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AERA 2011 -- Investigating Students' Perceptions of Various Instructional Strategies  to Establish Social Presence
 

AERA 2011 -- Investigating Students' Perceptions of Various Instructional Strategies to Establish Social Presence

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Social presence theory explains how people present themselves as “real” through a communication medium and is a popular construct used to describe how people socially interact in online courses. ...

Social presence theory explains how people present themselves as “real” through a communication medium and is a popular construct used to describe how people socially interact in online courses. Because of its intuitive appeal, educators have experimented with different ways to establish social presence in their online courses. Over the years, we have tried many strategies—from rich threaded discussions to personal one-on-one emails to digital stories to using social networking tools like Twitter. Over time, we began questioning how students perceive all of the strategies we use (in other words, what strategies were leading to the most bang for our buck). In this paper, we describe our investigation of students’ perceptions of various instructional strategies to establish social presence.

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AERA 2011 -- Investigating Students' Perceptions of Various Instructional Strategies  to Establish Social Presence AERA 2011 -- Investigating Students' Perceptions of Various Instructional Strategies to Establish Social Presence Document Transcript

  • AERA 2011 1 Investigating Students Perceptions of Various Instructional Strategies to Establish Social Presence Patrick R. Lowenthal Joanna C. Dunlap AbstractSocial presence theory explains how people present themselves as “real” through acommunication medium and is a popular construct used to describe how people socially interactin online courses. Because of its intuitive appeal, educators have experimented with differentways to establish social presence in their online courses. Over the years, we have tried manystrategies—from rich threaded discussions to personal one-on-one emails to digital stories tousing social networking tools like Twitter. Over time, we began questioning how studentsperceive all of the strategies we use (in other words, what strategies were leading to the mostbang for our buck). In this paper, we describe our investigation of students’ perceptions ofvarious instructional strategies to establish social presence. Introduction For years, we have collected students’ stories about their “best” learning experiences. Theresults of analyzing these stories has been consistent in terms of what students see as importantcharacteristics of engaging, memorable, and impactful learning experiences (Dunlap &Lowenthal, 2010a). At the heart of those experiences are relationships—the connections studentshave with their teacher and with each other. This is not surprising. Chickering and Gamson(1987) found that students’ relationships with their instructors had a direct and significant effecton their level of scholarly engagement; this finding is reflected in subsequent research (forexample Kuh, 2002, 2009; Kuh, Cruce, Shoup, Kinzie, & Gonyea, 2008). Online students, though, often complain about feeling like their instructor is absent fromthe course (Smith & Taveras, 2005). For instance, several years ago Joni set out to design anddeliver the “perfect” online course with lots of rich resources, relevant activities, andauthentic/real projects only to receive an email from a student midway through the coursecomplimenting her on the course but asking her, “Where are you?” Bottom line, social presence is an important aspect of a successful learning experience.Knowing this, we work hard to make sure we attend to social presence needs in the courses weteach. However, we have found it challenging to establish a consistent and adequate level ofsocial presence in our online courses without being online night and day. To our consternation, we are never fully satisfied with our social-presence accomplishments.In the following paper, we share the results of our efforts to create engaging, memorable, andimpactful learning experiences in our online courses by enhancing social presence. We shareseveral of our strategies and then students’ perceptions of those strategies. Theoretical Framework Social presence is a theory that explains the ability of people to present themselves as"real people" through a communication medium (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000).Originally developed to explain the effect telecommunications media can have oncommunication, social presence was used to describe the degree of salience (i.e., quality or stateof “being there”) between two communicators using a communication medium (Short, Williams,
  • AERA 2011 2& Christie, 1976). Social presence theory took on new importance with the rise of computer-mediated communication (CMC) and later online learning (Lowenthal, 2009a, 2009b). Thistheory is perhaps the most popular construct used to describe and understand how people sociallyinteract in online learning environments (Lowenthal, 2009a, 2009b). Now a central concept inonline learning, researchers have shown—to varying degrees—a relationship between socialpresence and student satisfaction (Gunawardena, 1995; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997; Hostetter& Busch, 2006; Richardson & Swan, 2003; So & Brush, 2008), social presence and thedevelopment of a community of learners (Rourke, Anderson, Garrison, & Archer, 2001; Rovai,2002), and social presence and perceived learning (Caspi & Blau, 2008; Richardson & Swan,2003). Because of results like these, researchers and practitioners alike continue to try differentways to establish and maintain social presence in online courses. For instance, Aragon (2003)identified over a dozen different ways of establishing social presence in online courses (e.g.,incorporating audio and video, posting introductions, frequent feedback). Others have looked atways to create and maintain social presence by using tools outside of an LMS. For instance,DuVall, Powell, Hodge, and Ellis (2007) investigated using text messaging to improve socialpresence. Also, Keil and Johnson (2002) investigated using Internet based voicemail to increasesocial presence. And finally, we have written about the power of using Digital Storytelling aswell as social networking tools like Twitter to establish social presence (Dunlap & Lowenthal,2009a, 2009b, 2010b; Lowenthal & Dunlap, 2010). However, research to date has not identifiedwhich strategies are generally better than other strategies for establishing social presence. Background: Social Presence Strategies After the “Where Are You?” experience, we frequently discussed the challenges ofestablishing and maintaining social presence in online courses. It was clear to us that it matteredto students and that it mattered to us. The absence of social presence abraded the overallaesthetic learning experience and undermined student learning. Therefore, because of thepotential pay-off in terms of student engagement and learning in online courses, we investedsubstantial time and energy considering and studying social presence. You could say we becameobsessed. We read everything we could find on social presence and related topics, participated inconference presentations and other professional development activities, and experimented.The following pages outline some of the things we have done (and inquired about with ourstudents) to establish and maintain social presence in our courses. More specifically, below weelaborate on how we use introductions, orientations, personalized detail feedback, reconnecting,threaded discussions, small group work, and free-flowing, organic interactions to establish andmaintain social presence in our courses.Introductions We believe there is a connection between students’ comfort and sense of trust and theirwillingness to share and build the level of personal connection and community needed toestablish strong social presence in an online course. Therefore, we have spent a lot of timethinking about the best way to conduct introductions—that is, getting-to-know-you activities—inour courses. Below are a few examples of the types of strategies we use at the start of ourcourses. Teacher bios. Since we ask our students to share information about themselves, weshare a lot of information about ourselves. Besides helping students to have insight into our
