Volume 12, Number 2, Summer 2013
When to Talk, When to Chat: Student Interactions in Live Virtual Classrooms
This study explores students’ choices of verbal and text interaction in a synchronous Live Virtual Classroom (LVC) environment that mixed onsite and online learners. Data were collected from analysis of recorded LVC sessions and post-course interviews with students in two different offerings of a graduate instructional design course that used Adobe Connect as a live virtual classroom. Students could choose whether to participate onsite in a computer classroom or “live” online using Connect. Over the course of both semesters students increasingly chose to participate online and, overall, students chose to participate online (57%) more than onsite (43%). However, some students—especially international students—preferred to participate onsite even though it was less convenient and also meant that they were more likely to be “called on” for verbal responses. Analysis of LVC recordings and post-course interviews showed that text interaction in which students asked questions or made comments in the LVC chat box during the instructor’s lectures was a preferred mode of interaction for students when they were participating both online and onsite. The emergent pedagogical strategy of integrated text interaction during lecture suggests a benefit of synchronous online learning.
Factorial Validity and Reliability of the Sense of Community in Online Courses Scale
The alarmingly high rate of attrition in online courses results in many negative consequences for students, faculty, online institutions, and for society as a whole. One reason theorized for this attrition is a lack of a sense of community in online courses; however, there is much theoretical and empirical debate on what factors contribute to that sense of community. Therefore, in this article, we present a revised version of the Sense of Community in Online Courses Scale, which has 4 components and 16 items, and we provide evidence that the scale is reliable and has factorial validity. We also use structural equation modeling to examine the relationships among the components. It is our hope that this scale will be beneficial to researchers of online learning and to instructors of online courses interested in improving the sense of community, and reducing attrition, in their courses.
Applying Neurological Learning Research to an Online Undergraduate Science Laboratory Course
Neurological research has demonstrated that pre-test verbal preparation improves performance. The well-tested Tower of London puzzle can assess cognitive skills of a wide age range of participants. Preschoolers who talked to themselves about future puzzle moves had greatly improved Tower of London performance over those without such preparation. For adults, similar results are found with more neural activation in higher brain areas. We previously demonstrated the benefit of verbal preparation on daily quiz scores in an introductory astronomy lecture course. Two separate classes were taught, one including students discussing a pre-test verbal multiple choice question and the other not. In the lecture course, the interactive group performed 23% better on their final exam than the conventional group, likely due in part to the neurological language learning process that occurred during discussions. In the present study, for an online astronomy laboratory course, we present the effect on final exams of discursively answering pre-test learning objective questions. The discursive group scored significantly better (12% higher) than the class without such preparation. These findings are consistent with neuroscientific research on the usefulness of language in improving performance even on non-linguistic tasks.