Volume 6, Issue 1, Spring 2007

Frequency and Time Investment of Instructors’ Participation in Threaded Discussions in the Online Classroom

B. Jean Mandernach
Amber Dailey-Hebert
Emily Donnelli-Sallee
Park University


The movement into online education has raised concerns about the workload demands placed on faculty teaching online classes. Research indicates that faculty report a greater time investment for online classes than for equivalent face-to-face courses; concerns about time investment are compounded with the considerable ambiguity surrounding the perceived availability of faculty teaching in a 24/7 online environment. The continuous, open nature of the virtual classroom raises a host of questions surrounding the frequency of instructor interaction, timing of interactions, and an instructor’s availability to students. One of the most popular and pedagogically effective forms of virtual classroom interaction is via threaded discussions. The purpose of the current study was to examine frequency and time investment of an online instructor’s participation in course-specific threaded discussions in order to provide a more accurate picture of the faculty investment in the ongoing facilitation of an online course, independent of course development. Results indicated considerable variability in both frequency and time investment of threaded discussion participation. While research indicates the threaded discussions are a very effective means of promoting active involvement with course materials, it appears as though there is little consistency among experienced online instructors as to the instructional investment required to take advantage of the educational gains available through this type of electronically-mediated instruction.

Administering Defining Issues Test Online: Do Response Modes Matter?

Yuejin Xu
Tarleton State University – Central Texas

Asghar Iran-Nejad and Stephen J. Thoma
The University of Alabama


The purpose of the study was to determine comparability of an online version to the original paper-pencil version of Defining Issues Test 2 (DIT2). This study employed methods from both Classical Test Theory (CTT) and Item Response Theory (IRT). Findings from CTT analyses supported the reliability and discriminant validity of both versions. Findings from IRT analyses confirmed that that both versions had comparable power of test-of-fit to the Rasch model. However, IRT analyses found that there were some variations in item difficulties and the patterns of item functions between the two versions. The study also tested the prediction that students’ satisfaction of DIT2-taking experience was equal across the two survey response modes, indicating that the online version of DIT2 was comparable to the paper-pencil version in terms of ease of use.

A Conceptual Model for Understanding Self-Directed Learning in Online Environments

Liyan Song
Towson University

Janette R. Hill
The University of Georgia


Research indicates that online learning often situates control of implementation with the learner. Recently, scholars have turned attention to the importance of self-directed learning (SDL) skills for online learning environments. Existing frameworks for understanding SDL focus primarily on process and personal attributes in face-to-face settings. Some frameworks depict SDL as a process, focusing on learner autonomy in the learning processes; other frameworks emphasize personal attributes, focusing on learner’s capabilities of regulating the learning process. Yet, the level of self-direction needed may change in different contexts. The purpose of this paper is to introduce a research-based framework for understanding SDL in online learning contexts. Implications for future research and practice are provided at the end of the paper.

On-line tutoring for Math Achievement Testing: A Controlled Evaluation

Carole R. Beal
University of Southern California

Rena Walles
Ivon Arroyo
Beverly P. Woolf
University of Massachusetts-Amherst


We report the results of a controlled evaluation of an interactive on-line tutoring system for high school math achievement test problem solving. High school students (N = 202) completed a math pre-test and were then assigned by teachers to receive interactive on-line multimedia tutoring or their regular classroom instruction. The on-line tutored students improved on the post-test, but the effect was limited to problems involving skills tutored in the on-line system (within-group control). Control group students showed no improvement. Students’ use of interactive multimedia hints predicted pre- to post-test improvement, and benefits of tutoring were greatest for students with weakest initial math skills.

Animated Agents Teaching Helping Skills in an Online Environment: A Pilot Study

Molly H. Duggan
Amy B. Adcock
Old Dominion University


Human service educators constantly struggle with how to best teach students the communication skills required of entry-level human service professionals. While teaching such skills is easier in a traditional face-to-face environment, teaching communication skills via distance learning presents its own challenges. Developing interactive web-based learning environments to teach helping skills may solve this dilemma. This article describes a pilot study of three web-based environments. The interactive environment assigns learners to serve as helpers while an animated agent portrays a client. A modeling environment has participants observing a client-helper interaction between two agents. The helper-client script environment presents a text-based script. Data collected to assess skill acquisition and usability indicate improvement in skills and positive user perceptions in all three environments.

Instructional Design Strategies for Intensive Online Courses: An Objectivist-Constructivist Blended Approach

Sue-Jen Chen
University of North Carolina Wilmington


Due to the time constraints of intensive online courses, instructional design strategies should be modified in order to retain the quality of learning without reducing the quantity of the course content. This paper presents how a blended approach combining objectivist and constructivist instructional strategies was used in the design of an intensive summer online course in the context of a support-based online learning environment. The implementation results revealed that students had a positive learning experience in the course and were highly satisfied with their learning outcomes.

Go to top