  • AERA 2011 3values, passions, interests, credibility and so on, our sharing models the type and level of sharingwe want them to engage in, in order to set the appropriate tone for social presence andestablishing a personal, supporting online learning environment. To this end, we share suchthings as our teaching philosophies as well as other pertinent resources (e.g., links to articleswe’ve written, presentations we’ve delivered, our blogs, and so on)—sometimes via text andsometimes in a digital format (see http://www.augustcouncil.com/~jdunlap/movie for anexample of a digital story that Joni shares with her students and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VL0QkVu5t6w for an example of a digital story that Patrick shares with his students). Student bios. We approach student bios in a variety of ways. Sometimes we use theSuperhero Powers strategy (see description below under Reconnecting). Other times we usestrategies such as Aladdin’s Lamp, One Extra Hour, Digital Storytelling, or even a Photo Roster.For Aladdin’s Lamp, we ask students to respond to the following prompt (or a variation of thisprompt, depending on the audience) in VoiceThread: The myth of Aladdin and the Lamp is well-known. It is hard not to imagine what you would do with three wishes, and how best to craft the wishes to make sure you achieve the desired outcome...indeed, thats the rub! Most of you know each other from previous courses, but I dont know you yet. So, instead of asking you to rehash what you already know about each other for my benefit, lets try something different...and hopefully you will learn something new about each other in the process. You now have access to Aladdins Lamp, and the genie is awaiting your three wishes. Our collective wishes have to be different, so as you consider your three, be sure to check to see what others have shared as their three wishes—no duplication allowed! :-) The One Extra Hour activity is similar. We ask students to consider what they would doif they had an extra hour in the day, and why. Through this sharing (and, we participate too),students learn a lot about the priorities and values of their peers (and us) while also learningabout their families and work situations. We use tools like VoiceThread for these social-presencestrategies because students can share a photo and respond to the prompt using their microphonesor webcams; hearing and seeing each other helps all of us feel more connected. We also have our students create Digital Stories about themselves. We tend to simply askthem to share something about themselves (e.g., What did you do over Winter-break?) using anapplication of their choice (e.g., Microsoft PhotoStory, iMovie, Animoto, VoiceThread).Learning little things about each other through sharing digital stories helps establish socialpresence in a traditionally text heavy medium (Lowenthal & Dunlap, 2010). Finally, one last strategy we use for student bios is the creation of a Photo Roster. Whilestudents can attach an image in a threaded discussion or create a home page in certain LearningManagement Systems (LMS) (e.g., Pearson LearningStudio), this results in a disjointed finalproduct. We instead prefer to create one document that has pictures and bio information abouteach student. By creating a Google Doc and making it editable by anyone, students can log inand fill in predetermined information as well as include a photo. 5-minute conversations. During the first few weeks of our courses, we also invitestudents to participate in a 5-minute phone conversation with us. We do this so our studentsmight feel more connected and less distant from us. We have found that these early phoneconversations lead to subsequent phone conversations with students for purposes of projectbrainstorming, content clarification, and formative feedback—and in a much more efficient andpersonal way than if we had participated in the same exchanges via a threaded discussion.
  • AERA 2011 4Orientations We also focus on orienting students to our courses much like we do in a face-to-facecourse. The following are a few finding-your-way-around activities we use to help students withcourse orientation, in the first week and throughout the term. Orientation videos. We present short orientation videos, with each video walkingstudents through different aspects of the course shell, learning activities, and projects. Usingtools like Jing, we create screencasts showing them all around the course shell. We interject oursense of humor where possible, tell stories, and provide explanations for our design decisions.These videos not only orient students to the course, but to us as well. Course & syllabus scavenger hunt. Videos though are not the only way to orientstudents to a course. We also use the quiz feature in our LMS to create a course and syllabusscavenger hunt that students submit by the end of the first week. To complete the 12-questionscavenger hunt, students have to read the syllabus, locate materials in the course shell, and watchthe orientation videos. The results of the scavenger hunt reassure us that students are locating andtracking important course information, and alerts us to any misconceptions or confusions thatindividual students have about the materials so we can immediately reach out to them andprovide additional support and guidance. Weekly announcements. At the start of each week, we post a new announcementorienting students to the activities of the week, and also send the announcement to students viaemail. Even though this information exists elsewhere in the course, we like to reach out tostudents (as opposed to making them log into the course shell) with and enthusiastic and morepersonal announcement about the week (whether in text format or video). In each announcement,we provide a reminder about how they should focus their time and energy during the week. Wealso include personal information (e.g., like what we did the week before), and wishes for asuccessful up-coming week. Weekly agendas. Finally, for each week in the course, we provide students with aweekly agenda checklist that they can print out to help them track what they should be workingon during the week. Again, although this information exists in the course’s master calendar, ithelps to have the week’s activities laid out in a checklist format. We also use the agendas asanother way to help students connect with us by adding personal touches. For instance, Joniincludes inspirational artwork and music at the top of each agenda and a “What’s fun got to dowith it” section at the bottom, where she shares fun and interesting items that are related to theactivities of the week.Personalized, Detailed Feedback Assessment and evaluation (and the feedback it entails) are difficult aspects of teaching.Whenever possible we strive to provide personalized and detailed feedback to our students to notonly improve the learning process but also to maintain our social presence and connection witheach student throughout the semester. The following are a few ways that we do this: One-on-one and group emails. As low tech as it might appear and while it goes againstthe school of thought that all communication should be kept within the LMS, we are strongbelievers in the power of one-on-one mails (see Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2010c). While we useone-on-one and group emails in a variety of ways throughout the semester, we primarily use it asa way to provide personalized detailed feedback with our students. Video feedback. Sometimes though we find the need to provide feedback in a different—high tech--format. For instance, Patrick uses screencasting tools like Jing to provide video
