Thursday, October 25, 2007

Assignment 8, Literature Review

This review examines literature relating to adult learning and andragogy, new media in online education, and social presence and learning with new media. Discussed here, these topics are closely intertwined with and possibly center on andragogy. While it is true some elementary and secondary school students use online learning because circumstances necessitate its use, it might be assumed the current majority of online students are adults and this review addresses their andragogical needs. As the availability of new technology increases, educators are resolute to determine the most effective ways to integrate these new systems into our delivery of content. Adults are not compelled to fit into a factory model of education and have the freedom to pursue information in whatever way best fits their individual needs, while simultaneously following a course that provides deep understanding and mastery of the subject.

Adult Learning and Andragogy
Most components of online learning have an ancestor that can be traced back to a traditional classroom setting. In the case of instant messaging (Sparks, 2006), the faculty compare it to “passing notes in the back row” as the professors were caught completely unaware that students who were supposed to be fully engaged in an online discussion were multi tasking socially. In traditional classes students form social support groups and are able to check for understanding with each other before they ask the teacher. Students who establish virtual social networks can accomplish the same thing with even less class disruption by the use of instant messages. These tactics are employed because they fill the adult need of not wanting to call attention to yourself if you are off task but trying to get back on task, or if you have a question you believe to be unworthy of class time. Faculty was initially uncomfortable with this idea because as Burge (1988) notes, “Teachers and tutors of those adults also will show wide variations in maturational stages and needs for power and control. Many educators for example are conditioned to work in transmittal authoritative modes; others know no other styles for working with learners, or are psychologically unprepared to give up leadership and control.” This issue would rear its ugly head for any online course that utilized technology that puts more control in the hands of the student created a learner centered environment.

In the case of a teacher who is vested in creating a learner centered environment and becoming more of a facilitator of learning then “the facilitator’s guidelines are grouped into four R’s Responsibility, Relevance, Relatedness and Rewards” (Burge 1988). This acknowledges that responsibility for learning is shared by student and faculty. It has been acknowledged for years that individuals have their own learning styles, and there are several ways to categorize them, but most include some provision for auditory, visual, kinetic, and reading preferences. At least one essay (Bonk, 2006), acknowledges “Learners in online environments, especially those born after the mid-1970s, want learning that is responsive to their preferred styles of learning.” And that learning increasingly makes use of hands on activities or problem based learning, another important component of andragogy. Online learning takes advantage of the variety of electronic tools available and uses the array to accommodate students’ preferences.

New Media in Online Education
What exactly are those online tools and how can they be used? Research has examined a few common tools being utilized in education. First the blog or weblog, is a journal in which the writer posts comments, graphics, and links to other web based information. These journals are interactive when the owner allows other people to post comments and reflections on the writing. In online education blogs are often used to post assignments and comment on other students’ writing. They are used as assessment tools to ascertain if a student understands the material or task at hand. In a study that compared student attitudes toward educational blogs to the tools audio conferencing, the Rotisserie system, and instant messaging, blogs consistently came in least popular tied with Rotisserie although “students admitted that they had been ‘won over’ to the benefits of blogging through the exercise of having to use it and reading the blogs of their peers”. (Weller, 2005). The other advantage to blogs is their flexibility in how and when they can be accessed by students to “provide opportunities for instructor–student as well as student–student real-time and/or time-delayed collaboration.” (Beldarrain 2006) an important consideration for many students in choosing on-line classes. The other component is the degree to which a student feels they are controlling the direction of their learning, another component of andragogy. In an Australian study of the use of blogs in an MBA course they found “The inherent creativity of blogging and the distinctly open environment for topic advancement allowed students to direct their own learning in a manner that transcended the existing curriculum.” (Williams, 2004)

Podcasting is also being explored as new media. Podcasts are audio or video recordings that can be played using a computer, or downloaded to a portable media device. They appeal because of their flexibility and address the needs of auditory learners. “The versatility of podcasting may impact the way distance educators deliver instruction as well as the manner in which students are engaged in learning. New models of teaching may take advantage of RSS technology to deliver up-to-the-minute expert commentaries, for example, or to have students broadcast their analysis of topics studied.” (Beldarrain, 2006) Learners have more choice in the way they can communicate their understanding of the topic. Educators have some misgivings about them and studies have been conducted to verify or contest some of the negative attitudes. In a study that examined several of these ‘myths’ namely, that podcasting promotes social isolation, negatively affects attendance, wastes time through repetition, increases anxiety and information overload, and finally that it requires special platforms the conclusion was that these ideas were inaccurate and podcasting was an engaging and popular tool. The authors concluded that “If educators are looking at the key pedagogical goal, which is to provide learners with the tools they need to succeed, inspire them in the process, and foster a trust-based relationship, the authors will claim that, in this case, podcasting is not a gizmo, but definitely an instrument worthy of utilization to its full potential as an edifying mentor inside and outside of the classroom.” (Luanne and Martin, 2007) The podcast can also be seen as an instrument of choice as students take control over their learning. “The potential applications for podcasting as an instructional strategy embrace the necessary flexibility and challenge that the adult learner seeks. Podcast courses minimize technical support demands and empower students to self-manage many elements of the process.” (Hollandsworth, 2007)

