Lowenthal, D. A., & Lowenthal, P. R. (2010, April). A Mixed Methods Examination of Instructor Social
Presence in Accelerat...
involves a different skill set than teaching in a face-to-face environment (Palloff & Pratt,
1999). While to some degree g...
presence. As more and more institutions begin to offer accelerated online courses (i.e.,
6-9 week courses), faculty and in...
Figure 1. Community of Inquiry Framework (adapted from Garrison, Anderson, &
Archer, 2000)


Format of Online Learning and...
institutions like Colorado State University, non-profit private institutions like Regis
University, and for-profit institu...
The numbers were collected and compiled from the discussion forum in Course
Management System for each course. As illustra...
To conduct classical content analysis, the data are partitioned into small chunks,
as in Table 3. Each chunk is labeled wi...
Table 4
Results from a Classical Content Analysis
Code                                            Number of Times Used
Clo...
Each chunk is then labeled with a code while constantly comparing new codes with
previous ones. For instance, the previous...
Discussion
         All three types of analysis—the word count, the classical content analysis, and the
constant comparati...
References
Anderson, T. (2004). Teaching in an online learning context. In T. Anderson & F.
      Elloumi (Eds.), Theory a...
Lowenthal, P. R., Wilson, B., & Parrish, P. (2009). Context matters: A description and
      typology of the online learni...
investigation of "Teaching Presence" in the SUNY Learning Network. In
       Elements of quality online education: Practic...
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AERA 2010 - Mixed Methods Examination of Presence

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AERA 2010 - Mixed Methods Examination of Presence

  1. 1. Lowenthal, D. A., & Lowenthal, P. R. (2010, April). A Mixed Methods Examination of Instructor Social Presence in Accelerated Online Courses. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Education Research Association, Denver, CO. A Mixed Methods Examination of Instructor Social Presence in Accelerated Online Courses Alison Lowenthal Regis University / Colorado Department of Education dlowenth@regis.edu Patrick R. Lowenthal University of Colorado Denver / CU Online patrick.lowenthal@ucdenver.edu Abstract Social presence is a theory that explains the ability of people to present themselves as "real people" through a communication medium. Most studies on social presence focus on how students present themselves and/or are perceived as “real” people online. However, to date, only a handful of studies have focused specifically on how online instructors establish and maintain their own social presence online; and there are no studies to date that focus on how instructors accomplish this in accelerated online courses. The following study explored the phenomenon of instructors’ social presence in accelerated online courses. The results suggest that the construct of presence is more complicated than previously thought which has implications for how we teach and design online courses. Introduction In the late 1990s, as the popularity of online education increased, people began to fear that online learning would eventually replace the “teacher” and that students would soon be taking teacherless online courses (Shank, 2008; Wilson & Christoper, 2008). As the initial fears and hype decreased, proponents of online learning began to show what an important role a teacher plays in the success of any online learning course (Dunlap, 2005; Wilson, Ludwig-Hardman, Thornam, & Dunlap, 2004). Teaching online, though, 1
  2. 2. involves a different skill set than teaching in a face-to-face environment (Palloff & Pratt, 1999). While to some degree good teaching is good teaching, regardless of the environment, the role of a faculty member changes when teaching online. Researchers and practitioners alike have suggested that effective online teachers are facilitators of learning rather than simply conveyers of information (Kearsley, 2000; Palloff & Pratt, 1999, 2001, 2003). Dabbagh and Bannan-Ritland (2005) even went so far to suggest that an online teacher is “an advisor, a coach, a moderator, and a facilitator of learning” (p. 48). As a result, the cliché that a good online teacher is a “guide-on- the- side” rather than a “sage-on-the-stage” became popularized. This cliché has however been take to extremes; that is, there is a fine line between being a guide on the side and being absent in an online course (Anderson, 2004). Research on social presence and teaching presence illustrate the importance of being “present” when teaching online. Researchers have shown—in varying degrees—a relationship between social presence and student satisfaction (Gunawardena, 1995; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997; Richardson & Swan, 2003), social presence and the development of a community of learners (Rourke, Anderson, Garrison, & Archer, 2001; Rovai, 2002), and social presence and perceived learning (Richardson & Swan, 2003). However, while there has been a great deal of research on social presence—specifically focused on studying faculty and students as supposed “equals”—there has been relatively little research on how faculty establish their own individual social presence differently than students. Purpose of the Study There are hundreds of studies on social presence but only a few dozen on teaching presence. Sadly, there are even fewer studies on the overlap between social presence and teaching presence—or what I refer to as instructor’s social presence (see Figure 1). To make matters worse, research on social presence and teaching presence suffer from a few limitations. First, the majority of research on teaching presence (e.g., Shea, 2006; Shea, Fredericksen, Pickett, & Pelz, 2003; Shea, Li, & Pickett, 2006; Shea, Pickett, & Pelz, 2003; Shea, Swan, & Pickett, 2005) has been conducted by the same researchers, at the same institutions. The problem with this is not the quality of resesarch conducted by prior scholars. Rather it is the belief that online learning in general and social and teaching presence specifically can likely manifest itself differently in different contexts (e.g., undergraduate vs. graduate, traditional vs. non-traditional, 8 week vs. 16 week courses) (Lowenthal, Lowenthal, & White, 2009; Lowenthal, Wilson, & Parrish, 2009). Second, the majority of the research on social and teaching presence—just like the majority of research on online learning in general (Goldman, Crosby, Swan, & Shea, 2005)—has relied predomiantly on self-report data. Researchers, for the most part, are not studying social and teaching presence with qualitative, multiple, and/or mixed methods. Studying social and teaching presence from a mono-method approach can be problematic because researchers often do not get a complete understanding of the phenomenon they are studying (Lowenthal & Leech, 2009). Therefore, there is a need to use multiple methods of analysis to better understand presence—whether that be social presence, teaching presence, or instructors' social presence--in various online environments. In addition, to date, very little research has been conducted on how time and course format influence 2
  3. 3. presence. As more and more institutions begin to offer accelerated online courses (i.e., 6-9 week courses), faculty and instructional designers need to better understand how instructor’s establish their own social presence in accelerated online courses. Given this, the purpose of this study was to explore the construct of instructors' social presence in accelerated online courses. Theoretical Framework This study was framed by three key concepts. That is, how the presence of an online instructor, the course format, and the course duration all affect the overall success of an online course. In the following paragraphs these three concepts are addressed briefly. An Instructor’s Presence The concept of teaching presence evolved out of research on teacher immediacy and social presence. Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000) were the first to differentiate social presence from teaching presence. They conceptualized teaching presence as one of the three components of their community of inquiry model (see Figure 1). They defined teaching presence as, the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile outcomes. Teaching presence begins before the course commences as the teacher, acting as instructional designer, plans and prepares the course of studies, and it continues during the course, as the instructor facilitates the discourse and provides direct instruction when required. (p. 5) They went on to break down teaching presence into three main components: instructional design and organization, direct instruction, and facilitation of discourse (Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer, 2001). Research suggests that teaching presence—both when designing and facilitating online courses—is a key component of an effective online course. However, equally important is the way that faculty establish their own social presence through their instructional design and facilitation efforts. This study focuses primarily on exploring how faculty establish their own social presence (or instructor’s presence) through facilitation because while effective instructional design is a key component—it’s a component that many faculty might not have much control over. At many universities, like the one where this study was conducted, faculty often teach online courses that are designed by others. So while effective instructional design is critical, more and more faculty find themselves teaching courses they did not design and cannot modify (Lowenthal & White, 2009). Therefore, it is important to study the nature of instructor’s social presence in situations likes these where facilitating discourse might be the primary method to establish and maintain their own social presence. 3
  4. 4. Figure 1. Community of Inquiry Framework (adapted from Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000) Format of Online Learning and Presence The design or format of an online course can influence how faculty and student’s develop and perceive social presence in general and teaching presence in particular (Anderson et al., 2001). For instance, we contend that having online faculty meet his/her students face-to-face before a course begins can effect a students perception of presence. In addition, whether or not a student is part of a cohort can also influence how presence is developed and perceived. However, past research on social presence and teaching presence has not focused enough on how details like these can influence an individuals perceptions of presence. This study set out to explore the nature of instructors social presence in completely online asynchronous courses where students do not meet face-to- face and are not part of a cohort. Time and Presence The issue of time also needs to be considered when researching presence. Time, similar to course format, can and should influence an instructor’s presence (Tu & Corry, 2004). For instance, whether faculty and students spend 5 weeks, 8 weeks, or 16 weeks communicating online should influence how social presence is developed, maintained, and perceived. However, often these details are glossed over in research on presence. More and more institutions are beginning to offer accelerated online courses (i.e., courses that are less than a traditional 10 week quarter or 15 week semester). In Colorado, public 4