  • AERA 2011 5feedback to his students on certain assignments in which it is hard to provide feedback in textalone. While cumbersome in ways in that you have to get all set up with your microphone andthe software and so forth, students have commented on how valuable it is to hear both thepositive and the negative feedback in the tone of our voices.Reconnecting In our experience, it is not realistic to get to know people in an online course with onegetting-to-know-you activity during the first week of class. Establishing social presence andbuilding relationships and community requires multiple opportunities to share and connect. So,for reconnection purposes, we use activities like the following to reengage students every fewweeks. Superhero powers. For this activity, we ask students to respond to the following prompt:What are your superhero powers? What is your superhero moniker? And, how do yoursuperhero powers help you in life? Using VoiceThread, students share a photo and record theirresponse. Their creative responses are so much fun…and help us learn about the assets eachstudent sees as her or his strengths. Virtual paper bag. For this activity, students pick five items that represent who they areand what is important to them. They pull together visual representations of their five items for avirtual paper bag that they share using a tool like Flickr. Once everyone has posted their virtualpaper bag, students review each other’s, and discuss the meaning of the items. Students learnabout each other’s passions, values, families, and the like; learn about differences andsimilarities; and learn each other’s stories. This activity helps students feel more connectedbecause of the personal content of the photos and emotion involved in telling their stories. Soundtrack of your life. Another reconnecting activity (and one of our personalfavorites) involves having our students create a playlist of six songs: two that represent their past,two that represent their present, and two that represent their planned/hoped for future. Studentsshare their playlists (using a digital jukebox like Grooveshark). They then ask questions aboutthe songs—sort of a 20-questions activity—to figure out why certain songs were selected. Youcan learn a lot about someone from the music they select (Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2010b).Threaded Discussions Threaded discussions have been described as the bread and butter of online coursesbecause they are often the primary tool used for student-instructor and student-studentcommunication and interaction. They are a great way to for students to test their new knowledge,represent their conceptual understanding, and find their professional voices. However, we havefound over the years—and the literature supports our experience—that threaded discussions inand of themselves are not inherently good or bad. Rather, their worth typically depends on howthey are set up and used in any given course. Therefore, we tend to think a lot about how, when,and why we use threaded discussions to ensure they consistently benefit and support studentlearning and social presence. The following are a couple of ways we use threaded discussions forsocial presence purposes: Non-threatening discussions. We do not assume our students know how to effectivelyuse online threaded discussions. For purposes of practicing online discussion (using the tools,protocols, etiquette, etc.), we provide our students with ample opportunities to discuss non-threatening, low-judgmental topics as well as non-course related topics (see Dunlap, 2009a,under Further Readings). For example, we have students visit the Picassohead website and create
  • AERA 2011 6an artwork (usually a self-portrait), then submit a link to a threaded discussion forum. Onceposted, we encourage students to comment on each other’s artwork. We also post entertainingphotos (not directly related to the course content) and ask students to share their captions.Activities like this can help introduce humor into threaded discussions which can be difficult todo—but also can help with social presence. Discussion Protocols. The same-old-same-old threaded discussion forum format (i.e.,instructor posts a question, and each student is required to post an original response andcomment on posts from two peers) can be detrimental to social presence and studentengagement. Therefore, we use different discussion protocols to ensure the continuing benefit ofonline discussions while minimizing the potential boredom that comes from threaded-discussionmisuse and overuse, and maximizing social presence through student responsibility andengagement (Dunlap, 2009a, 2009b). Discussion protocols also serve to balance student voices,ensuring that everyone in the class has the same opportunity to contribute to the discussion.Finally, they provide students with specific roles and directions for how to engage in aproductive discussion (see Dunlap 2009b for specifics on different protocols we use in ourcourses).Small Groups Through small-group work and collaboration, students experience and develop anappreciation for multiple perspectives; refine their knowledge through argumentation, structuredcontroversy, and the sharing of ideas and perspectives; learn to use colleagues as resources; andare more willing to take on the risk required to tackle complex, ill-structured problems (Dunlap& Grabinger, 2003). Because of the potential value of small-group work and collaboration onstudent learning and engagement, and because it is a clear way of involving students in student-student interactions that enhance social presence, we use various small-group and collaborationstrategies and activities in our online courses (see Dunlap, 2009c). Below we describe a few ofour activities. Peer review. A good way to establish and maintain social presence among students in anonline course is through peer review activities. Peer review, while a very authentic activity, it isone we find many students struggle with. Therefore, we use a “no penalty” approach to peerreviews: … Your job as a peer reviewer is to help your peers create the best possible product, so you do them no service is you are not honest and open with your feedback. Be constructive and professional. Please provide 500 words of feedback in response to the five questions each peer asks you to consider. Thank you! [Final note: If when you sit down to do the peer reviews you find that one of your peers has not posted a draft by the due date, then you are not held responsible. The peer who did not post by the due date will lose out on valuable feedback (and points), and you will receive credit for the review regardless.] “No Jeopardy” group work. While many instructors often avoid using group workonline to avoid any potential headaches (Wray, Lowenthal, Bates, & Stevens, 2008), we arestrong believers in the importance of collaborating with others as well as learning how toeffectively work with a group online—not to mention the inherent social presence opportunitieswhen working closely with one’s peers. We use “no jeopardy” approaches to collaborative workthat allow for a submitted product to be complete without a missing member’s contribution. Document Co-Creation. Finally, we often use Google Docs and Spreadsheets in ouronline courses to support students document co-creation activities and enhance social presence.
  • AERA 2011 7One example of this use is students co-creation of a Top-100 List of Design Guidelines (alsocalled the What We Know List), used to support their instructional design work. Developed inGoogle Docs over the course of the semester, students contribute new design guidelines withsupporting citations based on the coursework and readings. By the end of the semester, studentswalk away with a robust set of design guidelines summarizing the readings that can be used asthey continue their design work outside of the course. Google Docs makes it possible for ouronline students to collectively develop a unique document, each sharing expertise, reviewingeach others contributions for appropriate modifications and redundancy reductions, summarizingand synthesizing what they have learned from the course readings, and reflecting on the value oftheir individual contributions and the value of the collection of guidelines in general.Free-flowing, organic interactions Last but not least, one of our most recent attempts at establishing and maintaining socialpresence in our courses involves social networking tools—specifically, Twitter. We began usingTwitter (and inviting our students to follow us) because we wanted to have an informal, playfulway for our online students to connect with us and each other throughout the day. As effective as we thought many of the strategies we have previously discussed were—we felt confined within the structure of the LMS. This was exasperated by the fact that we havebeen missing the informal, playful banter and chit-chat that is possible when everyone isphysically located in the same geographic space. This banter helps students connect with us, andexperience our personalities. And, it helps them connect with each other in a more emotionalway. Twitter seemed to have potential to further support our social-presence efforts. Twitter. We invite our students to follow us on Twitter and to follow each other. Inaddition, we provide a list of people outside of the course who tweet about course-relevant topicsto follow as well as a number of publications and professional organizations. Our decision to use Twitter to enhance social presence in our online courses wasreinforced by students’ experiences (see Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2009a, 2009b) as well as the plainfact that our communications via Twitter seemed much more natural than logging into our LMS,getting into the course shell, then getting into a discussion forum and posting a message...andthen waiting for someone to respond later (after she or he has already moved on to other work,thoughts, issues). But unlike many of the other strategies, we found Twitter to be an extremelytime consuming strategy so we were left wondering about its (as well as all of the otherstrategies) effectiveness. Method As is clear from the selection of strategies described in the previous pages, we exert a lotof time and energy on social presence, using a variety of both low-technology and high-technology strategies. Our sense was always that for the most part it was time well spent—weknew that we were benefiting from our efforts and it seemed that students were as well. For us,we really felt like we were getting to know our students better, and had a closer, more personaland supportive relationship with individual students as opposed to the group (see Dunlap &Lowenthal, 2010c, for more on our efforts to build relationships with individual students inonline courses). Even though we believed our efforts were effective, we could not help butwonder if maybe there was a social-presence formula for selecting the right strategies for anonline course. We were doing so many things to support social presence, maybe we were doingtoo much? Maybe we did not have to do all that we were doing (e.g., maybe all the effort we