‘New media’ can be considered a relative term. What might be considered new media in a developing country might be considered obsolete or an undesirable means of communication in this one. Wikis, audio conferencing, and instant messaging might be considered readily available here, but in technically developing countries like India, they are just acquiring common use of technology. There, the ubiquitous cell phone is the only form of technology in wide enough use to be utilized in distance learning. The availability of text messaging allows for the delivery of short content, keeping students informed of class progress and assignment. Full online learning is limited to only a privileged few. Fortunately, students can also take advantage of phones that have mp3 capability. This provides flexibility and choice and “for example, that people can learn more effectively if ‘information’ is broken down into smaller, more easy-to-comprehend units. It is suggested here, therefore, that mobile learning is an ideal medium simply because it supports this ‘new way’ of learning by via the use of SMS, pre-recorded MP3 files, and so forth.” (Fozdar, 2007)

Social Presence and Learning with New Media
The greatest perceive disadvantage to online learning is the lack of socialization. Interaction with peers and instructors is important, and distance learning can decrease the amount of social contact, and it is far easier to misinterpret writing because it doesn’t have the visual cues face to face communication does. Also, students can begin to feel isolated and cut-off from the learning processes. Interactive tools like blogging can help alleviate that experience of being inaccessible to others or of them to you. Steven Glogoff’s research indicates that blogging can add a dimension of interaction beyond what is usually experience in the traditional classroom setting. He states, “Finally, the opportunities for each student to post substantive comments to other students' blog entries add an additional tier of interactivity and social interaction. In online courses where communication remains largely text-based, such opportunities to enhance community can make significant contributions to student learning.” (Glogoff, 2005) There is some thought that blogs might create actual virtual communities even after the course has ended, but this remains a topic for further research. In an actual classroom, some students form social bonds that exist and continue outside the confines of the class, and many continue on with their own direction, occasionally meeting again in another required course. One can imagine the obstacles involved with maintaining friendships through a chance meeting would be exacerbated by the limited contact of a virtual course, but maybe not. Maybe the availability of a virtual relationship unconstrained by physical location would promote the ability to continue.

Social interaction might help retention, especially in places where attrition rates are high, but for a motivated student the most important goal is the learning. Socialization can help the learning process and provide a welcoming atmosphere. For some students, the structure of a face to face environment becomes overwhelming. An advantage to online learning is the freedom for the student to take a break and re-energize at will. The question becomes, does face to face instruction and high level of socialization affect the attrition rate? In a Madonna University, School of Business study a class was taught by the same instructor using the same content with similar populations as both an online class and a traditional classroom setting. “The results revealed no significant difference in test scores assignments, participation grades, and final grades, although the online group’s averages were slightly higher. Ninety-six percent of the online students found the course to be either as effective or more effective to their learning than their typical face-to-face course. There were no significant differences between learning preferences and styles and grades in either group. The study showed that equivalent learning activities can be equally effective for online and face-to face learners.” (Neuhauser, 2002) and the attrition rate for both groups equaled 86%. This shows that the effectiveness of the delivery is equal as long as you have a teacher who is comfortable with both methods of teaching. Student attitudes must play a significant role in the success or popularity of online classes and the social factor plays a minor role in the reasons why students stay in school.

Beldarrain, Y. (2006). Distance Education Trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Distance Education. 27 (2), 139-153.

Bonk, C & Zhang, K. (2006). Introducing the R2D2 Model: Online learning for the diverse learners of this world. Distance Learning, 27 (2), 249-264.

Burge, L. (1988). Beyond andragogy: some explorations for distance learning design. Journal of Distance Education, 3(1), 5-23.

Fozdar, B.I., Kumar, L.S. (2007) Mobile learning and student retention. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 8, Retrieved October 25, 2007.

