In a review of contemporary literature, research revealed that students believe they are unable to connect with their instructors in online classrooms (Hughes, Ventura, & Dando, 2007; Stichter, Lewis, Richter, Johnson, & Bradley, 2006). A general problem exists because faculty, administrators, curriculum designers, and student advisors in institutions that offer online programs do not adequately address the social and psychological connectivity needs of students (DeShields, Kara, & Kaynak, 2005). This lack of attention to the social and affective needs has a negative effect on learner satisfaction and retention (Bonk, 2002; Melrose & Bergeron, 2006; Moody, 2004; Simpson, 2004; Slagter van Tryon & Bishop, 2006).
The delivery of online courses is higher education’s response to the global growth in the economy (Adams, 2008; Friedman, 2005). Since 1990, an increase in post-secondary distance learning occurred (Allen & Seamen, 2006). Institutions of higher education experienced growth in the online learning field (Allen & Seaman, 2006; Khare & Lam, 2008; Li & Irby, 2008; Simonsen, 2006). With the continued expansion, post-secondary schools are researching the possibilities of offering online programs if the schools have not already started a distance education program (Turner & Crews, 2005). Moskal, Dziuban, Upchurch, Hartman, and Truman (2006) proposed that although distance education adds value, students are often less successful and have a higher dropout rate than in traditional schools. Although online education is experiencing a continued expansion, an omission of social interaction in distance learning, web-based courses as compared to face-to-face traditional classroom courses exists (Kanuka & Anderson, 1998; Shank, 2004; Slagter van Tryon & Bishop, 2006; Walls, 2005). Slagter van Tryon and Bishop (2006) conducted a Delphi-method study, which identified that online instructors do not achieve a social connection (e-connectivity) with their students. Using online experts, Slagter van Tryon and Bishop gathered data and synthesized the information to present strategies addressing the lack of social interaction or e-connectivity in an online classroom. The role of the instructor has evolved through technological advances (Borstorff & Lowe, 2007). The instructors impart their knowledge to their students (Lee & Busch, 2005). The learning platform has changed greatly, evolving from teaching through correspondence courses to offering courses asynchronously over the Internet. The learning platform will continue to change through the advances of technology (Bellack, 2008; Borstorff & Lowe, 2007; Smedberg, 2004). The curriculum has evolved through the years. The students have not changed; however, each student has a different learning style (Mupinga, Nora, & Yaw, 2006). Distance education faculty and administrators do not consider the social and psychological needs of each student’s learning styles (Fearing & Riley, 2005). In the online learning environment, students may not have their social and psychological needs met. Sitzman and Lenars (2006) stated that a successful online learning experience would encompass an empathetic instructor who is sensitive to personal issues and has a connection to the student. Sometimes the negative perception of the online instructor may hinder the learning experience and negate the quality of the course delivery (Wilkes, Simon, & Brooks, 2006). A successful online class design will meet the learner’s needs both technologically and socially with an assessment of student learning styles (Dupin-Bryant & DuCharme-Hansen, 2005). Students who function successfully in traditional classrooms may not succeed in asynchronous web-based learning (Bell, 2007). In the distance-learning realm, forgotten are the social and psychological aspects of education (Guri-Rosenbilt, 2005). Simonsen (2008) emphasized the importance of presenting the course materials through different methods. Palloff and Pratt (1999) stated the most important aspects of education are social. Martinez (2003) stated that course designers might consider students' personalities when designing online classrooms. Students interact with other students and their instructor in the traditional classroom through pedagogical and social interaction (Thompson & Ku, 2006). When managing a traditional classroom developing a relationship between the instructor and student(s) permits genuine academic growth (Brown, 2005). Not only may the content of the curriculum be authentic and rich with learning materials, sufficient collaboration, and e-connectivity for the students may exist (Calvert, 2005). By not connecting with the social and psychological needs of distance learning students, a negative effect on retention may occur because of students believing they are out of touch or unable to connect (e-connectivity) with their instructors. Wilkes et al. (2006) stated that students and instructors do not communicate effectively in the asynchronous classroom. The lack of engaging the social and psychological needs of distance learners, negatively affects the dropout rate of online students. Slagter van Tryon and Bishop (2006) stated that the attrition rate in the online classroom is at least 40% higher than a traditional classroom. Some institutions have forced interaction by requiring faculty members to conduct synchronized chats or lectures and host mandatory office hours. Although an emphasis on any time, any place education continues, studying how distance educators can better achieve social connectivity in the online classroom is important. Perhaps a blend between asynchronous and synchronous classroom environment may exist (Klein, 2007; Wijekumar & Spielvogel, 2006).