  • AERA 2011 8were putting into using Twitter was not worth it)? Maybe there was an ideal combination ofstrategies for achieving the right level of social presence in an online course, and that we wereover the threshold and doing more than we needed to? Even though we worked hard to tie thestrategies to learning objectives and relevant course content and activities, maybe we wereturning students off with all of the social-presence strategies? Because of these questions, wedecided to better track students’ feedback, and conduct a formal study on the perceivedeffectiveness of the various social-presence strategies we were using in our online courses. Our investigation involves three phases (see Table 1). During the first phase, we simplysolicited feedback from our students about some of the social presence strategies we use. Basedon the results, we decided to extend our research on students’ perceptions of differentinstructional strategies and technologies implemented to enhance social presence. In the second phase of this study, we constructed a survey to investigate students’perceptions of social presence in our online courses. The survey we constructed was based on theCommunity of Inquiry survey (which assesses social presence, teaching presence, and cognitivepresence) (Arbaugh et al., 2008). For the purposes of this study, we eliminated about half of thequestions (e.g., the one’s focused on cognitive presence) and then added additional questionsfocused on students’ perceptions of instructional strategies and technologies we use to establishand maintain social presence. The survey consists of Likert scale questions as well as some open-ended questions (See Appendix A). The sample of our study consists of graduate students completing a graduate certificate ineLearning, Master of Arts in eLearning, or a Master of Arts in Information and LearningTechnologies (e.g., instructional design and technology in K-12 and corporate settings). Weadministered this survey to students in four different sections of two different completely onlinecourses in the fall 2009, spring 2010, and summer 2010 semesters. There were a total of 101students in the two different courses. A total of 37 students completed the survey; this is a36.6% response rate which is a little above the average 33% response rate achieved by othersconducting online surveys (see: Nulty, 2008; Sheehan, 2001). Finally, the third phase of the study consists of semi-structured interviews (See AppendixB for the questions we used for the interviews) that focus on students’ perceptions of usingvarious tools and instructional strategies as a part of their online learning experience. Weidentified students with the highest and lowest social presence scores from phase two for theinterviews. All three phases of our investigation are essentially focused on investigating thefollowing question: What are students perceptions of various instructional strategies used inonline courses?Table 1Three Phases of Our StudyPhase One: Phase One: We informally asked students for feedback on different instructional strategies (e.g., Twitter) that we used in our courses.Phase Two: We then used the data collected in Phase One and our experience teaching online to construct a survey to investigate students’ perceptions of the tools, technologies, and instructional strategies used to establish and maintain social presence in our courses. We administered this survey to four sections of students taking our online courses in the fall 2009, the spring 2010, and the
  • AERA 2011 9 summer of 2010.Phase Three: The final phase of our investigation consisted of follow up semi-structured interviews with a subset of the students from phase 2. ResultsPhase One Results The comments collected during Phase One were consistently positive about many of thestrategies described earlier in this paper. The following are a few examples: ● In general, the discussions helped me feel connected to my course colleagues. The discussions also helped me feel connected to you (Joni). In addition, the feedback I received on my projects helped quite a bit as well. ● The structured discussions that we had always help me, sometimes I may miss a point that someone else may see, so I like that and the various points other students make. I also like the peer review on the projects, I think that helped me feel connected. I think you did a great job with interacting with the discussions and any email I sent you answered quickly, so I felt connected. ● The part of the course that made me feel connected to the other students was the peer reviews. The aspect of the course that helped me feel connected to the instructor was the feedback I received from the instructor and the follow-up email exchanges. ● I really liked being an integral part of reviewing. I felt (especially in certain assignment) that I really got some insight into how the other students interpreted the assignments and put their own life (either work or other parts of their life) into the assignment. ● I really LOVE twittering with everyone. It really made me feel like we knew each other more and were actually in class together. ● The introductory music activity was awesome to help in getting to know people. Many of us have worked together the past few semesters, but this helped shed a lot of light of a more personal nature about their lives. I would also say reading and reviewing others assignments and postings also helped indirectly connect.... ● The Soundtrack of Your Life: It was a creative way to introduce ourselves to each other that communicated something about ourselves instead of using words. I thought the Google Doc activities were an excellent way to express ourselves freely for others to read freely about our expressions. ● In terms of relating to Joni, I felt your contributions to discussions and commentary were obviously the biggest way to get your thoughts on our work. I would periodically check your blogs to review your thoughts, and the artwork you chose to illustrate each week did give some ideas as to where you are coming from or whom you are.After analyzing comments like these, we decided to dig deeper and to investigate students’perceptions of social presence in our online courses.
  • AERA 2011 10Phase Two Results During Phase 2 of our study, we surveyed students taking courses in the fall 2009, spring2010, and Summer 2010. Results show that students reported a mean social presence score of2.85. There is no consensus on what an ideal level of social presence is for an online course, butthis number is smaller than the mean score of 3.18 reported by Swan et al. (2008). At the sametime though students appeared to be very satisfied (M=3.51 on a 0-4 scale) and reported highlevels of perceived learning (M=3.65 on a 0-4 scale) (see Table 2).Table 2Social Presence, Satisfaction, and Perceived Learning Results TotalSocial Presence Score M=2.85 Affective Expression M=2.75 Open Communication M=3.20 Group Cohesion M=2.60Satisfaction M=3.51Perceived Learning M=3.65 First, in an effort to compare students’ perceptions of each of the tools and strategies weused, we asked students to rate the degree to which each tool and strategy helped them connectwith his/her instructor. Detailed written feedback, one-on-one emails, and general “How-to”Screencasts were the three highest ranked activities (see Figure 1). On the other hand, Twitterwas ranked the lowest (see Table 3). Interestingly, the results are positive for all of the strategiesexcept Twitter; on a 4-point scale, we see scores above 2.0 as positive in terms of students’perception of their role in enhancing social presence.
