Monthly Archives: September 2014

Article Review #3, Bob Heath

Reeder, Kenneth; Macfadyen, Leah P.; Chase, Mackie; Roche, Jörg, (2004 June) Falling Through the Cultural Gaps? Intercultural communication challenges in cyberspace. Proceedings, Cultural Attitudes to technology and Communication, Karlstad, Sweden. http://hdl.handle.net/2429/1329

Working backwards from their conclusions we first learn about a concern for cultural sensitivity from all participants.  Something as simple as how participants introduce themselves (genealogy vs. resume) can indicate cultural difference.  The authors point out that other gaps in communication can be highlighted by studies in second language acquisition, their point being that communication standards should be made explicit.  “Rather, these participants may have experienced confusion or doubts as to whether basic interpersonal communication, academic language, or perhaps something in between (another site of negotiation?) was expected in the online situation” (Reeder 2004).  They finally theorized about a hybrid form of communication that seems to be developing online: “For instance, Dudfield (1999) agrees that students are increasingly engaging in what she calls ‘hybrid forms of literate behaviour.’ Gibbs (2000) has extended this to suggest that new forms of communication are actually constructing ‘new forms of thinking, perceiving and recording.’…  We might speculate however that our corpus and others like it represent a new genre, neither spoken nor written, yet drawing upon conventions of both. In any case, distance educators need to be cognizant of the relative “fit” between their participants’ origins in oral or literate cultures and the distinct genre requirements of online communication in e-learning”(Reeder 2004).

To my mind these are fairly constrained conclusions.  The idea that course participants should be culturally sensitive and that instructors do better to make expectations explicit hardly seems to move us along – sure they bare repeating but they do not constitute something unique to online instruction.  However, their final observation regarding a distinctive tone or voice in online communication is interesting – “hybrid forms of literate behavior.”  I think there are many fruitful questions that burble around that conclusion.  So, based on the conclusions this conference paper seems at least understated.

Looking elsewhere for highlights, we find a section header “3.1. THE INTERNET HAS A CULTURE” and here the authors do some interesting work:

Like all technologies, the Internet was and is socially produced – and all social productions are informed by the cultural values of their producers (Castells, 2001). The creators of the Internet were predominantly Anglo-American engineers and scientists “seeking quick and open access to others like themselves” (Anderson, 1995. p. 13). Their ethnic and professional cultures value aggressive/competitive individualistic behaviours. In addition, these cultures value communications characterized by speed, reach, openness, quick response, questions/debate and informality. Schein (1992) attributes similar values to the information technology community in general.

We observed that these communicative cultural values are embedded in the design of WebCT and similar Internet-based communications platforms. Layered over this foundational but ‘invisible’ culture of the Internet, the culture of the online modular courses under study here is similarly the product of its creators: predominantly university-educated Canadians, who are Western, English-speaking and female.  (Reeder 2004)

Here is something we can get our teeth into and chew on.  Thinking back to Owen’s first assignment we watched a thought leader speculating on “learning networks” as a new and important phenomenon.  My take away was an insight that we do not need to limit ourselves, even in formal education, to LMS.  So are there other social media sites that resonate with different cultural values?  One way to answer this is to put on our cultural diversity glasses and look for these ourselves another approach is to ask members of populations we would like to reach — where they congregate online?  This helps us identify new or new to us tools for online communication.  Another is to imagine our course design in a different way.  What if we ask participants to introduce themselves genealogically first; here I am thinking about connections to people and places (notice the discomfort we feel) and this is part of the value of this.  My friend John Schumacher called it “the insanity of place” his example was to imagine approaching a stranger’s cart in the grocery store and, without explanation, taking an item out and looking at it.  Yet even just 100 years ago we (members of the dominate culture) would have been comfortable with a genealogical introduction.  Here I am remembering a highlight from the recent nonfiction book Quiet the author traces the change from persons of character to persons of personality (pg35).   Reaching back to the authors conclusions and their curiosity in a “new genre, neither written nor spoken” I wonder if social media is likewise blurring the distinctions between genealogical introductions and resume introductions.  I can learn about others in this course by Googling them and finding their LinkedIn profiles, their Facebook pages, (Twitter, Pinterest and so on) their online brand as it were.  Their identity for me is likewise hybridized both personal and professional.  That said, a lot of online communication has happened in the time since this paper was read – plenty of time to develop and refine some new genre.  Alas, I am unsure this new voice is emerging.  Blogs seem to follow conventions of essays or journals with long expository writing.  Tweets seem to be somewhere between bumper sticker wisdom and aphorisms… though it does show a stylized kind of communication.  Forums show a wide variety of writing ability and style sometimes with posts clearly translated by Google or that ilk.  Criticism for poor writing, reasoning and argumentation are frequent and harsh.  Forums seem to be a place where cultural diversity interacts and often with little sensitivity or with reference to “online norms.”  I wonder more about silent participation.  People who read and reflect on what they encounter but do not themselves add to the “conversation.”  On one hand, I have shifted from LMS to the whole of the internet.  Therefore, my sample is larger, but not systematic as I am reflecting on my observations of online communication — not conclusive but sufficient for me to be suspicious.

