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This paper reports the findings of three studies within a program of research designed to better understand the factors contributing to the academic achievement of students in online courses and the contributions of interaction to online learning. The first study compared the academic achievement of students in the online and face-to-face (F2F) sections of multiple courses. In the second study, an online survey was used to obtain student perceptions of course satisfaction, learning, and communication. These factors were then related, using binary logistic regression analysis, to the amount of interaction that occurred in the students’ respective online courses; information from the myCourses course management system was used to quantify the amount of interaction that occurred in online courses. In the final study, both datasets were used to examine the academic achievement of students in online courses based upon the amount of interaction that had actually occurred. Whenever possible, a subgroup of deaf and hard-of-hearing students was included in the study to increase our understanding of the role that communication plays in the teaching-learning process. Our findings indicate that students enrolled in online courses, especially those designed with high levels of online interaction, receive higher grades and report greater learning than students in comparable F2F courses. In addition, online courses appear to provide deaf and hard-of-hearing students with special benefits in terms of academic achievement through online discussion. Overall, the studies illuminate how the quantity of interaction in online discussions relates to important success factors. Students in online courses with more interaction outperformed students in online courses with less interaction.
Existing research into motivation in online environments has tended to use one of two approaches. The first adopts a trait-like model that views motivation as a relatively stable, personal characteristic of the learner. Research from this perspective has contributed to the notion that online learners are, on the whole, intrinsically motivated. The alternative view concentrates on the design of online learning environments to encourage optimal learner motivation. Neither approach acknowledges a contemporary view of motivation that emphasises the situated, mutually constitutive relationship of the learner and the learning environment. Using self-determination theory (SDT) as a framework, this paper explores the motivation to learn of preservice teachers in two online distance-learning contexts. In this study, learners were found to be not primarily intrinsically motivated. Instead, student motivation was found to be complex, multifaceted, and sensitive to situational conditions.
In an attempt to enhance teacher and student performance in school, a learning management system (LMS) known as Knowledge-Net (K-Net) was introduced in Qatari independent schools. (All public schools in Qatar have transformed to independent schools; the independent schools model is similar to the charter school system in North America.) An LMS is a tool that organizes and regulates classroom administrative tasks, supports teachers and students in the teaching and learning process, and informs parents of their children’s progress and school activities. Despite the benefits of the LMS, research studies indicate that its use by students has been limited because of a number of manipulative and non-manipulative factors that can influence behavior. This study explores the factors that impact student use of the LMS K-Net in Qatari independent schools. Quantitative data were collected through a questionnaire that was administered to students in 37 schools. A total of 1,376 students responded to the questionnaire. Semi-structured interviews were used to collect qualitative data that helped to confirm the results of the quantitative data and to provide additional insight on students’ perspectives regarding the use of the LMS. The results point to a strong relation between ICT knowledge and LMS usage. They suggest that the more ICT knowledge students have, the less prone they are to using the LMS. Attitudinal barriers were not predictive of usage. Student usage was strongly correlated to teacher and parent usage. This study is informative in evaluating LMS usage in Qatari schools.
With the phenomenal expansion of distance education in Asia during the past three decades, there has been growing public demand for quality and accountability in distance education. This study investigates the national quality assurance systems for distance education at the higher education level in Asia with the aim of contributing to a better understanding of the current level of development of quality assurance in Asian distance education and to offer potential directions for policy makers when developing and elaborating quality assurance systems for distance education. The analysis of the existing quality assurance frameworks in the 11 countries/territories selected reveals that the level of quality assurance policy integration in the overall national quality assurance in higher education policy framework varies considerably. The purpose of quality assurance, policy frameworks, methods, and instruments in place are generally tailored to each country’s particular circumstances. There are, however, obvious commonalities that underpin these different quality assurance efforts.
Literacy is perhaps the most fundamental skill required for effective participation in education (formal and non-formal) for national development. At the same time, the choice of language for literacy is a complex issue in multilingual societies like Nigeria. This paper examines the issues involved, namely language policy, language and teacher development, and the role of distance education and information and communication technologies (ICTs), in making literacy accessible in as many languages as possible. Two distance learning literacy projects are presented as case studies and the lessons learned are discussed. The findings of this study suggest that although there is evidence of growing accessibility to ICTs like mobile phones, their use and success to increase access to literacy in the users’ languages are yet to be attained and maximised. The implication of the lessons learned should be relevant to other multilingual nations that seek the goal of increasing access to learning and promoting development so as to harvest economic benefits.