  • AERA 2011 11Figure 1. Students’ responses of what activities were effective at making them feel connected totheir instructor.Table 3Frequency of Student Responses Strongly Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Average Disagree Agreep. Detailed written feedback on projects (IT 0 0 2 4 15 3.626710)t. One-on-one emails (IT 5670 & IT 6710) 0 0 3 9 23 3.57b. General “How-to” Screencasts (IT 5670) 0 0 2 8 16 3.54c. Specific trouble shooting “How-to” 0 0 3 7 15 3.48Screencasts (IT 5670)d. Screencast (i.e. Audio / Video) Feedback on 0 0 4 7 15 3.42Assignments (IT 5670)w. Instructor Bios (IT 5670 & IT 6710) 0 0 2 17 17 3.42n. Five minute phone conversation (IT 6710) 0 1 3 2 12 3.39x. Previous relationship with the instructor (IT 0 0 2 10 9 3.335670 & IT 6710)a. Digital Storytelling (IT 5670) 0 0 3 12 10 3.28u. Adobe Connect Synchronous sessions (IT 0 0 4 16 13 3.275670 & IT 6710)
  • AERA 2011 12j. Virtual Paper Bag: Soundtrack (IT 6710) 0 0 6 5 10 3.19f. Video Announcements (IT 5670) 0 2 2 11 10 3.16o. Personalized instructor announcements with 0 0 5 6 8 3.16photos (IT 6710)h. Virtual Paper Bag: 350-word story for Flickr 0 0 4 9 7 3.15photos (IT 6710)g. Virtual Paper Bag: Five photos in Flickr (IT 0 0 4 9 6 3.116710)i. Virtual Paper Bag: Wordle (IT 6710) 0 1 5 6 9 3.10v. Threaded discussions (IT 5670 & IT 6710) 1 4 7 13 12 2.84q. Course overview videos (IT 6710) 1 1 3 8 5 2.83e. Music-related Activities (IT 5670) 1 2 9 10 6 2.64l. Superhero Powers (IT 6710) 1 3 4 7 5 2.60r. Musical interludes on weekly agendas (IT 1 1 9 5 5 2.576710)m. Just Ask Zoltar (IT 6710) 1 2 6 7 3 2.47k. Top 100 List of Design Guidelines (IT 6710) 2 4 6 5 4 2.24s. Twitter (IT 5670 & IT 6710) 2 4 18 5 1 1.97 We then specifically asked students to pick the activity they thought was most effective athelping them feel connected to their instructor. Phone calls and screencast feedback wereselected the most by students as the most effective tool or strategy. On the other hand, whenasked which activity they thought was least effective at helping them feel connected to theirinstructor, Twitter and the “Top 100 List of Design Guidelines” Google Docs activity were listedby six students each as being the least effective in comparison to the other strategies. After focusing on the tools and strategies that help students feel connected to theirinstructor, we asked students to rate the degree to which each tool and strategy helped themconnect with their peers. Digital storytelling, previous relationships with peers, and open accessto review peers projects were ranked the highest and Twitter was once again ranked the lowest(see Figure 2 and Table 4). Again, however, it is interesting to note that all of the strategiesexcept Twitter received a mean score of above neutral (2.0 on a 4-point scale).
  • AERA 2011 13Figure 2. Students’ responses of what activities were effective at making them feel connected totheir peers.Table 4Frequency of Student Responses Strongly Disagre Neutral Agree Strongly Rating Disagree e Agree Averagea. Digital Storytelling (IT 5670) 0 0 3 12 12 3.33q. Previous relationship with peers (IT 5670 0 0 4 15 15 3.32& IT 6710)p. Open access to view peers’ projects (IT 0 0 4 18 13 3.265670 & IT 6710)o. Fellow students peer reviews of your 0 2 5 13 16 3.19assignments (IT 5670 & IT 6710)l. One-on-one emails (IT 5670 & IT 6710) 0 1 6 14 12 3.12h. Virtual Paper Bag: 350-word story for 0 0 3 12 5 3.10Flickr photos (IT 6710)d. Virtual Paper Bag: Five photos in Flickr 0 0 5 10 6 3.05(IT 6710)j. Virtual Paper Bag: Soundtrack (IT 6710) 0 2 3 9 7 3.00i. Virtual Paper Bag: Wordle (IT 6710) 0 2 5 9 5 2.81n. Threaded discussions (IT 5670 & IT 6710) 1 4 9 12 11 2.76m. Adobe Connect Synchronous sessions (IT 0 1 14 12 6 2.705670 & IT 6710)f. Superhero Powers (IT 6710) 1 2 6 9 3 2.52
  • AERA 2011 14b. Musical Activities (IT 5670) 1 3 10 6 6 2.50c. Instructors’ Audio/Video Feedback on 1 1 13 6 3 2.38other students assignments (IT 5670)g. Top 100 List of Design Guidelines (IT 1 5 8 3 4 2.196710)e. Just Ask Zoltar (IT 6710) 1 4 9 6 1 2.10k. Twitter (IT 5670 & IT 6710) 3 4 17 1 1 1.73 We then specifically asked students to pick the activity they thought was most effective athelping them feel connected to their peers. Students selected peer review, open access to viewpeers projects and previous relationships as the top three strategies. Similarly, when studentswere asked to pick the activity that was least effective at helping them feel connected to theirpeers, Twitter was selected most frequently – although, only by seven students – as the leasteffective activity.Phase Three Results The results of Phases 1 and 2 of the study left us wondering why certain strategies rankedhigher than others. For Phase 3, we conducted interviews with six students: three who had scoredthe highest on the social-presence scale (two women and one man) and three who had scored thelowest on the scale (two men and one woman). We purposively delayed the interviews, notconducting them until six months after the last surveys were completed; we wanted to hear aboutwhat students remembered as an indication of the most memorable parts of their online courseexperiences. Each interview lasted between 30-50 minutes. Although we are still analyzing the interview data, we have already seen importantthemes emerge. According to the students, there are three primary things instructors should do toenhance social presence: 1. Provide personal, individualized feedback. Students reported this as being key to them feeling connected to their instructors. The tools and strategies that students talked about during the interviews as having a positive effect on their feelings of connection and their relationship with instructors were: email; phone/Skype calls; written, audio, video feedback; and one-on-one synchronous sessions. 2. Provide opportunities for students to build relationships through collaborative work and sharing. Students reported this as being key to them feeling connected to their peers. The tools and strategies that students talked about during the interviews as having a positive effect on their feelings of connection with their peers were: group projects, peer reviews, virtual paper bag-like activities, open posting of projects, threaded discussions, and synchronous sessions. 3. Being accessible. Students reported this as being key to them feeling connected to their instructors. The tools and strategies that students talked about during the interviews as having a positive effect on their feelings of connection with and their relationship with their instructors were: email; phone/Skype calls; synchronous sessions; and bios and digital stories.