In the end this paper disappoints a little; the authors seem most concerned with grinding their axe with Canadian dominant culture.

Cain, Susan. (2012) Quiet :the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking New York : Broadway Books

Looking forward to our meeting this afternoon…

Howdy Folks,

Just a reminder that we have a Blackboard Collaborate session planned for this afternoon from 5 – 6 PM AST.

Looking forward to our discussions. On the table: connectivism, online education in K-12, unique barriers within online education, VCAs, and CASA, online labs…and more.

You can find the link under “Blackboard Collaborate” on your Blackboard course menu. Within that screen, toward the bottom, you’ll notice “Scheduled Sessions” and within there you’ll notice a link to today’s session.

-Owen

Unit 3 Weekly Writing

AnneMarie Mattacchione

September 29, 2014

I teach students fresh out of high school to elderly students wanting to do what they love, not necessarily what they could afford at an earlier age, and all ages in-between. This range of ages enables me to have a depth of understanding of our current student capabilities and learning challenges. It also challenges me to try to meet all the needs of those students. While Exploring the Edge focuses on new and innovated teaching strategies and practices, not all young student navigate their world through the variety of interfaces outlined in the article, but many do. Many elderly students do not identify with how younger generations learn from technology.  I teach primarily to the female population with an occasional male student. It is true that females interface with the online environment; they are not nearly as interested in the gaming community as males. They tend to engage in social media with limited gaming characteristics while many more males engage in gaming with some social media. Females tend to use games such as Words with Friends, or Wagon Trail.  The description of World of Warcraft and how it teaching leadership and group cooperation was a good summary of these concepts. My son has played World of Warcraft for several years and for the last two years has been a guild master. He talks to me about his struggle with keeping his guild committed and competent in a global world of competition. At first, being female and academic, I questioned his use of time, since the commitment to being a guild master is substantial for a full-time student and part-time employee. But as time went by, his illuminations about leadership and commitment to something difficult for him felt more valuable. Just when I was coming to terms that the game would be useful way to utilize his time, he stops. Instead, he has chosen to spend time with people nearby instead of people who live all over the world and likely people he will never see, nor interact with again. I was glad for his change of mind. With limited resources of time and energy, I value pouring into the people that are family, friends that are in physical reach.

Further into the article Brown encourages the use of this kind of technology in classrooms. He doesn’t specify which kind of classroom, face to face or online, which makes me wonder about application in both settings. The interactivity of Brown’s strategies pair nicely with Eric Mazur’s approach. Interconnectedness is not new to the social sciences. Similar techniques have been used for many years to elicit students to hone their interactive and problem solving skills much needed to work with other students and later as practitioners in community settings. If these are 21st century skills then, I feel good about my student’s preparedness. I imagine this type of approach is welcoming to students in theoretical fields. Mazur’s classrooms tend to be well populated. It seems if you sit near the front you may have more frequent interactions with him. I imagine it is difficult for him to get to connect with his students personally and build a rapport. I would imagine the learning experience for those students are different than for the other students that sit in the middle and back of the lecture hall. Connecting with a mentor on-going, in my opinion, should be one of the characteristics in the 21st century literature. This webpage and content was not new to me. The partnerships between education, business, government and communities mimic the global economy landscape.