The best practices may provide educational leaders with a standard to train and establish an environment for more effective and interactive distance-learning faculty.
Although enrollment in online education continues to grow and gain in popularity (Allen & Seamen, 2006; Simonson, 2006), the level of learner satisfaction has decreased, while attrition has increased (Allen & Seamen, 2006; Flood, 2002; Martinez, 2003).
The current study is significant to educational leaders and policy makers because it may help higher education institutions to affect positively student learning and reduce attrition. If the current study can help administration and faculty better understand the key social and psychological elements and motivators crucial to student learning, then retention of distance learners may increase (Artino, 2008; Chyung & Vachon, 2005; Wighting et al., 2008). Including social and psychological motivators will not only have a positive effect on attrition rates, standards for building online classrooms and hiring faculty may be enhanced, which could add to the credibility and reputation of online degrees (DeShields, Kara, & Kaynak, 2005). The completion of the current study may also positively affect the ever-increasing distance-learning student population, as their needs will be met by incorporating these best practices (Khare & Lam, 2007; Paetzold & Melby, 2008).
As a frame of reference for four categories, both the panel of educational experts and students were asked to identify content that involves the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains based on Bloom’s Taxonomy (1978).
Theme one is to show relevance to students. Theme two is to establish e-connectivity. Theme three is instructor presence. Theme four is positive communication. Theme five is the ability to be open to social networking. Theme six is use of technologies to e-connect. These themes were used to categorize the results of the Delphi study. Skulmoski et al. (2007) outlined a Pilot Study and a three-stage methodology for completing a Delphi study. The first stage was the Pilot Study. The purpose of the Pilot Study was to establish the questions for Round One of the Delphi study. The purpose of this questionnaire was to brainstorm. The initial questions were broad, open-ended seed questions.
Survey questions were modified into statements that serve as the basis for the list of best practices that emerged from the survey results. After the completion of round one, questions were modified in an effort to clarify and achieve consensus to the seven themes developed from round one. This method repeated for each round.