  • AERA 2011 15The students we interviewed indicated that it was not that the other strategies weren’t of value,but that these specific strategies had the “biggest bang for the buck” in terms of connection andrelationship building. Another interesting theme that emerged from the interview data is the importance ofemphasizing the role of the tool and/or strategy used to enhance social presence. The strategiesand tools that worked well for the students were those that were clearly defined, intentionallysequenced, and relevant to the course’s learning objectives. As the students pointed out, it is nota specific strategy (e.g., threaded discussions) or tool (e.g., Twitter) that leads to enhanced socialpresence, but how and why the strategy or tool is used for social-presence goals within theframework of achieving specific learning objectives. The third theme that emerged from the interviews was how influential students saw socialpresence (feeling connected to their instructors and peers, having a relationship with theirinstructors and peers) as being with regard to their learning. Even the three students who scoredthe lowest on the social presence survey shared that they believed social presence was a criticalaspect of the online course experience, contributing to their achievement of course-specificlearning objectives and their overall professional preparation. Discussion The results from Phase One, our informal solicitation of student feedback, was overallpositive. The students who responded had good things to say about a number of tools andstrategies we used. For instance, we received some positive feedback about our use of Twitter.However, as often is the case with this type of feedback, we were not getting feedback fromenough students to make any informed decisions about the tools and strategies we were using.We were also not gaining any insight into which tools and strategies were better than others. Forinstance, while some students reported liking Twitter, we questioned whether or not – whencompared to the other tools and strategies – Twitter was the best use of our instructional time andenergy. The results from Phase Two on the other hand, while still not representing theperceptions of every student in our courses (due to the 36.6% response rate), began to help uscompare which tools and strategies were better from a student perspective at establishing andmaintaining social presence with their instructors and peers. We were surprised but delighted thattwo very-low tech strategies (that all instructors should be use using)—specifically, detailedwritten feedback and one-on-one emails—were in the top three with the best average score asbeing able to help students feel connected to their instructors. Interestingly though, when laterasked which specific strategy was most effective phone calls and screencast feedback wereidentified the most as the single best strategy. From our perspective, this suggests that basicteaching strategies (i.e., giving detailed written feedback and/or using screencasts to giveaudio/video feedback) and communication strategies (one-on-one email and phone calls) areperceived as the most effective strategies for helping students connect with their instructors. At the same time, students rated Twitter as being one of the least effective strategies whencompared to the other tools and strategies we used in our courses. This was both alarming andcomforting. Using Twitter for instructional purposes, and specifically to establish socialpresence, involves a serious time commitment. We have been using Twitter for over two years inour courses but when it comes to which tool or strategy has the most bang for the buck, Twitterdoes not work as well as the others. However, this does not suggest that Twitter or social
  • AERA 2011 16networking tools do not have a place in online courses. Rather, when compared to the others,Twitter was not as effective at helping students feel connected to their instructors. We laterlearned though in the follow-up interviews that this could be due to how we introduced Twitterin our courses (e.g., students were invited to participate in Twitter as opposed to it being a courserequirement). In fact, one student stated that she might have had a different perspective aboutTwitter if she was required to use it. Other results from Phase Two suggest that while students see certain tools and strategiesas effective in helping them establish a connection with their instructors, they see other tools andstrategies as helping them connect with their peers. For instance, as mentioned earlier, studentsfound that digital storytelling, previous relationships with peers, and open access to peers’projects were the most helpful at establishing a connection with their peers. This was reassuringin that we have experienced and written about the power of digital storytelling to establish socialpresence (Lowenthal & Dunlap, 2010) as well as the importance of having open access to peers’projects (Lowenthal & Thomas, 2010). And while it makes sense, we did not expect previousrelationships with peers to be rated so highly. During the interviews, students clarified thatprevious relationships were primarily established through group projects. The initial results from our interviews support a number of the findings from Phase Two.For instance, students pointed out that their relationship with instructors (including their sensethat their instructors were real and accessible) was very important to them and an aspect of theironline-course experience that positively influenced their overall learning. They also pointed outthat while all the strategies were of value, certain ones stuck in their minds as being moreeffective than others. They recalled how important feedback was—both detailed writtenfeedback and screencast feedback, and that receiving feedback helped them connect with theirinstructors. They also consistently brought up one-on-one communication (in which email wasused the most). So while we continue to hear about emailing being dead, something only “oldfolks” do, or something you should not do because it happens outside of the LMS, our resultssuggest that email – or more generally personal, individualized communication – is key tohelping students feel connected to their instructors. Another theme that emerged in the interviews that expanded upon the survey results wasthe importance of previous relationships and group work. Based on the survey results alone, itwould be easy to conclude that previous relationships are highly important and that establishing acohort model could help establish social presence by having students complete all of theircoursework together. However, the interviews revealed that simply having a previous coursetogether does not mean that a student had a previous relationship with other students. Studentspointed out that having a successful group-project experience with their peers in a course helpedthem get to know their peers better and establish and maintain the social presence between themin future courses. Finally, perhaps one of the most interesting things that emerged from the interviews wasthat students who were selected with low social presence scores talked about many of the samethings as students who were selected with high social presence scores. This suggests that perhapsthere isn’t a magic level of social presence needed for all students but rather that each studentneeds different things. Implications
  • AERA 2011 17 So where does this leave us in terms of our investigation of social presence in our onlinecourses? Well, our own experiences coupled with our data collection suggest that many if not allof our social presence strategies are effective. Further, our more formal analysis leads us towonder if low-tech solutions (e.g., personalized, detailed written feedback; one-on-one emails;phone conversations) are more impactful than high-technology solutions (e.g., Twitter) in thelong run. When trying to balance workload, which online instructors often have to do (see Dunlap,2005), it may be more important to attend to these “low-tech” activities in an online course ratherthan others—such as Twitter—to enhance social presence. Although there seems to be—asindicated so far in our inquiry—some clear winners and losers in terms of enhancing socialpresence, our inquiry suggests that in any group there is a range of preferences, with one strategynot fulfilling the needs of all students. We also surmise that students’ perception of socialpresence isn’t enhanced by just one tool or strategy, but instead by a carefully crafted set of toolsand strategies that reinforce social presence as a valued part of the teaching-learning experience. We hope our description of the social-presence strategies we use and the results of ourinquiry into how students perceive the effectiveness of social-presence strategies will informothers’ selection of tools and strategies for enhancing social presence in online courses, andprovide insight into why certain strategies and tools are more effective than others. Conclusion Our personal quest is on-going—to improve our own online teaching and our students’learning experiences by better understanding where to invest time and energy to get the biggestsocial-presence bang for the buck. So far our experience coupled with our research suggests thaton-going low-tech strategies like one-on-one emails and detailed feedback might be moreeffective than one-time high-tech strategies. We are not about to abandon all of our high-techstrategies nor are we going to ignore future technologies that might help establish and maintainsocial presence but at the same time we think it is important to recognize the power of low-techstrategies and the various needs of learners. The bottom line is that we continue to be curiousabout how best to establish social presence in the courses we teach, and will continue to workwith our students to incorporate the most appropriate mix of social-presence strategies.