Twenty-First Century Children details the path that school should take to ready the future workforce to work within and successful navigate a global economy. The 3Rs include: English, reading or language arts; mathematics; science; foreign languages; civics; government; economics; arts; history; and geography. As well, the 4Cs include: critical thinking and problem solving; communication, collaboration; and creativity and innovation. It was not clear if the 4Cs include approaches to learning. In this course we have discussed the importance of temperament, individual learning styles, culture and learning modes necessary to build appropriate online courses. I have longed wished that K-12 classrooms would focus more on individual learners than learning outcomes. Brown’s article points to the idea that if we design assignments around people’s natural maturational imperatives, students will learn not out of brute force, but out of a state of pleasure and deep satisfaction of their own needs and desires. That’s the kind of learning we all want to experience. I would argue that this type of learning begins shortly after birth when parents and other caregivers meet the emotional and learning needs of infants. Who then become toddlers who continue to explore learning based on their maturational imperatives, pleasures of interest, learning styles and preferences. If we are careful to encourage such explorations, toddlers become preschoolers who have an enthusiasm for learning that cannot be contained. Imagine if this same level of enthusiasm were carried through to primary and secondary schools? Learning the 3Rs and 4Cs would be well received and as Brown puts it “but the concept of lifelong learning- a term used all too glibly-“ would not only be more important than ever, but more embraced than ever. (Brown, 2006, p. 23)

I graduated high school in 1982. My senior year was my first introduction to DOS. Oh boy, shortly after that windows point and click options enlightened the world of the programming challenged. I was very grateful that I did not have to learn code and computer language to make something work on a computer. Now I want to. I almost feel I need to. There is discussion among some states to make computer programming part of primary and secondary core requirements. I think of the possibilities I may be missing not having a rich understanding of computer language and the development of interfaces. I am PRO technology! I embrace it. I am marveled by it. Like many of us, we have been witness to the advent of the computer and online ages. Just the other day, I was talking with my son and his girlfriend about my new iPhone 6. Joshua’s girlfriend went to the Verizon to check out the 6 Plus. She came back and was critical of the size. She indicated that it would be like talking to your iPad as a phone. She gestured with big open palm movements next to her ears indicating the tremendous size of using the iPhone 6 Plus. I quibbled “Oh, it’s like the 80’s cell phones!” She stared blankly. Never took her eyes off mind. It was then that I realized I was talking to a 23 year old, who had no idea, what I was talking about. It was then that I realized the only technology used in my high school consisted of a TV, boom boxes, electronic typewriters, cash register, land-lines, and stapler. So much has changed. I imagine this generation of students will be having this same awareness as old technology moves over for new. Perhaps we must adopt one more 21 century axiom, nothing is permanent, but change.

Brown, J. (2006). New learning environments for the 21st century: Exploring the edgeChange, 38(5), 18-24.

Getting the Most out of Asynchronous Discussion Groups: A Focus on Critical Thinking

Article Review 2 – Lori Sowa

When adequately facilitated, asynchronous discourse can be an effective learning tool that is unique to the blended or online classroom. In my brief experience with both taking and co-teaching online courses, I’ve experienced a few variations on how the discourse can be structured. Writing prompts have been a helpful means to focus the discussion, and quantifying the number of expected responses provides direction to the participants as to how much collaboration is expected. Intrigued by a comment from the recently reviewed meta-analysis regarding the inherent advantage of this type of discourse, I decided to dig further into the topic of how to best structure and facilitate online discussion groups.

In Tagging Thinking Types in Asynchronous Discussion Groups: Effects on Critical Thinking, Schellens et al. (2009) studied the effect of requiring students to use specific scripts when they post to a discussion group to describe their underlying thought process. The study included a very small sample size: 35 students from a junior-level undergraduate class on instructional strategies. The class was randomly divided into 6 groups – 4 experimental and 2 control – and required to participate in a discussion group debating different perspectives, possibilities, and limitations of e-learning. Participation in the discussion group was a formal part of the students’ grade, and they were required to post at least five messages over a two-week period. The assignment was identical for each group, except that the experimental groups were required to tag each post using “thinking hats” adapted from those developed by De Bono (1991). As an example, the description of one of the six hats in Schellen’s (2009) article reads:

The blue hat is the color of the sky high above us. This hat stands for a reflective perspective to see whether the right topic is addressed. What is relevant? Defining what to think about and deciding what is to be reached. (p. 81)

At the conclusion of the two-week period, the messages were coded based upon Newman et al.’s scheme (1995) which identified ten critical thinking categories. The authors’ found evidence of critical thinking in both groups, but significantly more positive indicators (and less negative indicators) of critical thinking in the experimental group using the thinking hats.