Motivation and several learning theories provided a framework for the current study and this was supported by the conclusions of the study. Ryan and Deci (2000b) stated that students gain support and receive needed information from the social environment. The current study sought to study if social and psychological motivators can best reach these students. Faculty and student study experts achieved 100% agreement on providing constructive feedback to motivate them. Constructive feedback is the extrinsic motivation or force required for all actions (Huitt, 2001; Marten, Bastiaens, & Kirschner, 2007). Seventy percent of the experts felt that social connectivity between students and faculty in an online classroom are important. Faculty and student experts agreed that being more interactive will help the students' with their understanding. Several questions related to e-connectivity and at least 90% consensus was achieved when asked if faculty and students should use email, message boards, the asynchronous classroom, and case studies. The experts agreed through their results in the process of active learning rather than passively absorbing information (Marlowe & Page, 2005). In regard to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and the application of the hierarchy as a framework of this study, the experts did not achieve consensus (Maslow, 1943). Although 80% of the experts agreed on the importance of e-connectivity on the online classroom, the experts were divided on topics such as whether to create social networks for the classroom. Seventy-two percent of the experts agreed that faculty are responsible to meet the social needs of the students. Another learning theory that was reviewed in this study was Bandura’s Social Learning Theory (Bandura, 1977). Bandura expressed that people most often learn through modeling, physically observing someone else accomplishing the task. At least 90% of the experts agreed that the asynchronous classroom engages students and that case studies should be used to reach the students. Through asynchronous classrooms and using case studies, modeling and mirroring occurs allowing students to learn through the social aspects of other students. Stahl, Koschmann, and Suthers (2006) “social theory of computer supported collaborative learning (CSCL)” (p. 1) emphasized that peer-facilitated discussion boards are effective methods for sharing information. The faculty and student experts achieved 98% consensus when asked if it was important to motivate students and if faculty should be approachable to students through frequent communication. Bloom’s Taxonomy In creating the list of best practices to meet the e-connectivity, social, psychological needs of online students, questions were made into statements and Bloom's three domains of learning, affective, cognitive, and psychomotor, were applied. Bloom (1978) stated that optimal learning events exist when they "uniquely combine cognitive and affective components of learning” (p. 576). The data were analyzed to develop emerging themes using the three domains of Bloom's Taxonomy, cognitive, affective, and psychomotor (Halawi, Pires, & McCarthy, 2009; Kirk, 2008).
One limitation in the study was the tracking of experts in each round. Although participants were assigned a number in round one, experts were not assigned numbers in the other rounds. This was an error on the researcher's part. This limitation could be resolved through improved design on the survey tool. This error limited the ability to track responses from round to round. A second limitation was the timing of the surveys during the months of November, December, and January. The key members, educational experts and students experienced extended absences due to the December and January holiday breaks. This limitation can be eliminated in the future by avoiding the winter holidays. Seven experts did not continue from Round One to Round Two. One expert did not continue from Round Two to Round Three. Because there were over 30 experts throughout the study, the limitation had no effect on the study.
The study limited the data gathered by using a Delphi-method technique to question experts in proprietary, post-secondary online education in the NCA/HLC region. The following delimitations are inherent in the design of the current study. The expert participants in the current study were limited to proprietary distance learning faculty and administrators who have taught in an online classroom for at least 36 months. The proprietary distance learning faculty and administrators for the current study came from a geographically limited area, which covered the HLC/NCA region of “Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming” (HLC/NCA, 2009, para. 1). The number of participants in the current study was limited to 20 online educational expert participants and 10 online student participants. The accuracy and the objectivity of the perceptions of the experts and students were limited in this study. The delimitations of the current study affected the outcome, as the results may not be generalizable to regions.
Based on the data and findings of the study, a list of best practices for social e-connectivity was produced and recommendations have been noted. The recommendations for administration and faculty at proprietary institutions within the North Central Accreditation region of The Higher Learning Commission comprised the panels (Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges [HLC/NCA], 2009). The data generated by expert panelists in this study provided many recommendations for a list of best practices for online learners. These recommendations can serve as a starting point for implementation in online classrooms and prepare faculty for the online students. This list of best practices may be expanded and incorporated into proprietary and non-profit online institutions at the graduate and undergraduate level. Based on these findings, future research may be conducted in the following areas: 1. Conduct a quantitative method study at specific school(s) to further develop their own list of best practices based on research. 2. Conduct a qualitative or quantitative study reviewing a school's already created list of best practices. 3. Conduct quantitative studies based on the themes that arose based on Bloom's taxonomy. 3. Conduct a study on the development of course materials (syllabus) to improve their relevance to online instruction. 4. Conduct a qualitative or quantitative study on the effectiveness of applying the list of best practices into online faculty training. 5. Conduct a quantitative study focusing on the communication theme that arose and assess this for different populations such as doctoral students, graduate students, and undergrad students. 6. Conduct a qualitative study focusing on the students perceptions of e-connectivity. 7. Set up an experiment using a control group to evaluate the effectiveness of different social media applications such as Facebook and Twitter in the online classroom. 8. Conduct a qualitative or quantitative study on the effectiveness on e-connectivity using social media such as Facebook or Twitter. 9. Conduct a case study on a school, such as University of Wisconsin -- Oshkosh, on their understanding and application of e-connectivity through social media.
