MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching

Vol. 8, No. 2, June 2012

Abstracts of Papers in This Issue

The Role of Students' Professional Experience in Online Learning: Analysis of Asynchronous Participation
Edgard B. Cornacchione, Jr., Oenardi Lawanto, Rod P. Githens, and Scott D. Johnson

This paper reports on a causal-comparative study that investigated potential differences in students' participation in asynchronous online learning environments according to their professional experience. In the study, 893 messages from 77 students in an online master's program in human resource development (HRD) at a large U.S. university were analyzed. The research shed light on an important component of online education by illuminating ways in which novices and experienced students tend to relate to each other, the instructor, and the content of specific topics. Findings show evidence of both novices and experienced students using this medium in a very similar way when dealing with asynchronous tools. Discussion and recommendations are presented.

Keywords: experts, novices, distance education, asynchronous discussion board, online graduate program


Ethnicity, Gender, and Perceptions of Online Learning in Higher Education
Carol Y. Ashong and Nannette E. Commander

This paper reports on a quantitative study that investigated the impact of ethnicity and gender on perceptions of online learning. Specifically, the study examined African-American students' perceptions of online learning as compared to those of their White-American counterparts. Participants completed a survey that investigated nine different elements of the online learning environment: Computer Usage, Teacher Support, Student Interaction and Collaboration, Personal Relevance, Authentic Learning, Student Autonomy, Equity, Enjoyment, and Asynchronicity. African-American and White students had overall positive views of online learning, but African-Americans reported significantly less positive views regarding the feature of asynchronicity. Females had more positive perceptions than males on Teacher Support, Student Interaction and Collaboration, Personal Relevance, Authentic Learning, and Student Autonomy. The findings of this study indicate that gender and ethnicity independently influence students' perceptions of online learning.

Keywords: African-American students, gender, higher education, collaborative learning, prior online experience, student perceptions, Online Learning Environment Survey (OLES)


Student as Avatar: A Study of Informational Preferences in a Virtual World Class
Mark Mabrito

There is a growing interest among educators in exploring multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) such as Second Life as platforms for distance learning and other applications. Yet, the notion that virtual worlds also provide an opportunity for writing instructors to teach about multimodal texts and new media literacies is an area that has received less attention. This study examined the informational preferences of avatars (students) who were members of a class that met online in the virtual world of Second Life. Specifically, the purpose was to assess avatars’ informational preferences from among three different media: print articles, machinima, and direct exploration within Second Life while enrolled in a course studying virtual worlds. It was found that avatars expressed a greater preference for information gathered from machinima and information gathered firsthand from Second Life than print-based information. However, over time, they expressed a greater preference for information drawn directly from Second Life. Their subsequent discussions about the information varied in specificity, depending on the medium they were referencing.

Keywords: virtual worlds, multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs), avatars, Second Life, informational preferences, new media literacies


Blended Learning for Academic Resilience in Times of Disaster or Crisis
Julie Mackey, Fiona Gilmore, Nicki Dabner, Des Breeze, and Philippa Buckley

Blended learning can provide academic resilience in times of natural disaster, civil emergency, and crisis. While blended pedagogies are widely used in tertiary settings, very little has been written about the role of blended learning in times of crisis, or the pedagogical challenges of rapid course redesign to mitigate disruptive circumstances. This case study describes the immediate post-earthquake challenges of redesigning courses using different blends of face-to-face and online activities to meet the needs of on-campus, regional campus, and distance pre-service teacher education students. The research question asked, "What can be learned from the experiences of academic staff directly involved in the adaptation and redesign of blended courses in a time of disaster?" This descriptive case study employed quick-response research strategies to gather time-sensitive data while it was fresh in the minds of the participants. This article discusses key findings and concludes with recommendations to assist program and course leaders to prepare in advance for resilient blended learning in times of natural disaster, crisis, and emergency.

Keywords: blended learning, disaster planning, emergency response


Systematic Development of Evidence-Based Faculty and Student Medication Calculation Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes through Asynchronous Electronic Media
Linda J. Porter-Wenzlaff, Janis N. Rice, and Lisa M. Sievers

In response to the Institute of Medicine's focus on adverse events, fatal medication errors, and Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN) competencies, best educational practices and current technology were applied within a knowledge translation model to embed a single consistent, evidence-supported medication calculation process, dimensional analysis (DA), across the undergraduate nursing curriculum at the authors' institution. Rosswurm and Larrabee's (1999) conceptual model for change to evidence-based practice guided the implementation process. Beginning in May 2010, four self-paced online DA modules developed on Sonic Foundry's Mediasite webcasting platform using a problem-based format were incorporated into a continuing education packet to build foundational faculty competency and teaching consistency, and to serve as a basis for classroom education and ongoing student remediation. Impact surveys were conducted April 2011 following three semesters of use. Consistent application and reinforcement of the DA strategy has resulted in student and faculty reports of greater student calculation competency and confidence, which will potentially translate into increased patient safety in practice.

Keywords: dimensional analysis, nursing education, Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN), Sonic Foundry, web-based learning modules, knowledge translation model, system competency, culture of safety


Creativity and Wikis: Partnering Virtual Teams, Technology, and Social Work Education
Patricia Coccoma, Cheryl A. Peppers, and Jane K. Molhoek

The use of the Internet and the World Wide Web in higher education curricula has given rise to both challenges and opportunities for students and universities. Today's students face competing work, family, and study demands, and the ability to attend classes online in an asynchronous manner is a major advantage for many of them. At the same time, universities often have limited classroom space and other campus-based facilities, and are finding it prudent to invest their resources in the provision of online and blended courses. This paper describes a social work curriculum adapting, in part, to these needs by offering a core course in an online learning environment, with course topics being presented and course objectives fulfilled through collaborative teamwork assignments making use of wikis. Each team's wiki assignment was subject to peer evaluation by other students in the course. Both quantitative assessment results as well as qualitative evaluation data were collected and analyzed, and they reflect the benefits and limitations of the activity in terms of the attainment of the targeted course objectives.

Keywords: social work education, wikis, virtual teams, collaborative online learning, Web 2.0, peer assessment


Toward a Better Experience: Examining Student Needs in the Online Classroom through Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Model
Karen L. Milheim

Current research continues to support the notion that students participating in online courses experience dissatisfaction for a number of reasons. Instructors carry on their search for ways to enhance learning and increase levels of satisfaction with respect to all aspects of the online classroom experience. This paper focuses specifically on students in the online classroom, and how to attend to their needs in an effort to foster a more satisfying learning experience. Using Maslow's hierarchy of needs model as a conceptual framework, the paper examines how student needs can be addressed at various levels in online courses, from basic needs to the ultimate goal of self-actualization. Based on this analysis, recommendations are discussed in the way of strategies and tools that can be used to positively affect the online student experience.

Keywords: online learning, distance education, student needs, student satisfaction, teaching strategies


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