Overall, the experimental design was rigorous and grounded in sound theoretical context. Coding of the individual posts was performed by two individuals, with interrater reliability tested and found to be reasonable. The sample size was quite small, and thus repeated experiments involving more students over longer discussion time frames would provide more representative results. It would also be interesting to survey the participants about their perceptions of the value of the discussion group, and perform longitudinal studies to see if this method improves the critical thinking of these students in future discussions.

It is difficult to infer the context and wording of the assignment from the text of the article, and what specific guidance was given to the class regarding the expectations of the content of the posts. But just by providing the description of the thinking hats, and the instructions to use the full range of hats, the experimental group was provided with additional instruction and guidance compared to the control group, leading them towards aspects of critical thinking that would then be counted using the model. Requiring that a tag be used each time likely cut down or eliminated irrelevant posts in the experimental group.  This is a good thing overall for meeting the goal of the assignment, but also likely skewed the outcome in favor of the experimental group. Perhaps a better measure of the effect of this specific tagging scheme would have been to discuss the idea of critical thinking in general with the entire class, but then to require only the experimental group to use the thinking hat tags for posts.

Any pedagogical tool used in any classroom must take the audience and the intended learning outcomes into account during the course design phase. The level of direction from the instructor to the students is one of these aspects. Finding the balance between being overly-specific and vague in assignments can be tricky. The results from this study are promising in terms of providing a system that effectively scaffolds students to be intentionally critical in their thinking when posting to online discussion groups. I can see using this or a similar method, particularly for students new to discussion groups, but even for more advanced students.

De Bono, E. (1991). Six thinking hats for schools, Resource book for adult educators. Logan, IA: USA Perfection Learning.

Newman, D.R., Webb, B., and C. Cochrane. (1996). A content analysis method to measure critical thinking in face-to-face and computer supported learning group learning. Interpersonal Computing and Technology, 3, 56-77.

Schellens, T., Van Keer, H., De Wever, B., and M. Valcke. (2009). Tagging thinking types in asynchronous discussion groups: effects on critical thinking. Interactive Learning Environments 17(1), 77-94.

Caring in the High School Online Learning Environment

In the article, Caring in a Technology-Mediated Online High School Context Velasquez, Graham, and Osguthorpe (2013) conducted a small study about how two teachers and four students perceive caring in the online learning environment of the Open High School of Utah. It was the goal to show that caring affects both academic and moral learning although the former was the focus of the study. Velasquez, Graham, and Osguthorpe (2013) also note that it is important to know that all participants were Caucasian because “…care has been determined to be a phenomenon influenced by culture (Thompson, 1998)” (p. 100). The data was obtained through three interviews for each participant and then the interviews were coded for themes. The themes identified by Velasquez, Graham, and Osguthorpe (2013) were, “…shared experience, continuous dialogue, vigilant observation, structuring learning environment, attending to students’ individual academic needs, attending to students’ well-being, and student reaction” (p. 102). The study found that it is very important to have caring teachers in the high school online learning environment and recommends that caring pedagogy should be included, such as Nel Nodding’s work, when designing online classes.

The theme that was surprising to me as showing caring was the theme of structuring the learning environment. I know teachers put a lot of time and effort in making class information easily available and accessible and they see it as a caring for their students’ success throughout the class. I would not have thought the students viewing it in a caring way because it is just expected that when you take an online class that it be designed to meet the students’ needs. As a college student I expect that the online class be designed effectively. It has never occurred to me that this is done purposefully so that I know my instructor cares about me. It is just the way it is. The students in the study perceived their teachers as caring because of the way the online class was structured. Velasquez, Graham, and Osguthorpe (2013) state:

When asked how they knew their teacher cared about them, all student participants indirectly mentioned the courses’ flexibility and student options. One student mentioned how he highly valued the flexibility of working at his own rate and planning his schoolwork around his personal schedule. Other students mentioned flexibility in choosing how to complete an assignment. Most of the students mentioned flexibility in deadlines and the ability to retake quizzes and resubmit assignments multiple times in an effort to improve their grade. (p. 107)

This was not something Velasquez, Graham, and Osguthorpe (2013) anticipated either and their interview questions were not designed to probe for this information. It was interesting that it was the flexibility of the online class structure that the students found most caring, especially concerning deadlines and ability to retake quizzes or redo assignments. This flexibility can be time consuming on the teacher’s part.