Grand Junction 2011 Presentation
Dr. Andree Swanson October 2011 Grand Junction, COSix Themes of E-Connectivity in Online Courses
Little bit of background… Doctoral student at the Establishing the Best University of Phoenix Practices for Social Educational Leadership Interaction and E- focusing on distance Connectivity in Online education Higher Education Classes
Problem Statement• Research revealed: • Students believe they are unable to connect with their instructors in online classrooms.• General problem: • Faculty and administrators in online programs… • Do not adequately address the social and psychological connectivity needs of students This lack of attention to the social and affective needs has a negative effect on learner satisfaction and retention
Support for Problem Statement• More online courses • Slagter van Tryon and Bishop (2006) identified that online instructors do not• Often less successful achieve a social connection (e-connectivity)• Higher dropout rate than in with their students.traditional schools. • Faculty do not consider the social and• Omission of social interaction psychological needs of each student’s learning styles (Fearing & Riley, 2005). •The lack of engaging the social and psychological needs of distance learners, negatively affects the dropout rate of online students. •Slagter van Tryon and Bishop (2006) stated that the attrition rate in the online classroom is at least 40% higher than a traditional classroom.
Purpose of the Study Qualitative Delphi study Best practices may Quantitative component provide education Identify the best practices leaders for… Standard for training Social interaction Establish guidelines for E-connectivity creating a… More effective Proprietary schools Interactive Online students Will help the students
Definition of Terms E-mmediacy or e-connectivity the feelings or believing of social connectedness that students and faculty get through the technologically enhanced online learning environment. (Slagter van Tyson, 2007; Slagter van Tyson & Bishop, 2006).
Definition of Terms Expert is a person who has “special knowledge, skill,expertise, and experience in a given area of study” (Baker,2005, p. 16). Elliott (2003) defined an expert The person in the room with the most knowledge on the subject.
Significance of Study Although enrollment in online educationcontinues to grow and gain in popularity… the level of learner satisfaction has decreased, while attrition has increased (Allen & Seamen, 2006; Flood, 2002; Martinez, 2003; Simonson, 2006)
Significance of Study Significant to educational leaders and policy makers… May positively impact… Could add to the student learning credibility and reputation of online degrees for the reduce attrition ever-increasing distance- learning student increase retention population improve classroom standards improve standards and guidance for faculty
The Research Questions were… What non-technology What kinds of contact may features can be included to occur in an optimal online best accommodate all educational environment or learning styles? learning management How can an instructor system? effectively motivate online How can faculty reach the students? social and psychological needs of the students?
Fundamental Theories Constructivist Learning Deci and Ryan’s Self- Theory Determination Theory Maslow’s Hierarchy of Stahl, Koschmann, and Needs Suthers’ Computer Bandura’s Social Learning Supported Collaborative Theory Learning Bloom’s Taxonomy
Theoretical Framework Bloom’s Taxonomy Cognitive Affective Psychomotor domains This was the overarching theory for this study.
Relevant Research on TopicSlagter van Tryon and Bishop (2006)Identifying “e-mmediacy” -- Strategies for Web-basedInstruction: A Delphi Study.
Relevant Research on the Topic Literature related to Limited peer-review technology not “soft literature on… skills” Twitter No resources on e- Facebook connectivity or e- MySpace mmediacy
Historical Research Biblical Times Paul’s letters to the churches 1837 Correspondence courses
Historical Research Radio Courses 1957 – 1962 Television Courses Sunrise Semester
Population Under Investigation The goal 30 experts to participate (20 educational experts and 10 student experts). Participants were selected from the HLC/NCA accrediting region. HLC/NCA region “in the states of Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming” (HLC/NCA, 2009, para. 1).
