A Quick Review of JOLT’s June 2010 Issue

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

The June 2010 issue of Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (JOLT, v6n2) contains 23 papers. Listed below are highlight statements and excerpts from ten of them. The selections and foci are based solely on my interests in online learning.

1. Online is the “emerging standard of quality in higher education.”

“It is clear that the experimental probability of attaining higher learning outcomes is greater in the online environment than in the face-to-face environment. This probability is increasing over time. . . . The distance learning approach is becoming the ‘normal science.’ Yet, this is not fully comprehended by the various decision making institutions where the gate-keeping positions represent, by and large, the past paradigm. Therefore, distance learning is still treated as the anomaly (‘step child’) instead of as the emerging standard of quality in higher education.” Mickey Shachar and Yoram Neumann, Twenty Years of Research on the Academic Performance Differences Between Traditional and Distance Learning: Summative Meta-Analysis and Trend Examination.

2. No significant difference between asynchronous and synchronous online groups.

“Despite the small sample size [asynchronous group N=38, synchronous group N=39, control group N=40], the study revealed several interesting conclusions. First, there was no significant difference in student satisfaction of their online learning experience in both [asynchronous and synchronous] online groups. . . . Second, there was no significant difference in course grades when comparing the two online groups and to the control group. . . . We believe that these results are compelling and they support the evidence that distant education is achieving the goal of providing quality learning experiences.” Latchman Somenarain, Shylaja Akkaraju, and Rajendra Gharbaran, Student Perceptions and Learning Outcomes in Asynchronous and Synchronous Online Learning Environments in a Biology Course.

3. “Online teaching requires more time and effort than face-to-face education.”

“In regard to the disagreement between academic leaders and instructors about the time and effort needed for online teaching, an important finding of the study was that online teaching requires more time and effort than face-to-face education. Therefore, administrators in higher education institutions should realize that overloading instructors’ workload by increasing the size of classes or the number of courses assigned to an instructor is counterproductive.” Jennie C. De Gagne and Kelley J. Walters, The Lived Experience of Online Educators: Hermeneutic Phenomenology.

4. Students over 30 who work 30+ hours a week, who complete “several online courses,” and who perceive online degrees as equally valuable “were interested in completing online degrees.”

“Students under the age of 30 were more intrinsically motivated to complete traditional degrees. Put simply, these younger students enjoyed traditional courses, enjoyed face-to-face interaction with other students and their professor and were more motivated in those courses than were students over the age of 30. The current study bolstered studies that showed that students who work fewer hours were more motivated to complete traditional degree programs. . . . As students completed several online courses, they became less interested in traditional degree programs. . . . Regardless of student motivation to participate in online or traditional degrees, if students perceived the online degree program as equally prestigious as the traditional degree program, then students were interested in completing online degrees.” Cynthia Stewart, Christine Bachman, and Ruth Johnson, Students’ Characteristics and Motivation Orientations for Online and Traditional Degree Programs.

5. Text messaging still not a major factor in online community building.

“There were no significant differences between students who received text messages and students who did not receive text messages in their perception of social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence as represented by the COI [Community of Inquiry] framework.” Cindy L. Kovalik and Kim A. Hosler, Text Messaging and the Community of Inquiry in Online Courses.

6. Students aged 50 and older find online learning “more rewarding” than younger counterparts.

“Surprisingly, results of the study indicate that not only are late-career adults satisfied with the online delivery, but they actually find the experience to be more rewarding than their early- and mid-career peers despite the differences in technical abilities. Additionally, results reveal that for late-career adults to be successful in online classes, they initially require higher levels of technology support and digital interaction. However, after receiving the technical assistance, they perform as good as or better than their younger peers.” Amy S. Gaumer Erickson and Patricia M. Noonan, Late-Career Adults in Online Education: A Rewarding Experience for Individuals Aged 50 to 65.

7. Teachers as online discussion moderators should encourage and nurture peer interaction.

“The more actively teacher moderators posted in a synchronous online learning conference, combined with higher quality of postings, the more active the student participation, and, consequently, the more elevated the levels of higher order thinking and interactivity. . . . Therefore, teachers’ goals should not merely be to have social-emotionally engaged students, but rather also to have students attend to each other’s thoughts and ideas and actively participate as a group. Rather than simply trying to create a safe or comfortable environment, teachers who try to get students listening and responding to each other will be rewarded with higher intellectual engagement.” Shufang Shi, Teacher Moderating and Student Engagement in Synchronous Computer Conferences.