As I read how much time the teachers set aside for contact with students, at least four hours a day and then sometimes more, I wondered how this impacted their lives outside their work day. The students commented on how caring their teachers were because they could feel free to contact them anytime. The teachers stated response time was usually within 24 hours, but it was also found they monitored students online activity too on top of everything else. A teacher commented that “While being available for her students is a priority, the accessibility that the online context facilitates made it difficult for her to disconnect and find a balance between being accessible and achieving a healthy balance in her personal life” (Velasquez, Graham, & Osguthorpe 2013, p. 111). I think caring in the online learning environment is important, but a teacher could easily get carried away with it. The teachers interviewed not only cared about their students’ academic success, but also actively sought to inquire about the students’ lives to demonstrate caring and create a connection to help motivate the student. It is a tricky balance because if students become to comfortable with the caring relationship a 10 minute phone call to help with an assignment could turn into an hour. It is necessary to connect with students because it can be a huge motivator.

One last aspect of the study that I found interesting was that the “…study suggest that K12 online education should place greater priority on learner-to-instructor instruction, rather than learner-to-content instruction” (Velasquez, Graham, & Osguthorpe 2013, p. 112). When the teachers initiated contact this improved the students’ learning experience and created the sense of caring. The students just did not interact with their learning content, but a good portion of the time was spent interacting with their teacher clarifying material, assignments, and working on solving problems. This made it clear to me that online learning in K-12 still requires the guidance of a teacher and their presence needs to be evident. This is unlike college students in an online class who given a framework can usually function without constant contact with the instructor. It is more of a learner-to-content instruction.

So when considering implementing online learning in K-12 whether it is in a virtual school or not the caring factor needs to included in the pedagogical approach. Students need to know their teacher cares about them personally and academically. K-12 online teachers need to make it clear to the students that they are concerned about their success and are there to help and guide them through the learning process. This asks the question of quality in online learning. As Velasquez, Graham, and Osguthorpe (2013) suggest it is cheaper to just have a student interact with the content rather than both the content and the teacher. It makes me wonder what a good student to teacher ratio is in the online learning environment for K-12 because you hear of these massive online courses with hundreds of students enrolled in one class. How can one teacher implement a pedagogy that includes caring in such a situation? This may work for higher education, but if we are serious about effective online learning I think the teacher to student ratio would have to be small, but maybe not.  I could not find a definitive answer in this article or with a quick search online, but I encourage you to check out Mountain Heights Academy, formerly Open High School of Utah. It does not appear that the school has any more staff than a normal face-to-face small high school would have, but not sure what the typical enrollment is.  I found one piece of information from US News & World Report Education that the student to teacher ratio is 17:1 and it does not look like there are more than 300 students enrolled.

References

Velasquez, A., Graham, C. R., & Osguthorpe, R. (2013). Caring in a technology-mediated online high school context. Distance Education, 34(1), 97-118. doi:10.1080/01587919.2013.770435

Article Review #2: Cult of Personality

Daughenbaugh, R., Daughenbaugh, L., Surry, D., & Islam, M. (2002). Personality type and               online versus in-class course satisfaction. Educase Quarterly, 3, 71-72.

Full paper available from https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eqm02312.pdf as published in the Proceedings of the 7th Annual Mid-South Instructional Technology Conference (Teaching, Learning, & Technology: The Connected Classroom) in Murfreesboro, TN, April 7-9, 2002.

UAF has an annual Academic Leadership Institute (ALI) in which faculty and staff meet with the Provost/Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and discuss case studies and other topics related to leadership in higher education settings. The book that ALI participants read for the most recent meeting was Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. The group spent some time discussing how new technologies may help or hinder the comfort level of introverts in an academic setting. Personally, I love using e-mail and instant messaging, but hate being “live” in a video chat. I purposely include discussion board posts as assignments in my FTF classes under the assumption that quieter students may find typing a more palatable way to participate. So, I decided to see what some research says about personality and online versus offline learning.

Daughenbaugh et al. (2002) utilized the Kiersey Temperament Sorter, which is a 70-item scale they feel is comparable to Myers-Briggs and rates extroversion/introversion as one of four sets of individual differences. The second measure was a course satisfaction survey. Both instruments were filled out on the Web by a total of 146 students taking “introductory computer courses” from the same department at the same southern university. About half of the participants were undergrads and half were grads. Most (78%) were female and most (81.5%) were taking an FTF course. The assymetries in course type limit the findings. It would have been nice to see more even Ns for the FTF versus online students since that is one of the major comparison points. The authors tested for gender effects and found none.