“Expert” Criteria Faculty experts were considered to be experts Educational background (doctoral degree) Time in academia (3 years). The educational experts selected for the study ranged from senior faculty members to administrators from NCA/HLC accredited proprietary schools. All faculty participants earned a doctoral degree. The study’s student experts 2 years of online learning experience from NCA/HLC schools. By virtue of the educational experts’ positions with their respective schools, and the students’ duration in online education, both faculty and students were deemed experts.
Pilot Study First come, First served basis Three faculty experts One faculty dropped out Three student experts … initially Asked open-ended seed questions Six themes emerged…
Emerging Themes Show relevance to students. Establish e-connectivity. Instructor presence. Positive communication. Ability to be open to social networking. Use of technologies to e-connect. These themes were used to categorize the results of the Delphi study.
Delphi Study Three rounds Round One 46 total participants Participants did not participate in Round Two subsequent rounds as study was done over 33 total participants Christmas / New Round Three Year 32 total participants See Limitations
Conclusion of Data 100% consensus on receiving constructive feedback 70% consensus felt that social connectivity was important 90% consensus use email, message boards, the asynchronous classroom, and case studies. Bottom line – mostly in the affective domain
Limitations Tracking experts in each round Timing of the surveys Participants did not participate in subsequent rounds as study was done over Christmas / New Year
Delimitations Limited to propietary distance learning faculty and administrators who have taught online for at least 36 months From HLC region Number of participants Perceptions and bias were also their expertise Outcomes may not be generalizable to other regions
Best Practices by Bloom’s Domains Cognitive Affective Psychomotor
Cognitive Domain Theme: • Show Relevance to Students
Cognitive – Show Relevance to StudentsBlooms Theme Best PracticeDomainCognitive Show Faculty should: Relevance •encourage students to •express in words that student success is important Students •incorporate case studies •make resources available for students to succeed •provide scenarios that are meaningful and help students apply learned information •remind students of their goals •show relevance of course materials to students’ career goals Faculty should not: •include collaborative group projects outside of the curriculum •pass students without regard to standards
Affective Domain Theme: • E-Connectivity • Instructor Presence • Positive Communication • Open to Social Networking• Students social and psychological needs of students
Affective – E-ConnectivityBlooms Theme Best PracticeDomainAffective E- Faculty should be: Connectivity •accommodating •caring •encouraging •flexible •warm Faculty should: •connect emotionally with students
Affective – Instructor PresenceBlooms Theme Best PracticeDomainAffective Instructor Faculty should: Presence •focus on a successful learning model that establishes a high standard of pedagogy •maintain a constant and consistent presence •maintain a high standard •remain flexible
Affective – Positive CommunicationBlooms Theme Best PracticeDomainAffective Positive To motivate students, faculty should be: Communi •accommodating, yet firm and consistent cation •approachable through frequent communication •aware of communication problems that exist •honest in all interactions Faculty should communicate: •clearly, effectively and convey a caring tone •constructive feedback •create a course calendar with assignment due dates at the beginning of each course •promptly •provide constructive feedback •use encouraging words Provide: •constructive feedback •thorough and positive feedback •negative feedback (Continued on next page)
Affective – Positive CommunicationBlooms Theme Best PracticeDomainAffective Positive Avoid negative feedback in a public classroom forum Commun •Communicate: ication •via e-mail •honestly •promptly •clearly, effectively, and convey a caring tone •due dates for assignments at the beginning of each course •firmly, consistently, and accommodate students •with encouraging words Acknowledge: •problems that exist in the online learning environment Faculty should be: •accommodating •encourage students •flexible
Affective – Open to Social Networking Blooms Theme Best Practice Domain Affective Open to Faculty should use social networks in and outside the online classroom: Social •if the goal is to support the learning process Networking Faculty should not: •create social networks in the classroom •create virtual events outside of the classroom In the online classroom, faculty and students would, if available: •participate in a classroom café •share off topic (i.e., photos, recipes) To encourage students: •use social networks (i.e., Facebook, MySpace) NOTES: In the online classroom, faculty and students would not use Facebook, Twitter or Web 2.0 Faculty and students have not participated or used the following items to support an online classroom or to connect with another student in a classroom café, Twitter, and Web 2.0
Affective – Students social andpsychological needs of studentsBlooms Theme Best PracticeDomainAffective Students Faculty should be trained and knowledgeable of: •the different learning styles of students social and •the psychological make-up of the student psychological needs of students Faculty should not: •be responsible to meet the social and psychological needs of the online learner •disregard the online students social and psychological needs Faculty should be: •students social and psychological needs of students Faculty are not responsible to meet: •social needs of students •psychological needs of the students.