  5. 5. institutions like Colorado State University, non-profit private institutions like Regis University, and for-profit institutions like the University of Phoenix all offer accelerated online courses. Researchers need to begin to study how social presence and teaching presence develops in these accelerated online courses. Methods To study the nature of instructor’s social presence in accelerated asynchronous online courses, three online courses were randomly selected from all of online courses offered during the spring at a private university which we will call Private University (P.U.). Following the lead of Anderson et al. (2001), one week of each section was purposefully identified for analysis. Multiple methods of analysis were used to explore the data in an effort to get a detailed understanding and an accurate depiction of instructor’s presence in an accelerated course. A mixed methods exploratory methodology (Miles & Huberman, 1994; Onwuegbuzie & Leech, 2005) utilizing both quantitative and qualitative methods was used for this study. Exploratory methods have traditionally been related to qualitative methods, and confirmatory methods to quantitative methods. However, Onwuegbuzie and Teddlie (2003) illustrate that both quantitative and qualitative data analyses can be used to understand a phenomena. In order to explore instructor's social presence effectively, online course discussions were analyzed with multiple forms of data analysis— specifically, word count, then content analysis, and lastly constant comparative analysis. Using multiple forms of data analysis enabled the researchers to more effectively explore how instructors establish their presence in accelerated online courses. The course discussions from all three courses were compiled and downloaded from the course management system. Names were changed to protect anonymity. The transcripts were initially explored with word count to get an overall sense of the data. Then the online discussions were analyzed using content analysis and codes emerging from the online discussions. Finally, constant comparative analysis was used to search for themes and trends that did not emerge with the previous forms of analysis. Results Multiple methods of analysis were used to explore the data in an effort to get an indepth understanding of how faculty at P.U. establish their social presence when teaching accelerated online courses that have already been developed by another instructor. The first type of analysis used was a type of word count. Traditionally word count involves identifying deductively a word or words from the literature on a subject or inductively identifying from the data specific words that seem out of place or hold special meaning and then counting the frequency of these words. Instead of counting the frequency of specific words, the student’s postings in the discussion forum and the number of words used were counted and compared to the faculty postings and number of words used to compare the involvement of faculty and students in the discussion forum. 5
  6. 6. The numbers were collected and compiled from the discussion forum in Course Management System for each course. As illustrated in Table 1 and Table 2, the word count revealed that students were responsible for 88.78% of the postings and 94.45% of the words posted online. While these results do not address the quality of either the student or the faculty postings, these results do illustrate the quantity or frequency of participation of faculty versus students in the online discussion forum. More specifically, while faculty had a higher frequency of postings (an average of 11.37 per faculty member) compared to students (an average of 7.69 per student), faculty posted fewer words in the discussion forum (1464 words used by faculty compared to 24,912 used by students). These results show that students posted more as a whole than the faculty in the courses in question. The results could possibly even be interpreted to suggest that students led or dominated the majority of the discussion in the online forum; however, further analysis is needed to better understand this basic data. For instance, the variation in the frequency of postings could be due to multiple students asking the same question and the faculty responding to all students with one posting. Table 1 Total Number of Postings Course Sections ED 501 ED 502 ED503 Total Number of students 13 14 8 35 Number of student postings 109 103 57 269 Number of words in student postings 11228 11712 1972 24912 Number of faculty 1 1 1 3 Number of faculty postings 12 15 7 34 Number of words in faculty postings 1009 299 156 1464 Total number of participants 14 15 9 38 Total number of postings 121 118 64 303 Total number of words 12237 12011 2128 26376 Table 2 Frequency of Postings as an Entire Case Total participants % of Postings % of Words Student 35 88.78% 94.45% Faculty 3 11.22% 5.55% Total 38 100% 100% The second type of analysis conducted was classical content analysis. Classical content analysis is similar to constant comparison analysis. However, instead of creating themes, the focus is to identify the frequency of codes. This type of analysis is helpful when there are a lot of codes. Classical content analysis helps identify which codes are used most often and it is complimentary to constant comparative analysis. 6