The break-out of the two types were roughly 56% extrovert and 34% introvert (9% uncategorized; did not total to 100%). This is consistent with projections of proportions of introverts in the general population. The general hypothesis was that introverted students would exhibit a higher preference for online courses compared to extroverted students. However, the findings did not bear that out. The authors summarize, “The extroverts liked the involvement of the chat rooms, threaded discussion, and e-mail correspondences of the online courses” while “introverts, by contrast, had little participation in chatting or threaded discussions, though they did participate in e-mail more than any of the other participatory activities.”

The differences seemed to be driven not just by extroversion/introversion but those traits in combination with scores on intuition/sensing and judging/perception. The authors also compared students taking a FTF class with students taking an online class. Here were additional findings (p. 72):

  • We found that the intuitive, rather than the sensitive, personalities preferred the online course environment to more traditional, in-class situations.
  • The perception group expressed stronger preferences for the amount of student interaction than the judging group.
  • We found that in-class students expressed much stronger satisfaction with the in-class environment than did students who were in the online courses.

There are 16 possible result combinations for the personality instrument, similar to Myers-Briggs (ESTJ, INTP, etc.) For the sake of brevity I won’t further analyze this section.

The authors end by recommending that more research be done, that teachers pay attention to different learning styles that may be related to personality differences, and that classes incorporate “means to increase student interaction in online courses” (p. 72). Since the authors found that extroverted students really enjoyed and were active in the online environment, the authors’ conclusion seem to cater to them, with suggestions of group projects, face time, and even a “students-only” discussion board. As an introvert, all of those suggestions make me cringe. I think the authors are overlooking a huge question that needs to be answered: WHY weren’t the introverted students more engaged, given the supposedly less face-threatening environment of online discussion boards? WHY did they enjoy e-mail but not chats? If the current set-up is leaving them less satisfied, why on earth would you further alienate introverts by adding extrovert-slanted activities like group work?

I would also love to see this replicated for participants pursuing different subject matter. I found a discrepancy between the summary article and the original conference paper; The former claims these were students in introductory computer skills courses, while the conference paper claims they are students in various different courses (an acknowledged limitation of the study). Replicating this study with a group of undergraduate students all taking the basic speech course, some online and some FTF, might be a tighter design (at UAF the basic speech course curriculum is standardized).

Weekly Writing 3

I was excited to see a meta-analysis as the assigned reading this week. I was part of a research team that worked on a series of meta-analyses at Purdue University, and I gained a lot of respect for what the process has to offer as far as helping us get closer to the “true” effect in a population. The public is often confused by contradictory studies- how can one researcher find an effect, but then another researcher finds no effect? Is coffee good for us or bad for us? Aack! Well, when you draw a marble out of a bag of mixed colors, even if there are 20 red and 2 blue, you may get a blue one on your first try. So relying on any single “result” can be misleading. A well-done meta-analysis can help us be much more confident by looking at many samples from the marble bag to get a better idea of what is truly in there.

I don’t have a problem with the number of studies overall in the analysis. I would be thrilled to have at least 45. In the meta-analysis I worked on, we only had 33, but still found some meaningful effects to talk about. I am given pause with the idea of making assertions about a sub-group of the studies, though. We’re talking about trying to look at effects across only five to derive generalizations about K-12 education. If the five studies were extremely similar in design and setting, I would be less hesitant. But given the diverse description of the five, including one that was in Taiwan instead of the U.S., that’s just not enough for me as a researcher to be comfortable making assumptions across.

A great resource if you are interested in learning how to do a meta-analysis is Practical Meta-Analysis by Lipsey & Wilson (2001). In their introduction, they mention the wide range of number of studies that can constitute a meta-analysis: “A meta-analysis conducted by one of the authors of this volume, for instance, resulted in a database of more than 150 items of information for each of nearly 500 studies (Lipsey, 1992). We hasten to add, however, that meta-analysis does not require large numbers of studies and, in some circumstances, can be usefully applied to as few as two or three study findings” (p. 7).

So, I must disagree with folks who feel that 45 studies is not enough, because overall in this case I think 45 is reasonable given the inclusion criteria. But when we get down to a comparison of as few as three or five, I would want to see that those studies are all from the same population and had a comparable number of participants. For example, you may have three different studies that each took a sample of roughly 100 students from the same incoming freshman class at a university. Due to error and other reasons, each study finds a slightly different effect. I think that averaging across the three, even though it’s “only” three studies, would be useful in that case.