Psychomotor Domain Theme: • Use of Technologies to e-Connect
Psychomotor – Use of Technologies to E-ConnectBlooms Theme Best PracticeDomainAffective Use of To engage students and build community, faculty should use: Technologies •integrate multimedia to E-Connect •message boards •the asynchronous classroom Integrate multimedia: •video •audio To engage and build community, incorporate: •e-mail (most effective method) •instant messaging •telephone / telephone conferences •web-based synchronous voice phone (i.e., Skype) •webcams •discussion boards •asynchronous message boards •live chat sessions •blogs •synchronized meetings •asynchronous chat rooms outside the classroom •social networks (i.e., Facebook, MySpace)
Psychomotor – Use of Technologies to E- ConnectBlooms Theme Best PracticeDomainAffective Use of To engage students and build community, faculty should Technologies use: to E-Connect •integrate multimedia •message boards •the asynchronous classroom Integrate multimedia: •video •audio (Continued on next page)
Psychomotor – Use of Technologies to E- ConnectBlooms Theme Best PracticeDomainAffective Use of To engage and build community, incorporate: •e-mail (most effective method) Technologies •instant messaging to E-Connect •telephone / telephone conferences •web-based synchronous voice phone (i.e., Skype) •webcams •discussion boards •asynchronous message boards •live chat sessions •blogs •synchronized meetings •asynchronous chat rooms outside the classroom •social networks (i.e., Facebook, MySpace) The most effective method for reaching online students •e-mail •phone calls •asynchronous discussion boards (Continued on next page)
Psychomotor – Use of Technologies to E- ConnectBlooms Theme Best PracticeDomainAffective Use of Not the most effective methods for reaching online Technologies students to E-Connect •phone calls •live, synchronized online chat is NOT the most effective method for reaching the online students •a web-based phone call •a PowerPoint with visual and music To encourage students: •Incorporate instant messaging •Create online videos •Use webcams
Recommendations Created a list of best practices. This list may… Serve as a starting point for implementation in online classrooms and prepare faculty for the online students. Expand and incorporate into proprietary and non- profit online institutions at the graduate and undergraduate level.
Further Recommendations Conduct a study at … ◦ specific school(s) to further develop their own list of best practices based on research. ◦ reviewing a schools already created list of best practices. ◦ themes that arose based on Blooms taxonomy. ◦ development of course materials (syllabus) to improve their relevance to online instruction. ◦ effectiveness of applying the list of best practices into online faculty training.
Further Recommendations◦ Communication theme that arose and assess this for different populations such as doctoral students, graduate students, and undergrad students.◦ Students perceptions of e-connectivity.◦ Evaluate the effectiveness of different social media applications such as Facebook and Twitter in the online classroom.◦ Effectiveness on e-connectivity using social media such as Facebook or Twitter.◦ Understanding and application of e-connectivity through social media.
Questions?To receive a list of best practices, contact Dr. Swanson Email Andreeswan@aol.com