Reading Capture 1: Effectiveness and student perceptions of high-enrolment health studies online courses

Synopsis

In order to address cost concerns from students, Boise State developed high enrollment online courses, in addition to their existing online courses. Their goal was to maintain a high level of learner engagement, address the realities of competition from other educational institutions and reduced State funding, and to reduce bottlenecking of student enrollment. It was a mixed-method study of 3 high enrollment online health studies classes.

Strengths

When I first began reading this study, I thought the tone was one of maximizing the school’s profit. But as I read on, it was more about trying to deal with their explosive growth, and ensure that their students wouldn’t have their graduation delayed because they couldn’t enroll in a required course due to high enrollment.

Another strength was how thorough the college acted in rolling out the approach. The teachers of the courses and their TAs designed the courses, they partnered with experts at Blackboard to troubleshoot technical issues, each course was thoroughly reviewed by instructional design experts, and then reviewed again by instructors at the school before it was offered to students.  

Critique

The course discussion, quizzes and study guides were designed to be self-graded. I wondered how the students could consider that engaging. I also think there is a good reason why the students thought the online course was better described: that as an online student you can go back and review materials as many times as you like, whereas ILT course understanding depends on initial comprehension and notes. As a student that strives to get A’s, I found it interesting that more students got A’s and less received B’s than usual. They explained this by addressing how online learning requires a higher level of participation and attention/study habits. Overall the online students reported spending less time in class online than suggested in the syllabus. That was also of interest to me, as I usually spend twice the recommended time in online courses. The biggest limitation, by far, was that the data was collected after the fact, not during.

Best Uses

I really loved that the courses were standardized in their layouts. Each course included a weekly summary of readings, quizzes, and learning materials. That’s been one of the issues I’ve had with our program, is the lack of consistency in course outline and expectations. It frustrates the learner when they have to spend (often) precious time searching for due dates and parameters.

Chen, K., Lowenthal, P. R., & Bauer, C. (2016). Effectiveness and student perceptions of high-enrolment health studies online courses. Health Education Journal, 75(3), 343-357. 10.1177/0017896915581060

Reading Capture 2:  An exploratory study of adult learners’ perceptions of online learning: Minority students in continuing education

Synopsis

The study was of 167 minority students in 6 different online undergraduate classes. The overall findings were, “learner–content interaction and learner–instructor interaction were significant predictors for student satisfaction in online settings in which group activities were not provided.” Providing interaction with the content, other students,  and with the instructor seems to boost the perceived value of the course, and the learner outcome (ie. grade).

Strengths

I haven’t found many reports on minority student studies for online learning, so I consider that to be a strength: that they approach a little-covered topic.  

Critique

I found myself wondering about the learner-instructor interaction in this study. They emphasized the importance of that relationship for motivation and comprehension. I wanted them to quantify how much interaction was given in the online course vs. a comparable instructor-led course. There were many classes in my undergraduate program that provided very little interaction with the instructor. In contrast, I’ve actually had more interaction in this online graduate program.

Best Uses

This study argued that the two most important factors for positive student perception, and therefore learner success, were the learner-content and learner-instructor interactions, rather than learner-learner. With solid instructional design theory applied the content, rather than specific interactions such as games, the learner will be able to succeed. Equally important was that the instructor had quality and regular interaction with those in the course. Since the majority of the courses I develop are self-paced and asynchronous, I will look for opportunities to humanize the learning. Some of the ways I can do that: provide a video intro, use narration, provide robust feedback to testing and practice testing, to provide help and resource links, and continue to use a conversational tone in the instruction.

Kuo, Y., & Belland, B. R. (2016). An exploratory study of adult learners’ perceptions of online learning: Minority students in continuing education. Educational Technology Research and Development, 64(4), 661-680. 10.1007/s11423-016-9442-9