References

Lipsey, M. W., & Wilson, D. B. (2001). Practical Meta-analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development (2010). Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: a meta-analysis and review of online learning studies. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/tech/evidence-based-practices/finalreport.pdf

Are there Teachers in the Future?

In my own research I have found it difficult to locate research regarding online learning in K-12 education, so I can empathize with Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, and Jones (2010) difficulty in finding sources of information that fit their meta-analysis criteria. However, I feel if they did not limit the meta-analysis based on their quantitative requirements and being number driven some interesting insights would have been found. Of course this report was not written with educators in mind, but policy makers and politicians. It is a government document. Although not a practical document if one is looking for a guide to online learning best practices, it does make the case that more research needs to be conducted before any formal conclusion can be made, especially regarding K-12 online learning. But one with common sense and life experience in the education system could probably draw the same suggestive conclusions that Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, and Jones (2010) did from their meta-analysis.  The one concluding thought I did not expect to draw was whether teachers will be needed in the future like they are needed in the present. But lets start at the beginning.

I appreciated that Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, and Jones (2010) referenced distance education at the beginning of the report because it gave a historical basis for their research and a starting point to ask the right questions. Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, and Jones (2010) state:

Overall, results from Bernard et al. (2004) and other reviews of the distance education literature (Cavanaugh 2001; Moore 1994) indicate no significant differences in effectiveness between distance education and face-to-face education, suggesting that distance education, when it is the only option available, can successfully replace face-to-face instruction. (6)

This helped raise the question of whether this is true for online learning and face-to-face instruction too. The authors found that online learning like any other form of learning environment has its advantages and disadvantages. Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, and Jones (2010) found that the meta-analysis overall tended to point towards the positive “…with online learning (whether taught completely online or blended) [and] on average produce stronger student learning outcomes than do classes with solely face-to-face instruction” (18). Just like distance education pure online learning can be just as effective as face-to-face classroom instruction, but it is the blending of online learning and face-to-face instruction that had the most interesting and useful results from Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, and Jones (2010) meta-analysis. According to the meta-analysis the blended learning environment seemed to have more benefits and more positive outcomes than the stand-alone pure online learning and face-to-face learning environments. At the college level from my own experience both pure online learning and blended classes make no difference to me I will learn one way or another. I think in the K-12 learning environment a blended learning environment might work best. The blended learning environment will work best because it will cater to more learning styles and allow for more differentiation of material, content, and assessment. It would be more inclusive and hopefully provide fewer barriers to learning if done well.  But as I have come to realize through my reflection this might be a selfish viewpoint and hope because I am a K-12 teacher.  I have come to realize I may not be necessary in the future.

This leads to the best practice and recommendation from Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, and Jones (2010), which is to use teaching methods that promote self-reflection, self-regulation, and self-monitoring. This is true whether teaching online or in a classroom.  But notice how the best practice advice for online learning is to just let the students learn.  They do not recommend teacher-reflection, teacher-regulation, and teacher-monitoring.  Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, and Jones (2010) confirm this by stating, “Attempts to guide the online interactions of groups of learners were less successful than the use of mechanisms to prompt reflection and self-assessment…” (48). Can add another one, self-assessment not teacher-assessment. It was interesting when Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, and Jones (2010) suggested that some of the research states that the students in an online learning environment “…provide scaffolds for one another (Suh 2006)” (48). This raised a question I did not feel was answered by the report, is a synchronous or asynchronous online class more effective? Should an online learning environment have both? Does synchronous or asynchronous lend itself to this student scaffolding effect? If students can scaffold for each other how much teacher involvement should there be?  Do we need teachers in an online learning environment? Reflecting on my own experience I find I benefit when both synchronous and asynchronous characteristics are present because it provides structure and freedom to learn at your own pace. Also in my past online learning experiences (and in class for that matter) I found it annoying when I was told what exactly to discuss and think by the instructor’s script instead of the instructor just giving us a starting point to go from for the discussion. Based on their meta-analysis Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, and Jones (2010) state that students’ learning experiences “…were less positive when instructor involvement was low…” and became “…more positive, up to a point, as instructor involvement increased. At the highest level of instructor involvement (which would suggest that the instructor became dominant and peer-to-peer learning was minimized)…” (53). Regardless of whether it is online learning or face-to-face the teacher has an impact on students’ learning and if that teacher does not allow students to reflect on their learning and own it the quality of the class whether online or not decreases. This research that some teacher involvement is good for the online learning experience has given me hope that in the very least teachers of the future will be guides.