  7. 7. To conduct classical content analysis, the data are partitioned into small chunks, as in Table 3. Each chunk is labeled with a code, or descriptive label; due to the unique nature of online postings, descriptive coding was used to capture the type of posting. For example, “post chart here” and “using REPLY post bulleted list of points here” were both coded as “directions,” whereas the following was coded as “questioning”: “Do you think that parents often do not want to accept or acknowledge the problems that their children Table 3 Example of Chunking the Data Data Chunked Code Post chart here Directions Using REPLY post bulleted list of points here. Directions Using REPLY post your discussion here. Directions Since there are eight students in the class, Number of students our groups Inclusion will really be pairs. Groups of two Melaine, Greeting I need Teacher request an email address for you. Contact information Elden Closing remark Are you accustomed Questioning to writing assignment in APA format? Writing style If not, I would like you Teacher request to learn to use the APA format for citations and are Writing style references. Here is a wonderful website Resource that makes that easy to do. Make easier Here is a website that is a great tool for Resource helping you get your reference page correct Make easier according to APA. http://www.citationmachine.net/index.php Writing style Elden Closing remark might have?” As shown in Table 4, the codes are then counted to assess which concepts (represented by codes) are used most frequently; for example, “closing remarks” was used most frequently (see Table 5 for the complete list and frequency of the data coded). 7
  8. 8. Table 4 Results from a Classical Content Analysis Code Number of Times Used Closing remark 14 Directions 12 Positive feedback 11 Greeting 8 Questioning 6 Answering question 5 Elaboration / clarification 5 Writing style 3 Resource 3 Number of students 2 Inclusive language 2 Teacher request 2 Colorado law 2 Faculty seeking feedback 2 Empathy 2 Welcoming 1 Negotiation 1 Accommodation 1 Contact information 1 Classical content analysis revealed that “closing remarks” were used the most (14 times), followed by “Directions” (12 times), and “Positive feedback” (11 times). Table 4 illustrates the frequency of each descriptive code in the faculty postings. While greetings and closing remarks as types of online communication are not that interesting, the fact that faculty spent most of their time giving directions and giving positive feedback online is important. This suggests that these faculty were not spending much time on establishing their own presence or conducting in direct instruciton. This analysis also suggests that the facuty were spending very little time welcoming, negotiating, or accommodating students needs online. The final and main type of analysis conducted was Constant Comparative Analysis. Constant Comparative Analysis is useful when trying to explore and understand the big picture of a phenomenon like teaching online (Lowenthal & Leech, 2009). In constant comparative analysis, the researcher reads the data and partitions it into small chunks, as can be seen in Table 5. For example, the following post was chunked into six small chunks: Hello everyone! I love the educational environments you have created this week. Educators and students should always be the ones who create our schools. It is inspirational to see so many of you create from the schools you have been in or are currently in. Thanks for your creativity! Dr. Bob. 8
  9. 9. Each chunk is then labeled with a code while constantly comparing new codes with previous ones. For instance, the previous example yielded the following six codes: (a) Greeting, (b) Positive feedback, (c) Elaboration / Clarification, (d) Positive feedback, (e) Positive feedback, and (f) Closing remark. The codes are then grouped together. Once the codes are grouped together, the researcher identifies a theme that has emerged from the data. Table 5. Results from Constant Comparative Analysis Codes Grouping of codes Closing remark Course logistics Directions Directions Positive feedback Writing style Greeting Number of students Questioning Teacher request Answering question Colorado law Elaboration / clarification Writing style Greetings and Salutations Resource Welcoming Number of students Greeting Inclusive language Closing remark Teacher request Colorado law Teaching / Facilitation Faculty seeking feedback Questioning Empathy Answering questions Welcoming Elaboration / clarification Negotiation Positive feedback Accommodation Resource Contact information Caring teacher Inclusive language Empathy Faculty seeking feedback Negotiation Accommodation Contact information The most prevalent theme that emerged from the constant comparative analysis is the following: While faculty at P.U. have to deal with day to day course logistics, such as directions on how to complete assignments and course expectations, they play more of a role of as a facilitator through the use of questioning, elaborating/clarifying, and giving positive feedback than as a instructor or giver of knowledge. 9
  10. 10. Discussion All three types of analysis—the word count, the classical content analysis, and the constant comparative analysis—offered some insight how these instructors communicated online and the degree to which they strive to establish their own social presence in the course discussions. While all three types of analysis offered a different perspective or glimpse of the truth space, classical content analysis and constant comparative analysis did a better job of highlighting how these faculty communicated online. These two types of analysis illustrate that these fauclty did spend some time establishing their own social presence. For example, greetings, postive feedback, questioning are all examples of social presence (Rourke et al., 2001). So even though these instructors are teaching acccelerated 8 week courses designed by others, they show evidence that even in an accelerated term faculty can begin to establish their own social presence. However, we caution the reader from generalizing too much from these findings. To date researchers have not identified what the appropriate