Volume 3, Issue 2, Fall 2004
Peer Teaching in Web Based Threaded Discussions
This study is, as an inquiry into the effectiveness of discussion leadership taxonomy, designed to help online discussion leaders support and facilitate discussions conducted by undergraduates. Participants were approximately two hundred preservice undergraduate students taking an Introduction to Educational Technology course. Each week students had access to online lectures and text materials, and participated in Web-based topical discussions. Data for this study came from open-ended interviews conducted with thirty-seven volunteer participants, and from all discussion posts. Analysis of the data showed that while some students had difficulty assuming the role of discussion leader, many felt that it was a stimulating challenge. The Tips for Online Leaders proved to be useful in promoting learning and provided discussion leaders with a variety of support strategies. While some students were resistant to Web-based learning, all students found that the discussions helped in learning the assigned material. Finally, the students were able to expand their own knowledge by observing the multiple perspectives presented by other students.
Influence of Personality on Online Discussion
Online collaborative learning has typically been studied within the context of learning communities. Little is known about the potential influence of students’ personalities on online communication, group interaction, and task engagement among members of a learning community. This study used a mixed-method, triangulation design, involving the collection and analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data, to investigate the effects of personality on communication type and pattern, message length, task engagement, and student attitude toward online learning. Seventy students were organized into four personality-profile groups based on their Five Factor Personality Test scores, for the discussion of assigned case studies. Discussion messages were analyzed using Logistical Regressions for communication type and pattern, ANOVAs for message length, and Z-tests for pairwise comparisons for task engagement. The results indicate that personality affects communication type, pattern and task engagement but not message length. Students’ attitudes toward online discussion were generally positive. The results provide guidelines for forming groups and designing activities for online collaborative learning.
Taking it Online – The Effects of Delivery Medium and Facilitator on Student Achievement in Problem-based Learning
This study compares the effects of delivery medium (online vs. face-to-face) and facilitator content expertise on academic outcomes in a problem-based learning (PBL) course in anatomy for pre-health/medical majors. The content of online PBL sessions was examined to gain insight into the problem-solving process taking place in these situations. Neither the delivery medium nor the facilitator’s content expertise had any statistically significant impact on students’ quiz performance. Although students initiated most of the questions during online PBL sessions, the majority of these questions were at the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and focused primarily on gathering information about the cases.
The Design and Development of an Online, Case-based Course in a Teacher Preparation Program
The goals of this study were to: 1) design a web-based course using WebCT for future secondary school teachers at the University of Texas Pan American, 2) evaluate the effectiveness of the course, and 3) provide a set of guidelines for designing web-based courses for other teacher educators. The participants in this study consisted of junior- and senior-level students enrolled in a secondary, teacher education program at the University of Texas Pan American. There were 17 participants, 71% were female and 29% were male. All of the participants fit at least one of the characteristics of a “nontraditional” student. All of them were married, employed full-time, over the age of 30 and 63% had one or more children. Participants completed a pretest prior to instruction and a posttest following instruction to measure achievement gains. The study was divided into two phases; participants completed a pretest and a posttest for phase I and phase II. A t-test for dependent samples was used to determine if the mean scores on the posttest were significantly higher than the mean score on the pretest for phases I and II. The results of the t-test for phase I indicated that students scored significantly higher on the posttest (M = 74.63) than on the pretest (M = 57.72; t=5.56, p = .05). In phase II, students scored higher on the posttest (M = 80.21) than on the pretest (M = 76.84); however this difference was not statistically significant. Overall, the results indicated that the course was effective. The study concludes with a set of recommendations for designing/teaching an online course for teacher educators.
WebQuests in Social Studies Education
WebQuests provide the opportunity to combine technology with educational concepts and to incorporate inquiry-based learning. WebQuests also have the ability to integrate on-line resources with student-centered, activity-based learning. Three courses in the College of Education at The University of Alabama and at West Virginia University incorporate WebQuests projects, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students develop an online WebQuest and submit a paper copy and/or a URL to their instructor upon completion of the course. During an academic year, three professors in social studies graduate education received over 50 submissions of WebQuests projects from pre-service and in-service teachers enrolled in three courses. The grading rubric was developed by Bernie Dodge, the creator of WebQuests, but modified at The University of Alabama yielding a high rate of reliability (93.3%). This project assessed scores of WebQuests using this grading rubric in three separate classrooms. Comparisons between elementary and secondary level students, Filamentality users, and certified and non-certified teachers were analyzed for significance. The students had already received a grade for their projects through the academic class, but a separate grading system was developed to evaluate these projects and to provide insight into future research using WebQuests.
Gender and Learning Strategy Differences in Nontraditional Adult Students' Design Preferences in Hybrid Distance Courses
This study describes instructional design elements most valued by nontraditional adult learners in hybrid learning environments that combine limited face-to-face contact with online learning and collaboration. It identifies the online course features and instructional goals selected as most important by a sample of 67 adults. It then compares this group’s rankings with those of subgroups based on gender and preferred learning strategies as measured by the Assessing the Learning Strategies of Adults (ATLAS) test. The results of the study support the application of principles of adult learning in developing online environments for adults, identify some differences in learning emphasis by gender and preferred learning strategies, and underscore the importance of providing a variety of learning options in adult learning environments with an online component.