After considering the report further by Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, and Jones (2010) I guess it is not surprising that what affects the classroom environment also affects the online learning environment. What works in one will most likely work in the other. The technological mediums used might enhance learning and provide more opportunities, but when it comes down to what makes online learning an effective learning choice it is the sound pedagogy behind it, but as we have read even that is changing and evolving. It is the proven teaching practices, the teacher-student relationship, and sense of community that holds a class together not the technology. Technology provides another structure to teach from, but ultimately it is sound teaching practices and learning theories that determine how good learner outcomes will be. What needs to be researched further is how to apply what we already know about learning and combine that with online learning tools to K-12 education. Then it needs to be decided how far it should be taken with the whole human and machine relationship that connectivism suggests. Should we have totally virtual schools? Should those schools be synchronous or asynchronous? Is a blended approach better? Or do we need both blended and pure online learning environments in order to reach all types of learners and their unique needs? Here is even a scarier question and thought. It was found in the meta-analysis that some research suggests students can “…provide scaffolds for one another (Suh 2006)” (48) in an online learning environment. If this is true do we need teachers and schools in the traditional sense if the future of learning is completely online? I encourage you to watch this TED Talk: Build a School in the Cloud, which will broaden your thinking about online learning in K-12.

References

Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., Bakia, M., & Jones, K. (2010). Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: A meta-analysis and review of online learning studies. US Department Of Education.

Article Review #2

Article Review #2:

AnneMarie Mattacchione

September 27, 2014

Recent discussion concerning cultural and other characteristics of student learning led me to investigate further. Learning Styles and Online Education (2007), argues that “when students’ learning styles are identified, it is possible to define an appropriate context of learning.” The article discusses the design, methodology, approach, research limitations and implications, originality and value of the findings. For purposes of the study, learning styles is defined as “the preference or predisposition of an individual to perceive and process information in a particular way or combination of ways” (2007, p. 8). Zapalska and Brozik utilized the VARK questionnaire to determine student learning styles to analyze which of the learning styles or combination typically accesses and/or has preferences for an online learning community rather than other learning modalities. The VARK questionnaire determines the preferred learning style or combination of learning styles using the following modes: Aural (A), read/writers (R), visual (V), and kinesthetic (K). Typically a strong preference in one particular mode is evident, often paired with one or more mode(s).

For this study, two courses were examined with a total of 25 students over the course of summer and fall semesters. Zero students identified themselves as unimodel, five bimodal, 16 trimodel, and four multipmodel. Of the 25 students, only two identified with strong auditorial preferences. The remaining models were rather evenly mixed among preferences. This indicator led the researchers to determine that few students with a strong aural learning style were lacking from participating in online courses. Based on the information collected during the study, Zapalska and Brozik determined that online courses should accommodate all types of learners. “Combining a mixture of approaches and teaching methods allows online student to choose the instructional style that best fits their individual learning styles” (2007, p. 12). Recommendations include using a learning styles assessment instrument like the VARK to enable teachers to design courses with assignments tailored to their student preferred learning style. The article suggest several teaching strategies for all online education to increase the opportunities to bi or multimodal student learning styles: provide content in multiple formats, allow for individual locus of control (enabling students to move through the course topics in random order), and encouraging active and collaborative interactions (2007, p. 10).

To encourage active and collaborative learning, teachers should offer discovery learning, project-based and cooperative learning to encourage creativity, decision-making and problem solving (2007, p. 10). Such assignments typically pair students together to facilitate and complete a project that captures all four learning style modes. Specific examples of this type of assignment include small-group discussions during synchronous sessions, online work in groups and application-rich assignments. One in particular interested me, the idea of virtual field trips and videos. Often, textbook publishers provide e-packs that include special short videos or short films. Providing students with virtual trips allow students to be able to comprehend what they are learning (comprehension level) and apply what they have learned in new ways (application level). Students learn at the speed comfortable to them, and this affords them with more opportunities to feel in control (2007, p.11).

One criticism of the study is the small sample size. I also wonder if the study was conducted during the fall/spring semesters what effect this changed would have on the data. Sometimes students are forced to take online courses during the summer because their face to face option is not available. Typically, most university faculty are off contract during the summer months. I wondered further how often students take online courses out of necessity rather than preference when no other option is available. It is likely I will look for a study that tries to answer the latter question.

Zapalska, A., & Brozik, D. (2007). Learning styles and online education. Campus – Wide Information Systems, 24(1), 6. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/1065074071072645