amount of social presence is in an online course—let alone an accelerated online course. Therefore, more research is defintely needed. Faculty traditionally establish his or her own social presence in online course discussion forums. Thus, it is important, significant, and common place to explore faculty behavior in online discussion forums. But unfortunately faculty can also establish their presence in other ways (e.g., one-on-one emails and feedback on assignments). Therefore, the fact that this study only looked at course discussions is a notable limitation of this study. Additional weeks and course sections need to be analyzed to support the findings of this study. Also more research needs to be done to triangulate the results in this study with other things such as student perceptions of online faculty as well as instructors perceptions of their own social presence. Scholarly Significance of The Study While the main purpose of this study was to investigate instructor's social presence, a secondary purpose was to test a mixed methods approach of studying online discussions. Thus, the scholarly signifiance of this study lies not only in its investgiation of an often overlooked area of study (i.e., instructor's social presence in accelerated online courses) but also (and arguably more importantly) in outlying a way in which other facutly can use word count, content analysis (whether with predefined codes or having the codes emerge from the discussions) and constant compartive analysis to study online discussions. Through using mixed method approaches of study, we believe researchers can begin to get a better idea of what happens in online courses (whether over an 8 week term or a 16 week term). 10
  11. 11. References Anderson, T. (2004). Teaching in an online learning context. In T. Anderson & F. Elloumi (Eds.), Theory and practice of online learning (pp. 273-294). Athabasca: Athabasca University. Anderson, T., Rourke, L., Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (2001). Assessing teaching presence in a computer conferencing context. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 5(2), 1-17. Dabbagh, N., & Bannan-Ritland, B. (2005). Online learning: Concepts, strategies, and application. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Dunlap, J. (2005). Workload reduction in online courses: Getting some shuteye. Performance Improvement, 44(5), 18-25. Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105. Goldman, R., Crosby, M., Swan, K., & Shea, P. (2005). Qualitative and quisitive research methods for describing online learning. In S. R. Hiltz & R. Goldman, Learning together online (pp. 103-120). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Gunawardena, C. N. (1995). Social presence theory and implications for interaction and collaborative learning in computer conferences. International Journal of Educational Telecommunications, 1(2/3), 147-166. Gunawardena, C. N., & Zittle, F. J. (1997). Social presence as a predictor of satisfaction within a computer-mediated conferencing environment. The American Journal of Distance Education, 11(3), 8-26. Lowenthal, P. R., & Leech, N. (2009). Mixed research and online learning: Strategies for improvement. In T. T. Kidd (Ed.), Online education and adult learning: New frontiers for teaching practices (pp. 202-211). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. Lowenthal, P. R., Lowenthal, D. A., & White, J. W. (2009). The changing nature of online communities of inquiry: An analysis of how discourse and time shapes students' perceptions of presence. In M. Simonson (Ed.), 32nd Annual proceedings: Selected research and development papers presented at the annual convention of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology. Washington D. C.: Association for Educational Communications and Technology. Lowenthal, P. R., & White, J. W. (in Press). Enterprise model. In P. Rogers, G. Berg, J.Boettcher, C. Howard, L. Justice, & K. Schenk (Eds.), Encyclopedia of distance and online learning (2nd ed.). Information Science Reference. 11
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  13. 13. investigation of "Teaching Presence" in the SUNY Learning Network. In Elements of quality online education: Practice and direction (pp. 279-310). Needham, MA: Slocan-C. Shea, P. J., Li, C. S., & Pickett, A. M. (2006). A study of teaching presence and student sense of learning community in fully online and web-enhanced college courses. Internet and Higher Education, 9(3), 175-190. Shea, P. J., Pickett, A. M., & Pelz, W. E. (2003). A follow-up investigation of "teaching presence" in the SUNY learning network. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(2), 61-80. Shea, P. J., Swan, K., & Pickett, A. M. (2005). Teaching presence and establishment of community in online learning environments. In J. C. Moore (Ed.), Engaging communities, wisdom from the Sloan Consortium (pp. 53-66). Needham, MA: Sloan-C. Tu, C.-H., & Corry, M. (2004). Online discussion durations impact online social presence In C. C. e. al. (Ed.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education International Conference 2004 (pp. 3073-3077). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Wilson, B. G., & Christopher, L. (2008). Hype versus reality on campus: Why e-Learning isn’t likely to replace a professor. In S. Carliner & P Shank (Eds.), The e- learning handbook: A comprehensive guide to online learning (pp. 55-76). San Francisco: Pfeiffer. Wilson, B. G., Ludwig-Hardman, S., Thornam, C. L., & Dunlap, J. (2004). Bounded community: Designing and facilitating learning communities in formal courses. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 5(3). Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/204/286 13

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