Glogoff, S. (2005) Instructional blogging: Promoting interactivity, student-centered learning, and peer input. Innovate 1, 1-6

Hollandsworth, R.J. (2007) Managing the podcast lecture: A hybrid approach for online lectures in the business classroom. TechTrends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning, 5 39-44

Luanne, F., Martin, M., (2007). Plugging into students’ digital DNA: Five myths prohibiting proper podcasting pedagogy in the new classroom domain. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 3, 277-287

Neuhauswer, C., (2002) Learning style and effectiveness of online and face to face instruction. American Journal of Distance Education, 16 99-113

Sparks, P., Mentz, L. (2006). Electronic note passing: Enriching online learning with new communications tools. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 2(4), 1-6.

Weller, M., Pegler, C., Mason, R. (2005). Use of innovative technologies on an e-learning course. The Internet and Higher Education, 8(1), 61-71.

Williams, J., Jacobs, J., (2004). Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 20, 232-247

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Assignment 7, Research Ideas

Potential Research Questions
Do online classes increase student retention?
Are students who register for online classes initially more or less committed to completing the course?
Are students who have taken an online class more or less likely to take another online class if a choice is available?
Are the perceived benefits of online classes (flexibility, convenience) outweighed by the perceived pitfalls of distance learning (social isolation, delayed feedback, limited access to the instructor)?
Does prior student efficacy with the technology employed increase the success of students in an online environment?
Is there a statistically significant difference in student achievement between on online class and a traditional one?
Do students in an online class need to be more self sufficient and motivated than students in a traditional setting?

Methodology Ideas
These questions might best be researched through both quantitative and qualitative studies. Sometimes an individual’s own perception of his/her efficacy does not match the actual amount of skill acquired. Surveys of perceptions and attitudes should be carefully constructed to highlight preconceived ideas and prior indications. Pre-course interviews and post-course interviews should explore changing attitudes to on line learning. One important concern should be to identify how student efficacy is affected by an online vs. traditional course.

Assignment 6, Annotation

Fozdar, B.I., Kumar, L.S. (2007) Mobile learning and student retention. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 8,

The intent of the study was to better understand and measure students’ attitudes and perceptions towards the effectiveness of mobile learning. This study took place in India, where distances are an impediment to higher education. Many households do not have internet access, but of those 95% use dialup connections with speeds below 28.8 kbs. There has been an explosion in cell phone availability and India is ranked 5th in the world in terms of mobile phone ownership. This medium has the greatest potential to provide open distance learning (ODL) opportunities.

The study was conducted through the use of surveys. The first surveys were meant to measure students’ attitudes and perceptions towards mobile learning were based on Rogers’ model of innovation diffusion (Roger, 1995). In determining if mobile phones cold be used for educational purposes, the first two tenets of Rogers’ model were employed, ‘knowledge’ and ‘persuasion’. A questionnaire was designed based on indicators from Rogers’ research.

The second part of the research was designed to determine how mobile technologies could be used to improve student retention. By using surveys to question student attitudes about why they are more or less likely to discontinue their education, and how they perceive the use of mobile learning as being effective strategies for learning.

The research was both quantitative and qualitative. Surveys were administered to Bachelor of Science students enrolled in Indira Gandhi National Open University who were required to attend face to face laboratory courses at different study centers in Delhi in May 2006. Researchers identified 29.2% of the students as being aware of mobile learning. Quantitative data regarding communication technology available in the home revealed the following:

  • 61.5% owned a radio
    70.8% owned a land-line telephone
    83.1% owned a mobile telephone
    86.2% owned a television
    43.1% owned a computer
    23.1% had access to the internet

By measuring how often students utilized features of their mobile phones, the manner in which they were used, and students’ perceptions of how effective the phones would be for learning, researchers compiled a qualitative analysis on how to improve student retention.

The data indicated a preference for the flexibility mobile learning provides. Numbers indicate that a majority of students have access to mobile phones so availability is high. Students perceived that the cost of mobile learning would be low as compared to costs associated with face to face learning. Students had misgivings about the quality of learning that could take place and about the amount of information that could be exchanged. Small amounts of information would be useful by phone, for example, ‘feedback on assignments’, ‘information regarding important dates’, ‘scheduling of counseling and laboratory sessions’, and ‘grades and examination results’. ‘Receiving study guides’ or other large textual materials was considered undesirable and could be an issue.

This relates to the course research study because we are examining the use of new media in on-line learning. While the mobile telephone may not be considered ‘new media’ in the United States, many less technologically developed countries are seeing its impact on their infrastructure. Whatever tools are available to the widest numbers of students can be engaged to aid in the delivery of necessary information in the most efficient and effective methods possible. Synchronous conference type classes using webcams for live interaction may be an effective system of instruction, but if the hardware is not available to the majority of students it becomes a hurdle rather than a benefit.