  • AERA 2011 18 ReferencesAragon, S. (2003). Creating social presence in online environments. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 100, 57-68.Arbaugh, J.B., Cleveland-Innes, M., Diaz, S.R., Garrison, D.R., Ice, P., Richardson, & Swan, K.P. (2008). Developing a community of inquiry instrument: Testing a measure of the Community of Inquiry framework using a multi-institutional sample. The Internet and higher Education, 11(3-4), 133-136.Caspi, A., & Blau, I. (2008). Social presence in online discussion groups: Testing three conceptions and their relations to perceived learning. Social Psychology of Education, 11(3), 323-346.Chickering, A. W., and Gamson, Z. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin, 40(7), 3-7.Dunlap, J. C. (2005). Workload reduction in online courses: Getting some shuteye. Performance Improvement, 44(5), 18-25.Dunlap, J.C. (2009a). Down-and-dirty guidelines for effective discussions in online courses. In P. R. Lowenthal, D. Thomas, A. Thai, & B. Yuhnke, B. (Eds.), The CU Online handbook. Teach differently: Create and collaborate (pp. 93-99). Raleigh, NC: Lulu Enterprises. Retrieved from http://www.ucdenver.edu/academics/CUOnline/FacultyResources/ additionalResources/Handbook/Documents/GuidelinesEffectiveDiscussions.pdfDunlap, J.C. (2009b). Protocols for online discussions. In P. R. Lowenthal, D. Thomas, A. Thai, & B. Yuhnke, B. (Eds.), The CU Online handbook. Teach differently: Create and collaborate (pp. 101-105). Raleigh, NC: Lulu Enterprises. Retrieved from http://www.ucdenver.edu/academics/CUOnline/FacultyResources/additionalResources/H andbook/Documents/DiscussionProtocols.pdfDunlap, J.C. (2009c). Improving the odds of effective collaborative work in online courses. In P. R. Lowenthal, D. Thomas, A. Thai, & B. Yuhnke, B. (Eds.), The CU Online handbook. Teach differently: Create and collaborate (pp. 107-111). Raleigh, NC: Lulu Enterprises. Retrieved from http://www.ucdenver.edu/academics/CUOnline/FacultyResources/ additionalResources/Handbook/Documents/EffectiveCollaborativeWork.pdfDunlap, J.C., & Grabinger, R.S. (2003). Preparing students for lifelong learning: A review of instructional methodologies. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 16(2), 6-25.Dunlap, J. C., & Lowenthal, P. R. (2009a). Tweeting the night away: Using Twitter to enhance social presence. Journal of Information Systems Education, 20(2), 129-136.Dunlap, J. C., & Lowenthal, P. R. (2009b). Horton hears a tweet. EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 32(4). Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Quarterly/EDUCAUSE QuarterlyMagazineVolum/HortonHearsaTweet/192955Dunlap, J. C., & Lowenthal, P. R. (2010a). Whats your best learning experience? What students stories tell us about engaging teaching and learning. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual conference, Denver, CO.Dunlap, J. C., & Lowenthal, P. R. (2010b). Hot for teacher: Using digital music to enhance students’ experience in online courses. TechTrends, 54(4), 58-73.Dunlap, J. C., & Lowenthal, P. R. (2010c). Defeating the Kobayashi Maru: Supporting student retention by balancing the needs of the many and the one. EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 33(4). Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Quarterly/EDUCAUSE QuarterlyMagazineVolum/DefeatingtheKobayashiMaruSuppo/219103
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  • AERA 2011 20Rovai, A. P. (2002). Building a sense of community at a distance. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 3(1). Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/ index.php/irrodl/article/view/79/153Sheehan, K. (2001). E-mail survey response rates: A review. Journal of Computer-mediated Communication, 6(2). Retrieved from, http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol6/issue2/sheehan.htmlShort, J., Williams, E., & Christie, B. (1976). The social psychology of telecommunications. London: John Wiley & Sons.Smith, G. G., & Taveras, M. (2005, January). The missing instructor: Does e-learning promote absenteeism? eLearn Magazine, 1. Retrieved fromhttp://www.elearnmag.org/ subpage.cfm?section=tutorials&article=18-1So, H.-Y., & Brush, T. (2008). Students perceptions of collaborative learning, social presence, and satisfaction in blended learning environment: Relationships and critical factors. Computers & Education, 51(1), 318-336.Swan, K., Shea, P., Richardson, J., Ice, P., Garrison, D. R., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Arbaugh, J. B. (2008). Validating a measurement tool of presence in online communities of inquiry. E-Mentor, 2(24), 1-12. http://www.e mentor.edu.pl/e_index.php?numer=24&all=1Wray, M., Lowenthal, P. R., Bates, B., & Stevens, E. (2008). Investigating perceptions of teaching online & f2f. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 12(4), 243-248.