In recent years, there has been a rapid growth in the use of social networking tools (e.g., Facebook) and social media in general, mainly for social purposes (Smith, Salaway & Caruso 2009). Many educators, including ourselves, believe that these tools offer new educational affordances and avenues for students to interact with each other and with their teachers or tutors. Considering the traditional drop-out rate problem documented in distance courses (Rovai, 2003; Woodley, 2004), these tools may be of special interest for distance education institutions as they have potential to assist in the critical “social integration” associated with persistence (Sweet, 1986; Tinto, 1975). However, as distance students are typically older than regular on-campus students, (Bean & Metzner, 1985; Rovai, 2003) little is known about their expertise with social media or their interest in harnessing these tools for informal learning or collaborating with peers. To investigate these issues, an online questionnaire was distributed to students from four large Canadian distance education institutions. A systematic sampling procedure lead to 3462 completed questionnaires. The results show that students have diverse views and experiences, but they also show strong and significant age and gender differences in a variety of measures, as well as an important institution effect for interest in collaboration. Males and younger students score higher on almost all indicators, including cooperative preferences. The limits of the study and future developments and research questions are outlined.
The community of inquiry (CoI) framework has commonly been used to study teaching and learning in online courses (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer 2000). This paper describes the implementation of the CoI framework in a cohort-based online EdD program, where teaching presence and cognitive presence were easier to foster than social presence. Based on the results of an initial evaluation, suggestions are made to expand the components of the CoI framework when using it at a program level. Lessons learned from the implementation are also shared to assist others wishing to apply the CoI framework to online graduate programs.
This report explores the first iteration of a teacher professional development courselet grounded in constructionist theory and activities. This online teacher professional development (oTPD) courselet provided opportunities for teachers to engage in just-in-time, ongoing TPD within a social networking site for educators. The topic of the oTPD was Robotics and Hands-on Activities in the Classroom. The courselet was designed for teachers who are interested in integrating constructionist pedagogies into their practice. Key findings of the first delivery of the oTPD courselet point to a need for flexible access, sharing of resources, and support for constructionist pedagogical activities as a PD value for participants. Findings further support the potential for an ongoing online community of practice around robotics in the classroom. The approach taken in this oTPD courselet of study continues to inform a model of oTPD delivery within a social-networking-enabled environment.
Open and distance learning (ODL) has created room for the emergence of virtual education. Not only are students found everywhere and anywhere undertaking their studies and earning their degrees, but geographical boundaries between nations no longer appear to have much relevance. As the new education paradigm irretrievably alters the way teaching and learning is conducted, the application of modern educational ICTs has a major role to play. With students of transnational or cross-border education dispersed into various nooks and crannies of Botswana, many others enlist for the “home-baked” distance learning programmes from their diverse locations. Like the face-to-face conventional students, distance learners also have information needs which have to be met. But blocking the distance learners’ realization of their information needs is the digital divide, which further marginalizes the underclass of “info-poor.” The survey method was used, and a questionnaire administered to 519 students of four tertiary level distance teaching institutions that met the criteria set for the study yielded a 70.1% response rate. The results showed that while the Government of Botswana has made considerable effort to ensure country-wide access to ICT, which now constitutes an effective instrument for meeting information needs, a number of problems still exist. The factors impeding easy access are unearthed. The findings of an empirical study portraying some learners as information-rich and others, information-poor, and the consequence of distance learners studying on both sides of the digital divide, are discussed. Suggestions on bridging the digital divide are offered.
The development of new communication technologies has led to a push for greater technology use for teaching and learning. This is most true for distance learning education, which relies heavily on new technologies. Distance learning students, however, seem to have very limited time available for studying and learning because of work and/or family commitments. This paper focuses on the actual use by distance learning students of different teaching and learning resources and their associated teaching technologies (learning tools). The organisation of one module has been conceptualised as a toolbox, encompassing all the learning tools provided to students. This toolbox also explicitly includes an embedded priority system for the examination of available learning resources, conceptualised as a traffic-light toolbox in this paper. Results from a survey on the resources actually used by students show that students are indeed time-constrained. Students consequently follow the priority system embedded into the module and do not use non-examinable resources much. This paper concludes that students’ specific needs or situations need to be considered for the design of an effective learning toolbox, as opposed to just providing a bundle of learning tools that may be effective on their own.