathleen Mathieson, Jeffrey L. Alexander, and Joan Leafman

Failure to complete a dissertation or other required research project is a major factor contributing to doctoral program attrition. The challenges of planning and carrying out a research project are daunting for many traditional students and may be increased for students in part-time, predominantly online doctoral programs. This paper describes the Ewing Model© developed and implemented in the Doctor of Health Sciences program at A.T. Still University. The Model is characterized by a highly structured, sequential curriculum; intense facilitation and dialogue; collaborative learning within a cohort model; and performance-based assessment of core research competencies. The Ewing Model benefits students and the University by ensuring that students gain important research competencies and by contributing to high program completion and low attrition rates. Challenges of implementing the Model include addressing students' inexperience with research and scholarly writing, adhering to research ethics, assisting students with defining a manageable project, and navigating a three-person internal/external committee. Preliminary results of the Model have been positive, with a current graduation rate of 73% and positive student feedback regarding the structure and design of the Model.

Keywords: doctoral dissertation, research training, distance education, online learning, degree completion rates


Implementing Learning-Oriented Assessment in an eTwinning Online Course for Greek Teachers
Angelos Konstantinidis

The Hellenic National Support Service for eTwinning provides short, intensive online courses for Greek teachers. (eTwinning is a flexible scheme that enables schools in Europe to work together on collaborative pedagogical projects using information and communication technologies.) This paper discusses the design and implementation of such a course to reflect a learning-oriented assessment (LOA) approach to teaching and learning. The aim of LOA is to strengthen the learning aspects of assessment, and it is premised on the ideas that assessment tasks should be designed as learning tasks, that students should be involved in the assessment process, and that feedback should be forward looking. Evaluation results attest to the effectiveness of the course in terms of its pedagogical design and implementation, and to the significance of the learning experience for participants. The results suggest that LOA is a promising pedagogical approach in online learning contexts for adult learners. The paper concludes with a discussion of the challenges in the implementation of LOA and the barriers to its wider acceptance, with suggestions made for future research.

Keywords: teacher professional development, e-learning, course design, assessment for learning, collaborative pedagogical school projects


Mass Effect: A Chemical Engineering Education Application of Virtual Reality Simulator Technology
Damian Schofield

Advanced three-dimensional (3D) virtual reality (VR) technology similar to that used by the film and computer game industries can allow educational developers to rapidly create realistic online virtual environments. This technology has been used to generate a range of online VR-based learning environments across a broad spectrum of industries and educational application areas. This idea is not new; flight simulators have been used for decades to train pilots for both commercial and military aviation. There are a number of lessons that can be learned from the industries that have successfully utilized virtual training and learning systems. Generic rules of thumb regarding the specification, development, application, and operation of these learning environments can be garnered from these industrial training systems and examined in an educational context. In this paper, an online VR-based system developed by the author, ViRILE (Virtual Reality Interactive Learning Environment), is introduced. This software is designed for use by undergraduate chemical engineers and simulates the configuration and operation of a polymerization plant. During the implementation of this and other visual learning environments, a number of complex operational problems were encountered that have required a number of innovative solutions and management procedures to be developed. The implementation of this and other similar systems is also discussed in this paper, and the lessons learned are extrapolated into general pedagogical guidelines to be considered for the development of VR-based online educational learning resources.

Keywords: virtual reality, simulation, chemical engineering education, learning technology, training, guidelines


Enhancing Online Finance Education for Non-Financial Managers
Kim B. Brannagan

Many nurse executives and managers have had to learn financial management skills, including planning, controlling, implementing, and analyzing departmental budgets, on the job. In today's healthcare environment, organizations are becoming aware of the value of hiring nurse executives who can speak the financial language and employ financial skills to operate their areas. As more and more nurses are pursuing advanced degrees online, schools of nursing face an imperative to find effective ways of helping students achieve program competencies related to finance in an online environment. Cognitive apprenticeship, as a framework for teaching and learning, facilitates rapid acquisition of knowledge of essential concepts and skills needed to meet such competencies in an online, graduate-level finance course, including the use of spreadsheet software. The application of cognitive apprenticeship provides faculty with seven strategies to facilitate higher-level thinking skills: modeling, coaching, scaffolding, fading, articulation and reflection, and exploration (promoting transfer of learning).

Keywords: online education, finance education, nursing management, online modeling, cognitive apprenticeship


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