Professional Distance Education Conference Annotated Research Studies Study One: Student Interaction with Online Course Content: Build it and They Might Come Citation: Murray, M., Perez, J., Geist, D., & Hedrick, A. (2012). Student interaction with online course content: Build it and they might come. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 11, 125-140. Findings: This study investigated how students accessed their virtual classroom and whether their approach towards the virtual classroom influenced their success with the curriculum. It found that most students accessed the classroom materials they felt would be necessary to complete the assignments directly aligned with the course assessment and that student satisfaction was aligned strongly with the grade that was received. This study also found that the more a student accessed the classroom materials, the higher the grade the student received. A final conclusion, drawn from a student survey, found that time constraints were the main reason students would “prioritize resources and access only materials that are perceived to be helpful in completing assignments.” (Murray, Prez, Geist, & Hedrick, 2012, p.137) Sample: This study was performed at a regional college in the United States, with 450 students enrolled in the course. Of those students, 120 were enrolled in the online version of the classroom with 100 students successfully completing the class. The students enrolled were from a variety of majors and consisted mostly of female upper-classmen (62 of the students were female and 70 of the students were either in their junior or senior years). Methodology: This study tracked student access to classroom resources to determine if there was a relationship between successful completion of the course and the amount of time a student spent with the course content. The materials students had access to were broken into four categories: core material, direct support, indirect support, and ancillary resources. Data was derived from the school’s online Learning Management System by tracking individual student access to all the materials posted in the course. Access to a resource was counted as whether or not a student opened a resource and an access rate was determined as the percentage of the students who accessed the material. Then the researchers used this data to determine if there was a relationship between the access rate and student grades. Finally, a survey was used to analyze student perceptions of their resource access. Critique of Study: This study shows that students will access the materials they feel are necessary for successfully completing an online course, with 71% of students accessing core materials and 78.8% of students accessing direct support materials but only 29% of students accessing the ancillary materials. The study found a positive correlation between student access rates of classroom materials and their final grades. This has important implications for course designers. Online classroom environments must be created to support mastery of key concepts within the main classroom and must be reflected within the assessment of the course. In addition, courses must be designed to facilitate student interaction with the course content, as the study found the and improvement of student success as there was an increase of interaction with the content. Limitations of the study must be noted. This study did not tally the access students had with either their e-text book or the mandatory computer-based-training program. This is due to the fact that the school’s learning management system is unable to track that information. In addition, the researchers were unable to determine if students had been actively engaged with the resources when they accessed them or if they simply opened them. Finally, there was no data to track the number of times a student accessed a material. These limitations do impact the data provided; the study can’t account for the access students had to these materials and what impact they had on the successful completion of the course. Study Two: Analyzing the Effect of Learning Styles and Study Habits of Distance Learners on Learning Performance: A Case of an Introductory Programming Course Citation: Cakiroglu, U. (2014). Analyzing the Effect of Learning Styles and Study Habits of Distance Learners on Learning Performance: A Case of an Introductory Programming Course. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 15(4), 161-185. Findings: This study set out to answer the research question, “What is the relationship between learning styles, study habits, and learning performances in an online learning environment?” (Cakiroglu, 2014, p. 165). It found that if student learning styles and study habits can be matched with the teaching methods in the online classroom, that academic performance would be better served. Students with certain learning styles (described as “divergers, accommodators, convergers, and assimilators”) performed significantly better than others. For example, the divergers learn through watching, so the videos provided within the classroom delivered significant support for these students. In addition, this study found the most important study habits for students were planning and concentration. While concentration is difficult to manage through an online classroom, course design can easily take into consideration the planning of the material. Sample: This study consisted of 66 sophomore students. The students were enrolled in a Turkish facility for educators, in an online introductory computer programming course. There were 24 female and 42 male students within this study. Methodology: To answer the research question, researchers used a Learning Style Inventory, a Study Habits Inventory, and an Achievement Test. Student scores within the Learning Style Inventory and the Study Habits Inventory were analyzed against their growth in the Achievement Test (pretest/posttest) to determine if there was a correlation between how a student learns and their success in an online classroom. Students were given a pretest to determine their baseline programming skills and then were tested again upon the completion of the class. The