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Online Discussions: Relationships Between Faculty Attitudes, Demographics, and Implementation (Thompson & Lynch)


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Presentation for 2009 Sloan ALN Conference
Online Discussions: Relationships Between Faculty Attitudes, Demographics, and Implementation (Thompson & Lynch)

Published in: Education
  • With respect to the actual faculty behaviors and attitudes of faculty vis-a-vis online discussions, I believe the familiarity with textual response provides a protective barrier in that it mimics traditional question/response formats, while allowing for opportunities to similarly mimic dialogue. Hence, the comfort-levels of many on-line adult learners. When I attempt to introduce a multi-media function in the on-line class I teach, very often I am met with a multitude of questions from on-line students (most of whom are teachers.) I currently Chat Rooms, student-led threaded discussions, and student presentation formats such as Powerpoint and Noteshare. It has been necessary to implement these changes gradually in order to avoid panic. In many ways it is a reflection of the current 'digital divide' that exists in public classrooms, although slanted in the direction of digital natives or those willing to become digital immigrants based on the on-line venue. In a sense the gradual implementation of more diverse technological applications becomes a challenge-based learning exercise which, to my mind, has immense value. I note that a majority of student comments after the course point up their struggles to master the new technological applications, but almost invariably with a degree of personal and professional satisfaction. Perhaps the technological applications need to be integrated with sufficient consideration for the technological appitude of students to help on-line faculty expand their instructional repertoire.
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Online Discussions: Relationships Between Faculty Attitudes, Demographics, and Implementation (Thompson & Lynch)

