Volume 6, Issue 3, Winter 2007

Communication Channels and the Adoption of Web-based Courses by University Professors

Scott Reid
University of Ottawa


This qualitative study examines the structure and importance of communication channels in the adoption of Web-based courses by university professors. This study provides insight into the importance of informal communication among peers, the changing nature of communication networks, factors that impede communication, the role of change agents in facilitating communication channels, and the changing concept of “proximity” which is being developed in the context of increased use of information and communication technology. By offering insight into the communication channels of these adopters, valuable information is gained into possible strategies for encouraging adoption of Web-based courses.

Online vs. Traditional Course Evaluation Formats: Student Perceptions

Judy Donovan
Indiana University Northwest

Cynthia Mader and John Shinsky
Grand Valley State University


The decision on whether to offer end-of-course evaluations in an electronic format or in traditional scan sheet format generates conflicting viewpoints. From an expediency perspective, offering evaluations online saves time and money and returns the results to faculty more quickly. From a student point of view, concerns involve convenience and anonymity. This study examines the issue from the student viewpoint to identify opposition, support, concerns, and preferences for each format. An analysis of the results reports commonalities and differences in responses based on variables such as gender, experience with online evaluations, and program level. Analysis also draws conclusions about improving the use of end-of-course evaluations.

Studying the Effectiveness of the Discussion Forum in Online Professional Development Courses

Susan Lowes
Peiyi Lin
Yan Wang
Teachers College/Columbia University


As online professional development courses for teachers have grown, the discussion forum has become a locus of considerable research. This study analyzes the discussion forums in four different sessions of a short (4-week) online course for teachers from six schools in three states. This study also compares four methodologies, all of which have a visualization component: an analysis of data from the CMS; network analysis; content analysis; and sequential analysis. In addition, this study describes the insights into the effectiveness of the course design and facilitation that each approach provides, correlates these with participant satisfaction, and argues for using a combination of methods when studying discussion forums in online courses.

The Value of Using Synchronous Conferencing for Instruction and Students

Michael M. Grant
Jongpil Cheon
The University of Memphis


This study examined the effectiveness of video and audio conferencing in hybrid classes. Using both quantitative and qualitative data, the technical difficulty, instructional quality, attention and distraction of location were compared. The results revealed that both conferencing types made positive impacts on instruction. However, there were significant differences between those conferencing in the perception of the technical and instructional quality. The differences were attributed to technical difficulties in the video conferencing session, but the one-to-one video conferencing not having technical problems provided similar impact on instruction to the audio conferencing. In addition to the various comparisons, this research suggests critical factors to implement successful instruction with synchronous conferencing tools.

New Levels of Student Participatory Learning: A WikiText for the Introductory Course in Education

Patrick M. O’Shea
Peter B. Baker
Dwight W. Allen
Old Dominion University

Daniel E. Curry-Corcoran
Newport News Public Schools

Douglas B. Allen
University of Denver


During the summer and fall of 2006, approximately 260 students enrolled in an educational foundations course were responsible for writing their own textbook using the Wikibooks protocol. These students were surveyed in order to determine their perceptions of the process, how the process impacted their involvement in the course and its content, and how their perceptions of the Wikibook differed from their perceptions of traditional textbooks. This research indicates that students valued the process, and were much more involved with their text than when using the traditional bound version.

Synchronous Learning Experiences: Distance and Residential Learners’ Perspectives in a Blended Graduate Course

Yun Jeong Park
Curtis J. Bonk
Indiana University


Synchronous communication has a great potential to increase individual participation and group collaboration. Despite increasing use, scant research has been conducted on variables impacting successful synchronous learning. This study focuses on learner experiences in a real-time communication mediated by the Breeze web-based collaboration system. It also combined conference mediums. Eight students, 4 residential and 4 learning at a distance, were interviewed to examine the perceived benefits and challenges of synchronous interaction. Study findings showed that learners valued spontaneous feedback, meaningful interactions, multiple perspectives, and instructors’ supports. On the other hand, time constraints, lack of reflection, language barriers, tool-related problems, and peers’ network connection problems were viewed as challenges. Due to pervasive time pressures, the synchronous interactions mainly focused on task-related issues. Nevertheless, students felt a need for connecting to others in the course and a sense of social presence. Interestingly, no differences were found between the distance and residential students in terms of learning strategies for synchronous discussions.

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