delta score was compared to their learning style and study habits to see if certain characteristics supported the acquisition of skills. Critique of Study: This study demonstrated the need for online classrooms to diversify the materials provided to the students. Students whose learning style was supported by the materials within this course performed statistically significantly better than those whose learning styles were not matched quite so well. The study habit that was found to influence student performance the most was preparation. This is an element that is easy to incorporate within the online classroom. By providing students structure, with a course syllabus, course schedule of events, and an outline of the assignment due dates, online classrooms can provide the structure students need to organize themselves. Study Three: Using Interactive Content and Online Activities to Accommodate Diversity in a Large First Year Class Citation: Snowball, J. (2014). Using Interactive Content and Online Activities to Accommodate Diversity in a Large First Year Class. High Education, 67, 823-838. doi:10.1007/s10734-13-9708 7 Findings: This study examined the use of online content to supplement instruction provided in a traditional face-to-face classroom experience. It found that the online content was utilized by the students with positive impressions (only 20% of students responded that the online components were not helpful). It did note, however, that the online components must be “deeply integrated into the course to be effective” (Snowball, 2014, p.836) and the more interactive elements, such as self-correcting quizzes, had a greater impact on performance than passive activities. They found that providing the content through the online classroom, lectures could be better used with interactive discussions and exercises, such as in a flipped classroom. Sample: For this case study, a large freshman economics class from South Africa participated in a blended learning environment, replacing one lecture a week with online activities. Of this class, 50 students were sampled to determine which assignments were most effective at improving student performance. The students were chosen to represent each grade bracket, in proportion to the number of students within that bracket. For example, if 10% of the students received an A for the course, 5 students from the A bracket were chosen for this study. Methodology: Data was collected through course logs, which recorded the number of times a student accessed a resource and how often a student logged into the classroom. In addition, students also completed course evaluation surveys half-way through the course regarding how students felt about the online elements of the course. Data on student usage of the learning materials was analyzed to investigate the impact of the resource on the student’s final grade. Critique of Study: This study showed that certain online components supported student learning in a blended classroom. It found that the online resources were more heavily used directly before a course quiz or test and that the more interactive materials had a greater impact on student learning. The majority of the students found these online resources helpful in the successful completion of the course. This study only briefly mentioned the effects of diversity within this sample class. This course found that minority students didn’t perform as well as the Black African or white students and only quickly noted that a significant number of students responded that English wasn’t their first language. It doesn’t analyze these populations to determine if there was any cause for their underperformance (for example, they accessed the more passive materials when they logged into the class or they didn’t log in as often as the other students.) Study Four: Narratives from the Online Frontier: A K-12 Student’s Experience in an Online Learning Environment. Citation: Barbour, M., Siko, J., Sumara, J., & Simuel-Everage, K. (2012). Narratives from the Online Frontier: A K-12 Student’s Experience in an Online Learning Environment. The Qualitative Report, 17, 1-19. Findings: This case study explored the virtual classroom through the eyes of a struggling high school student. This student experienced significant difficultly in this class understanding the content presented and with technical difficulties. It found that, while the professor was seen as “flexible, accommodating, and helpful” (Barbour, Siko, Simuel-Everage, 2012, p.13) she was also difficult to reach. In addition, the student was hesitant to ask for help from classmates she didn’t personally know. The struggles this student experienced provides great insight in how online courses should be developed to best support all students. Sample: This case study followed one student, Darlene, from a rural school. Darlene was enrolled in one online class as part of her K-12 school experience. Darlene is considered a digital native, although had access to only dial-up internet. She used social networking to communicate with friends and to share her short stories and poetry. Despite her outgoing online personality, she was noted as quiet in her face-to-face classroom environment. Methodology: Researchers interviewed Darlene nineteen times about her experiences within the virtual classroom. They analyzed the discussions and categorized them into seven categories: problems, help from, technical difficulties, teacher characteristic, interaction, personal, online content. Critique of Study: This case study is limited due to its small size, but the personal element is also quite informative. It sheds light on the situations that this one student experienced as she attempted to successfully complete this online class and provides information about how to best meet the needs of the individual learner. Darlene’s comments about being too shy to ask questions from the virtual classmates illuminates the need for the online community to support students and her technical difficulties open the discussion about equity for all students. Finally, and maybe most importantly, it presents the concept that a student must become familiar with how to learn in this environment. It