8. Students overwhelmingly felt that SNSs such as Ning expanded communications among classmates, but they also felt that the amount of time needed to participate was a drawback.

“Communication and collaboration emerged as central themes. Seventy percent of students felt that Ning allowed for more frequent collaboration with peers and colleagues within a course. Additionally, 84% agreed that it aided communication outside the traditional confines of the classroom. Students noted Ning’s ability to provide a forum to ‘communicate with other cohorts,’ ‘collaborate with colleagues in distant areas,’ in addition to Ning’s ability to enable the ability to ‘network with other educators.’ Students also noted that Ning served as a venue for learners ‘to “e-congregate” to share and discuss ideas.’” Lori B. Holcomb, Kevin P. Brady, and Bethany V. Smith, The Emergence of “Educational Networking”: Can Non-commercial, Education-based Social Networking Sites Really Address the Privacy and Safety Concerns of Educators?

9. Toward a definition of “digital citizenship.”

“A personally responsible digital citizen may opt out of paper mail for electronic mailings, communicate respectfully on public discussion forums, and subscribe to information feeds about local volunteering events from Web 2.0 resources such as blogs or social networks. A participatory digital citizen might use a discussion forum to organize a local clothing drive or use an online social network to raise money for a local charity. A justice oriented digital citizen might start a Web 2.0 resource such as a wiki or a public discussion forum that directly deals with social issues. He or she might support a movement towards social justice by joining an appropriate online social network.” Reshan Richards, Digital Citizenship and Web 2.0 Tools.

10. Virtual team-building skills is a critical need but a challenge to teach online.

“As the results from the present case study indicated, getting long distance education students to work in a virtual team is a difficult task for the instructor. . . . The ability for students to use emerging technologies effectively contributes to the values they would bring to employers and their communities. This trend is indicative of the new reality that being able to work effectively as part of a virtual team is becoming just as important as being able to work effectively in face to face team.” Jennifer Loh and Robyn Smyth, Understanding Students’ Online Learning Experiences in Virtual Teams.

One Response

  1. Thanks for this great summary of very interesting material, Jim. Now it may seem mean to nitpick on one of these articles, but I think the issue at stake is pertinent to online education.

    Lori B. Holcomb, Kevin P. Brady, and Bethany V. Smith, The Emergence of “Educational Networking”: Can Non-commercial, Education-based Social Networking Sites Really Address the Privacy and Safety Concerns of Educators? (point 8), as you say, discusses in particular the case of Ning for education, presented as one of the “non-commercial, education-based SNSs that offer educators and students greater levels of user privacy and safety protections compared to existing commercial SNSs.”

    Problem: as the article itself says at the end: “Manuscript received 18 Nov; revision received 21 Apr 2010”. And on April 15, 2010, Ning announced it was phasing out free services, including for educational networks.

    On the same day, Steve Hargadon – one of the sources mentioned by the authors of this JOLT article – announced an online meeting to discuss the problems caused for many educators by this abrupt change of course. On April 20, just after that meeting, he published Ning in Education Discussion–Recording and Forum Links.

    Theoretically, Lori B. Holcomb, Kevin P. Brady, and Bethany V. Smith could have caught on Ning’s change of course and added a rider about it to their article. But on the one hand, polishing an article for an academic publication is no joke, especially when 3 authors are involved. And on the other hand, such a rider might have been awkward to formulate: “Errh, sorry folks, the new Ning management’s abrupt decision to scrap free Ning networks just made our research obsolete” would hardly do in a publication like JOLT.

    The upshot is that their article, published now in June, incites educators to use a solution that will definitely disappear in July.

    By contrast, thanks to the more informal publishing process of Educational Technology and Change Journal, when I belatedly (April 18) caught on to Ning’s change of policy and Steve Hargadon’s proposal for an online meeting, you were able to quickly OK and publish a brief alert I hurriedly prepared (End of Free Ning Networks: Live Online Discussion: Apr. 20th).

    More formal academic journals dealing with online education should have a standard rider, more acceptable than the unacceptable one above. Maybe something like:

    Please be aware that publication on [journal's name] takes up to N months from article submission to online availability. We cannot ignore what is happening in the eddies and whirlpools of the present internet, but this lengthy publication process can mean that what we write about it may have become obsolete by the time it is published.

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