  1. 1. Online Discussions: The Relationships Between Faculty Attitudes, Demographics, and Implementation Dr. Kelvin Thompson, University of Central Florida Dr. Douglas Lynch, University of New England
  2. 2. Line of Inquiry “What is Actually Happening?” <ul><li>Actual faculty behaviors and attitudes vis-à-vis online discussions </li></ul><ul><li>Structure of discussion assignments </li></ul><ul><li>Documented expectations, rubrics, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Facilitation styles </li></ul><ul><li>Why online discussions? </li></ul>
  3. 3. Agenda <ul><li>Institutional Profiles </li></ul><ul><li>Research Agenda & Current Study </li></ul><ul><li>Summary Data </li></ul><ul><li>Data Relationships to Consider </li></ul><ul><li>Discussion </li></ul><ul><li>Apples to Apples </li></ul><ul><li>Closing </li></ul>
  4. 4. Institutional Profiles <ul><li>UNE </li></ul><ul><li>Founded 1831 </li></ul><ul><li>Biddeford, Maine </li></ul><ul><li>4,267 students </li></ul><ul><li>Comprehensive liberal arts university </li></ul><ul><li>Started online 2007 </li></ul><ul><li>4 online degree programs (graduate) </li></ul><ul><li>No formal faculty development program for online instructors </li></ul><ul><li>UCF </li></ul><ul><li>Founded 1963 </li></ul><ul><li>Orlando, Florida </li></ul><ul><li>53,537 students </li></ul><ul><li>Metropolitan research university </li></ul><ul><li>Started online 1995 </li></ul><ul><li>17 degree & 12 certificate online programs (undergrad/grad) </li></ul><ul><li>Robust faculty development program for online instructors </li></ul>
  5. 5. Phase 1: Multi-Institution Survey <ul><li>Exploratory approach </li></ul><ul><li>39-item online questionnaire with optional registration for follow-up </li></ul><ul><li>Faculty who taught at least one fully online course during past three terms </li></ul><ul><li>“ Think of one online course… keep it in mind…” </li></ul><ul><li>Emailed to 405 faculty (358 UCF and 47 UNE) </li></ul><ul><li>31% response rate (27% UCF and 60% UNE) </li></ul><ul><li>30 faculty registered for follow-up </li></ul>
  6. 6. Respondent Demographics <ul><li>78% from UCF and 22% from UNE </li></ul><ul><li>52% have taught online for 1-5 years </li></ul><ul><li>48% have taught in HE for 10+ years </li></ul><ul><li>63% in non-tenure earning positions (adjuncts/instructors/lecturers) </li></ul><ul><li>49% taught graduate course </li></ul><ul><li>70% taught course with 40 students or less </li></ul><ul><li>47% from “Education” (with 19% “Social Sciences” and 15% “Health Professions”) </li></ul>
  7. 7. Summary Highlights: Structural <ul><li>95% of respondents used online discussions </li></ul><ul><li>87% of discussion-users required discussions </li></ul><ul><li>88% gave written general expectations </li></ul><ul><li>82% gave specific “prompts” </li></ul><ul><li>80% scored discussions </li></ul><ul><li>72% had scoring criteria (71% shared) </li></ul>n=126
  8. 8. Summary Highlights: Behaviors <ul><li>75% scored at end of each discussion </li></ul><ul><li>73% read all discussion postings </li></ul><ul><li>37% posted multiple messages each discussion (Note: 33% posted at least once each) </li></ul><ul><li>52% “facilitated” any discussions </li></ul>n=126
  9. 9. Summary Highlights: Affect <ul><li>66% felt connected to students in discussions (“very” or “somewhat”) </li></ul><ul><li>56% perceived increased interaction over f2f (“very” or “somewhat”) </li></ul><ul><li>50% perceived higher quality interaction than f2f (“very” or “somewhat”) </li></ul><ul><li>80% noted discussions as greatest S-S interaction source </li></ul><ul><li>51% noted email as greatest I-S interaction source </li></ul>n=126
  10. 10. Summary Highlights: Beliefs <ul><li>76% believe they are skilled at facilitating discussions (“very” or “somewhat”) </li></ul><ul><li>91% believe it important to include online discussions (“very” or “somewhat”) </li></ul><ul><li>87% believe discussions have positive impact on learning (“very” or “somewhat”) </li></ul>n=126
  11. 11. Relationships <ul><li>“ Connectedness” related to </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Quality of interaction ( r =.77, p <.001) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Facilitation skill ( r =.33, p <.001) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Degree of instructor posting ( r =.20, p <.05) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ Facilitation Skill” related to </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Connectedness ( r =.33, p <.001) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Degree of instructor posting ( r =.30, p <.05) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Quality of interaction ( r =.29, p <.05) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Time commitment for scoring ( r =.28, p <.05) </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Relationships <ul><li>“ Importance” and “Student Learning” strongly correlated ( r =.75, p <.001) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Student Learning&quot; related to </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Connectedness ( r =.56, p <.001) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Quality of interaction ( r =.51, p <.001) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Facilitation skill ( r =.40, p <.001) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Class size ( r = -.24, p <.05) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ Importance&quot; related to </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Facilitation skill ( r =.54, p <.001) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Connectedness ( r =.38, p <.001) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Quality of interaction ( r =.37, p <.001) </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Ponder with Us <ul><li>Why isn’t “connectedness” related to reading student postings (e.g, getting to know them)? </li></ul><ul><li>What contributes to one's self-perception as a skilled facilitator? </li></ul><ul><li>Do instructors believe that discussions contribute to student learning because they are good at them and like them? </li></ul><ul><li>Should online discussions be employed in larger enrollment courses? </li></ul>
  14. 14. What Do You Think? <ul><li>How might these results inform faculty practice in teaching online? </li></ul><ul><li>What implications are here for faculty development? </li></ul><ul><li>How could results such as these be shared with administrators for better online course planning (e.g., class size)? </li></ul>
  15. 15. Closer Look: Mixed Fruit <ul><li>UNE online courses are graduate, “Education” courses </li></ul><ul><li>UCF’s undergraduate courses and varied graduate course disciplines might obscure relevant institutional differences </li></ul><ul><li>Class size alone differs when viewed through an undergraduate v. graduate lens </li></ul>5.8 3.2 More than 150 4.8 19.2 8.7 101-150 8.1 23.1 15.1 51-100 33.9 19.2 13.5 41-50 50 21.2 28.6 26-40 3.2 11.5 29.4 16-25 1.6 Less than 15 G UG All Class size?
  16. 16. Sneak Peak: Apples to Apples (Graduate “Education” Faculty) n=41 UCF Faculty development X UCF Facilitation Skill ( r =.46, p <.10) UNE Faculty development X UNE Facilitation Skill ( r =.22, p =.30) 26 12 Total 1 Very unskilled Somewhat unskilled 2 4 Neither skilled nor unskilled 14 6 Somewhat skilled 10 1 Very skilled UNE UCF Facilitation Skill? 8 7 Faculty development 11 4 Participated as student 9 1 Read about 13 6 Trial & error UNE UCF Learn Facilitation?
  17. 17. Future Plans <ul><li>Go deeper into these data. </li></ul><ul><li>Follow-up with respondents who expressed interest (interviews or focus groups; examine artifacts) </li></ul><ul><li>Collaborate with others to implement survey at other institutions (will trends change?) </li></ul>
  18. 18. Please Contact Us to Collaborate <ul><li>Dr. Douglas Lynch (UNE) </li></ul><ul><li>Chair, Education Department </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Dr. Kelvin Thompson (UCF) </li></ul><ul><li>Ass’t Dir., Course Dev. & Web Svcs </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>