Online classes utilizing web pages, blogs, video, and podcasts can be effective here because the majority of students in the geographical area have access to these technologies and some level of comfort utilizing them. The research shows that new technologies must be available, students must develop some efficacy in using them, they must be efficient delivery systems of the information being disseminated, and students must acknowledge their effectiveness in teaching the material that is being distributed so they continue to use that technology.

Darlene Pitman

Friday, October 19, 2007

Assignment 5, 3 articles, deja vu

Haythornthwaite, C., Kazmer, M. M., Robins, J., (2000). Community development among distance learners: Temporal and technological dimensions. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication. 6 (1) Retrieved October 17, 2007
Important because it explores the theory that online communities can form social bonds.

Fozdar, B.I., Kumar, L.S. (2007) Mobile learning and student retention. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 8, Retrieved October 17, 2007
Important because it explores what has been researched, namely how technology can aid retention.

Huang, C. (2003) Changing learning with new interactive and media-rich instruction environments: Virtual labs case study report. Computerized medical imaging and graphics, 2 p. 157-164
Important because it studies a particular instrument of instruction, virtual labs. This is interesting to me because we are beginning to use them in middle school science.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Assignment 5, 3 Articles

I’m interested in the social aspect of online learning because I am uncomfortable in groups larger than 5 or 6. I’m interested to see if the theory that online learning will encourage more equal participation, and all students will be comfortable in the group, is true.

Harasim, L. (1993). Collaborating in cyberspace: Using computer conferences as a group learning environment. Interactive Learning Environments. 3, p. 119-130
Important because it explores one method of cyber instruction: Computer Conferencing.

Chih-Hsiung, T. (2002). The relationship of social presence and interaction in online classes. American Journal of Distance Education. 16, p. 131-150
Important because it explores what has been studied.

Newberry, B., Jesunathadas, J. & Santiago, R. (2007). A study of faculty readiness for online teaching. Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2007 (pp. 2426-2433).
Important because it explores what has been studied and because Dr. Joseph Jesunathadas is the greatest science teacher on the planet.

Assignment 4, Lauer Chapters 5 and 6

Aviv, R., Erlich, Z,. Ravid, G., (2005). Response neighborhoods in online learning networks: A quantitative analysis. Journal of Educational Technology and Society. 8, 90-99

The purpose of this quantitative study is to examine relationships within a network specifically the elements of cohesiveness and transitivity. The research tool used was SNA or Social Network Analysis. Networking is analyzed by counting the number of times contact occurs between individuals and extrapolating the data to include secondary and tertiary contact specifically as it relates to triads. A Response Neighborhood (RN) is a sub-set of actors (three), characterized by a set of prescribed possible response ties between them, all of which are pair-wise statistically dependent. First neighborhoods, Second neighborhoods, and Third neighborhoods are all identified by their interactions.

Two online networks of students from the Open University of Israel were analyzed through transcript records of an online business course. Although both were established as a broadcast network, the networks had different purposes, one was a collaborative team, the other a question and answer forum. The major common thread of the broadcast network was the tendency of the class for non-response. This is assumed to be due to the effort required and the absence of social response. While both networks showed low numbers of responses, they developed differently because of their differentiated goals. Eventually, an exchange mechanism developed in the team network, but not in the forum network caused presumably by the requirement of the team to accomplish a goal.

There are limitations to the study. First, only two teams were studied and they had different purposes and limited numbers. Large networks used for many purposes would have to be studied to gain a clearer idea of the relationships within them. It was noted that the ‘actors’ in these networks began to take on personae and tasks similar to real life roles. It would be interesting to see if the same individuals took on similar roles in further social network situations.

Despotakis, T.C., Palaigeorgiou, G E., & Tsoukalas,, I.A. (2007). Students’ attitudes towards animated demonstrations as computer learning. Journal of Educational Technology and Society. 10, 196-205.

The purpose of this qualitative study was to measure the attitude of users toward animated demonstrations (AD) in learning new computer programs. Interviews were conducted to identify students with extensive computer familiarity who had no prior experience with AD. These subjects were introduced to a web developmental tutorial using AD and their responses were recorded. Prior to the experiment, subjects completed questionnaires on their computer experience and how they gained that experience.

Next, students were shown demonstration of web page design, presumed to be a high interest area, using AD. Students were then encouraged to explore the program and use the AD tutorials as they wished for 30 minutes. After this, semi-structured interviews were conducted assessing student reaction to the AD use. Students also completed a questionnaire regarding their initial attitudes. Students were then shown a new set of AD instructions on the same program and asked to comment on them in comparison to the initial AD. Interview audio were transcribed and compared.