is vastly different from the face-to-face experience most students are comfortable with and many students will require additional support to learn how to navigate content within the online classroom. Study Five: Using Peer Feedback to Improve Learning Via Online Peer Assessment Citation: Zhi-Feng, E., & Chun-Yi, L. (2013). Using Peer Feedback to Improve Learning Via Online Peer Assessment. The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 12(1), 187-199. Findings: This study sought to understand the implication of peer feedback on student performance. It was found that, from the first assignment, peer feedback improved the quality of student work. Students adjusted their work based on the feedback of their classmates and also reworked their assignments when it was clear that classmates didn’t understand their work. These rewrites included clearer wording and more elaborate responses. All students included in this study expressed positive impressions for participation in peer feedback assignments. Sample: This study followed 12 graduate students enrolled in a Statistics in Education and Psychology class at a university in northern Taiwan. It followed the 11 female and 1 male students for the ten-week course. Methodology: In this case study, students were required to complete homework assignments and submit them online. Students were then anonymously paired to critique the other’s assignment. Students reviewed their peer’s assessments and comments and used them as the basis for improving their work. The study utilized anonymity because previous studies showed that it increased the reliability of the assessment, reduced the pressure to give positive feedback to maintain social relationships, and reduced anxiety with critical feedback. Critique of Study: This study examined the relationship between peer assessment and its effect on the quality of student work. It was found that peer assessment contributed to higher performance within the class and that most students reported a positive impression of the activity. In addition, specific feedback for modifications was highly valued by students, as was confirmation of a “job well-done.” Some limitations must be noted about this case study. First, the small population size (twelve students) limit the generalization of the study’s findings. The study would need to be performed on a larger population to determine if the findings remained the same. In addition, the structure of the statistics class is unique and doesn’t replicate itself with other education or psychology classes. Finally, the findings of this study must be carefully applied. It was found that the more frequent the feedback, the lower the quality of the feedback. To ensure the The more feedback required, the less informative it was Study Six: Exploring Learner Content Interaction as a Success Factor in Online Courses Citation: Zimmerman, T. (2012). Exploring Learner Content Interaction as a Success Factor in Online Courses. The International View of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(4). Findings: This study sought to understand the relationship between how students interact with online class materials and the success they experience within the course. It found that the learners that spend the most time engaged with the course materials received the higher grades than students that spent less time with the material. Sample: This study followed 139 students in an online management course provided by a college in the Southwestern United States. The students were broken into three sections; each section utilized the same materials and had the same instructor. Methodology: The course utilized Blackboard CMS and was presented in an asynchronous method. There was no direct contact between the student and the instructor during the term. Students were required to complete a discussion assignment and a small quiz each week; no missed assignments were allowed to be made up. At the end of the course, the amount of time students spent reviewing the content, the number of discussion board postings, the time spent completing the quiz, and final grade were analyzed. Critique of Study: This study found that students who interacted frequently with the course content achieved higher grades than those students who didn’t interact with the course as often. Student who received higher grades on the timed quizzes actually spent less time completing the quiz than those who didn’t score as well, implying that they already knew they answer and didn’t have to search to find it. For course designers, this would indicate the need for highly engaging course content to increase the amount of time students spent interacting with the materials. In addition, professors could take time to point out the manner in which students could be the most successful (for example, reviewing videos or increasing the number of discussion board posts). Some limitations for this study should be noted. First, the limited generalizability of the study; all the students were participating in the same course and it is uncertain if the effects would be seen in another course topic. In addition, the data regarding student interaction should be considered hesitantly. The measure doesn’t necessarily show student interaction with the content, but simply that the content was opened for that period of time. Additional References: Beese, J. (2014). Expanding Learning Opportunities for High School Students with Distance Learning. American Journal of Distance Education, 28(4), 292-306. doi:10.1080/08923647.2014.959343 Hong-Cheng, L., & Jih-Rong, Y. (2014). Effects of distance learning on learning effectiveness. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education, 10(6), 575 580. Lister, M. (2014). Trends in the Design of E-Learning and Online Learning. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10(4), 671-680. Ozdamar-Keskin, N., Zeynep Ozata, F., & Banar, K. (2015). Examining Digital Literacy Competences and Learning Habits of Open and Distance Learners. Contemporary Educational Technology, 6(1), 74-90.
I met with Orin and Patricia on Monday night, August 10, 2015. I have attached my comments to their blogs. I am attaching my links below.