  • AERA 2011 21 Appendix A Survey of Students’ Perceptions of Social-Presence Strategy Effectiveness1. The instructor helped to keep course participants engaged and Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreeparticipating in productive dialogue.2. The instructor helped keep the course participants on task in a way Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreethat helped me to learn.3. The instructor encouraged course participants to explore new Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreeconcepts in this course.4. Instructor actions reinforced the development of a sense of Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreecommunity among course participants.5. The instructor helped to focus discussion on relevant issues in a way Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreethat helped me to learn.6. The instructor provided feedback that helped me understand my Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreestrengths and weaknesses.7. The instructor provided feedback in a timely fashion. Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agree8. Getting to know other course participants gave me a sense of Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreebelonging in the course.9. I was able to form distinct impressions of some course participants. Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agree10. Online or web-based communication is an excellent medium for Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreesocial interaction.11. I felt comfortable conversing through the online medium. Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agree12. I felt comfortable participating in the course discussions. Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agree13. I felt comfortable interacting with other course participants. Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agree14. I felt comfortable disagreeing with other course participants while Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreestill maintaining a sense of trust.15. I felt that my point of view was acknowledged by other course Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreeparticipants.16. Online discussions help me to develop a sense of collaboration. Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agree17. This question asks you to consider specific activities in your course (either IT 5670: Developing eLearning Instructionor IT 6710: Creative Designs for Instructional Materials or both). Please rate the degree to which you agree that each of thefollowing activities helped you feel connected to your instructor(s). If a strategy wasn’t used or you don’t remember it beingused, please select n/a.a. Digital Storytelling (IT 5670) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreeb. General “How-to” Screencasts (IT 5670) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreec. Specific trouble shooting “How-to” Screencasts (IT5670) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreed. Screencast (i.e. Audio/Video) Feedback on Assignments (IT 5670) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreee. Music-related Activities (IT 5670) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreef. Video Announcements (IT 5670) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreeg. Virtual Paper Bag: Five photos in Flickr (IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreeh. Virtual Paper Bag: 350-word story for Flickr photos (IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreei. Virtual Paper Bag: Wordle (IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreej. Virtual Paper Bag: Soundtrack (IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreek. Top 100 List of Design Guidelines (IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreel. Superhero Powers (IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreem. Just Ask Zoltar (IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreen. Five minute phone conversation (IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreeo. Personalized instructor announcements with photos (IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreep. Detailed written feedback on projects (IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreeq. Course overview videos (IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreer. Musical interludes on weekly agendas (IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agrees. Twitter (IT 5670 & IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreet. One-on-one emails (IT 5670 & IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreeu. Adobe Connect Synchronous sessions (IT 5670 & IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreev. Threaded discussions (IT 5670 & IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agreew. Instructor Bios (IT5670 & IT6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agree
  • AERA 2011 22x. Previous relationship with the instructor (IT 5670 & IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agree18. Pick the previous activity that you thought was the most effectiveand explain why it was effective with helping you feel connected toyour instructor.19. Pick the previous activity that you thought was the least effectiveand explain why it failed to help you feel connected to your instructor.20. This question asks you to consider specific activities in your course(either IT 5670 or IT 6710). Please rate the degree to which you agreethat each of the following activities helped you feel connected to yourpeers:a. Digital Storytelling (IT 5670) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agreeb. Musical Activities (IT 5670) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agreec. Instructors’ Audio/Video Feedback on other students assignments n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree (IT5670) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agreed. Virtual Paper Bag: Five photos in Flickr (IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agreee. Just Ask Zoltar (IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agreef. Superhero Powers (IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agreeg. Top 100 List of Design Guidelines (IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agreec. Virtual Paper Bag: 350-word story for Flickr photos (IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agreed. Virtual Paper Bag: Wordle (IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agreee. Virtual Paper Bag: Soundtrack (IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agreef. Twitter (IT5670 & IT6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agreeh. One-on-one emails (IT 5670 & IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agreei. Adobe Connect Synchronous sessions (IT 5670 & IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agreej. Threaded discussions (IT 5670 & IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agreek. Peer reviews of course peers work (IT 5670 & IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agreel. Open access to view peers’ projects (IT 5670 & IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agreem. Previous relationship with peers (IT 5670 & IT 6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree21. Pick the previous activity that you thought was the most effectiveand explain why it was effective with helping you feel connected toyour peers.22. Pick the previous activity that you thought was the least effectiveand explain why it failed to help you feel connected to your peers.23. Did you create a Twitter account and participate in Twitter duringthe course?24. Please explain why you did or did not participate in Twitter:25. If applicable, in what ways did Twitter (or the Twitter feeds postedin the course shell) help you feel connected to the instructor(s) of thecourse?26. If applicable, in what ways did Twitter (or the Twitter feeds postedin the course shell) help you feel connected to your peers in thiscourse?27. What aspects of the course helped you feel connected to yourinstructor(s)?28. What aspects of the course helped you feel connected to yourpeers?29. What was the most engaging aspect of the course?30. What was the most memorable aspect of the course?31. On a scale of 1-10, how much are you learning (if you still in the Didn’t Learn anything 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Learned a greatcourse), or did you learn (if you have completed the course) in this dealcourse?32. On a scale of 1-10, how satisfied are you (if you are still in the Very unsatisfied 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Very Satisfiedcourse), or were you (if you have completed the course) with thiscourse?What course are you basing the answers of this survey on? IT5670 or IT6710
  • AERA 2011 23How many online courses have you taken before this course?Are you male or female?How old are you? 21-30 . 31-40 . 41-50 . 51-60 . 61-or older
  • AERA 2011 24 Appendix B Interview Questions1. Did you like your experience in your online courses? Why or why not?2. How active were you in your online courses? How often did you login? What is your sense ofthe adequacy of your frequency of activity in the courses? How do you feel about your level ofparticipation in the courses?3. In an online course, how important do you think feeling connected to your instructor is aswell as getting a sense that your instructor is "there" and "real"? Why? What types oftechnologies and learning activities help?4. In an online course, how important do you think feeling connected to your peers is as well asgetting a sense that they are "there" and "real"? Why? What types of technologies and learningactivities help?For questions 5 and 6 -- The following technologies / tools were intentionally used in IT 5670and/or IT6710:a. Digital Storytelling (IT 5670)b. Musical Activities (IT 5670)c. Instructors’ Audio/Video Feedback on other students assignments (IT 5670)d. Virtual Paper Bag: Five photos in Flickr (IT 6710)e. Just Ask Zoltar (IT 6710)f. Superhero Powers (IT 6710)g. Top 100 List of Design Guidelines (IT 6710)h. Virtual Paper Bag: 350-word story for Flickr photos (IT 6710)i. Virtual Paper Bag: Wordle (IT 6710)j. Virtual Paper Bag: Soundtrack (IT 6710)k. Twitter (IT 5670 & IT 6710)l. One-on-one emails (IT 5670 & IT 6710)m. Adobe Connect Synchronous sessions (IT 5670 & IT 6710)n. Threaded discussions (IT 5670 & IT 6710)o. Fellow students peer reviews of your assignments (IT 5670 & IT 6710)p. Open access to view peers’ projects (IT 5670 & IT 6710)q. Previous relationship with peers (IT 5670 & IT 6710)5. What technologies and tools (whether from the list above or other ones used in yourcoursework) contributed to you feeling well connected to your instructor and peers? In whatways did the technologies and tools contribute?5a. What learning activities contributed to you feeling well connected to your instructor andpeers? In what ways did the activities contribute?5b. How did you contribute to feeling connected to your instructor and peers?6. What technologies and tools (whether from the list above or other ones used in yourcoursework) did not contribute to you feeling well connected to your instructor and peers? Inwhat ways did the technologies and tools interfere/not contribute?
  • AERA 2011 257. What do you believe are the key characteristics of an effective online course?8. In an online course, how do you think your connection with your instructor and sense of yourinstructor as being there and being real influences your learning?9. In an online course, how do you think your connection with your peers and sense of your peersas being there and being real influences your learning?10. Did you try out Twitter during your online course? If so, what did you think? What were thebenefits, limitations? If not, why did you choose not to try it out?
  • AERA 2011 26