Semi structured interviews focused on students’ beliefs about AD quality and its appropriateness for learning web design. Questions were organized across two axes, the first being students’ perceived attitudes in advantages or disadvantages of AD, while the second explored the cause of those attitudes.

Questions (Agree/Disagree):

Ø AD’s enabled me to learn about applications in a more efficient way than other means.

Ø The use of AD’s make computer learning faster

Ø AD’s make computer learning more authentic.

Ø AD’s make computer learning more pleasant.

Ø I would prefer to learn about the functionality of computer applications using Ads

Ø I am very satisfied with the AD’s I selected and watched

Ø I would recommend AD’s to my friends who wanted to learn about a new software.

The results showed their positive attitudes towards ADs as computer learning tools. Most students evaluated ADs as pleasing and the overwhelming majority indicated that they would like to learn about computer applications using such demonstrations. ADs were accepted with greater enthusiasm by females who evaluated more positive the efficiency, the speed and the authenticity of learning through ADs.

I think the questions were biased in that they were all stated in the positive. I believe the accuracy of measuring attitudes quantitatively is limited, and the small number of questions would lead to skewed results.

A quantitative approach to answer the question: What is the effect of using only a podcast for content transmission on student learning in graduate classes would be to choose a professor who teaches two sections of the same graduate class. One class would be taught by traditional direct instruction and would be the control group. The other class would be instructed through the use of podcast only. Both groups would be given a pre and post test to quantify their levels of understanding before and after the class. Data would be compared to look for trends.

A qualitative approach to answer the question: What are the effects of using podcast for content transmission on student learning in graduate classes would be similar to the one above using two classes, one as a control. The qualitative study would collect data using observation, and interviews to determine students’ attitudes towards podcasting. They would include questions such as, ‘Do you feel podcasting was a more or less effective way of learning?’ and ‘Would you be likely to use a format of podcasting in your own teaching?’ and ‘Would you be more or less likely to sign up for another class knowing it was conducted through the use of podcasting?”

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Assignment 3, Lauer Chapters 3 and 4

The purpose of research is to solve problems and answer questions. The nature of the problem or question prescribes the research method employed. Descriptive research depicts circumstances as they are. Descriptive research answers the question, “What is really going on here?” in practical, measurable terms. This is nuts and bolts, explore the foundation research. Experimental research is a little higher in Bloom’s taxonomy of questioning. Instead of exploring the facts as they are, the question posed in this research seeks to understand a more complex relationship between two variables. Experimental design uses the scientific method to pose a hypothesis and then manipulate independent variables, measure dependent variables and control for other influences.

Correlational research is a type of descriptive research design that measures the interdependence of two variables. Correlational research quantifies to what degree the responding variable is related to the manipulated variable. A quantitative number can be calculated and used to predict the results of future experiments using the same two variables.

The differences between quantitative and qualitative research is in the type of data that is collected during each type of study. A quantitative research study returns data that is presented numerically. This can be as a count of occurrences, the ratio of instances presented as a percent of 100%, or as a change in data over time. Sometimes benchmarks are used in lieu of numbers, but those benchmarks are data driven and can be verified by an actual measurable amount. Qualitative research presents data collected by obersvation, and as such is slightly more subjective. One of the most difficult aspects of qualitative research is narrowing the definition of the data collected so it can be verified independently by another individual or group trying to recreate the results. Special methods are often used in qualitative research because the data is being collected not just as numerical figures, but as events occurring within a particular context or environment.

Action research goes beyond just the collection of data. Research is done by implementing a particular action plan, or by implementing a strategy to determine its effectiveness. Action research measures if the performance of as certain strategy or plan has the desired, or undesired, effect on the population being studied. Action research is what I do instinctively in the classroom when I am trying to reach a particular population or address a specific problem. The reasoning goes like this: If I try this strategy, then the students will have a greater understanding of the content because it is a more effective method of addressing misconceptions and creating new understanding. Well, in a perfect world that sounds like what I try to do. Learn from experience by trying new things and make a comparison as to what worked best in which situation.

Monday, October 1, 2007


I'd like to take this opportunity to answer the two most common questions to my intro. First, why the negativity towards blogs? I am old enough to know that very few people are interested in my opinions about anything. As far as using a blog to supplement my classroom, I prefer the web page. I can personalize a web page without it being...personal. Blogs are a little too introspective for those of us who enjoy the freedom to be shallow and miserly with our thoughts. Second, the NSTA fellowship will help me be a better science teacher. I'm connected with an e-mentor for the period of one year. Together, and in small, online groups, we'll work through inquiries and dilemmas that confront new science teachers in a very systematic approach. Plus they're flying me to Boston for 5 days to attend the national convention in the spring. I'm very happy and excited for the opportunity.