High vs. Low Collaboration Courses: Impact on Learning Presence, Community of Inquiry, and Social Networking
Researchers demonstrated a relationship between learning presence and social engagement; however, research in this area is limited. For example, no distinctions are made as to what role faculty, students, or technology might play in facilitating social engagement. In general, researchers revealed that students’ ability to self-regulate leads to more focused attention, time on-task, and in turn, these skills could lead to better learning. Given the need for more theoretical work in the area, as well as the potential practical benefits from the use of these pedagogical strategies, we sought to compare the difference between high versus low-collaboration groups on assignments, as well as courses in general. Differences in groups were measured using student grades, peer evaluation, pre and post test, and the community of inquiry framework. In addition, learning presence and social network analysis were used to assess a high-collaboration assignment.
In the current study, we explored how collaborative technologies, specifically Google Docs and Google Hangouts, may be used to impact the level of learning presence (forethought and planning, performance, and reflection) students demonstrate while participating in a small group project. Participants were graduate education students in two randomly assigned sections of the same online course. The course content focused on basic educational psychology for students seeking initial teaching certification. The experimental section utilized a high-collaboration project (e.g., small group, Google Hangouts and Docs) to enhance understanding of course content while the comparison, control section employed a low-collaboration project (e.g., partner activity, Word documents) to enhance understanding of course content. Participants completed the Community of Inquiry (CoI) Survey at the end of the term which measured their perceived level of teaching, social, and cognitive presence during the course. Quantitative content analysis was used to explore occurrences of learning presence in the high-collaboration group. *Finally, we employed social network analysis (SNA) as a method of inquiry to analyze student interaction data with the high-collaboration group. SNA is used to explain relationships depicted by information flow and its influence from participants’ interactions. Scholars have used SNA in the online learning context to understand individual and group dimensions of interactions.
*Social Network Analysis (SNA) will not be addressed in this presentation but will be included in the manuscript.
The maturation of free ubiquitous video conferencing tools provides an opportunity for faculty members to experiment with alternatives to conventional asynchronous discussion forums commonly used in online courses. However, there continues to be debate about whether synchronous video conferencing has a meaningful role to play in an online course environment. Although the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework’s influence in asynchronous discussion is well documented in the literature, it is less clear what role synchronous conferencing has in a Community of Inquiry (CoI). It is also unclear whether synchronous modes of inquiry provide worthwhile benefits for an online instructor. This study explores how the use of innovative video conferencing tools in an online course attends to the elements of the CoI.
In this mixed methods study, we observed weekly teacher and student inquiry by examining Google Hangout transcripts, Vialogues threaded discussions, and student reflective WordPress blog posts through the lens of CoI. The course used for this study was an online graduate course focused on the use of technology for teaching. We hypothesized that those students who participated in more synchronous conferencing sessions would perceive significantly higher levels of all three CoI elements and would engage in richer discourse supporting learning of the course content. We also analyzed student perceptions of the social, teaching, and cognitive presence through the CoI survey (Swan, 2008).
In order to examine the CoI related discourse, a corpus of text was utilized in this study which included Google Hangout transcripts, Vialogues threaded discussions, and student reflective WordPress blog posts. Text content analysis of this corpus represented a form of learning analytics. The text corpus was compiled and key themes were noted via qualitative constant-comparative analyses. The themes were analyzed using analytic induction to test hypotheses connecting discourse to CoI element. A form of text analytics was then applied to the text corpus in order to analyze the content of the student and teacher discourse.All text was compiled and analyzed using the Semantria (www.semantria.com) semantic linguistic program. Based on semantic algorithms from http://www.lexalytics.com/,All compiled text was analyzed for themes and sentiment. After compiling the linguistic components, statistical models were developed to compare discourse between synchronous and asynchronous environments and to predict the level of community of inquiry.
We used the Sloan Consortium’s Five Pillars to reflect on how the course’s interactive activities addressed quality. Learning effectiveness was demonstrated by increased opportunities for meaning making students had through discourse with each other and with the instructor. They were able to discuss courses readings in either a real-time Google Hangout or an asynchronous Vialogues threaded discussion. The use of freely available and ubiquitous tools makes it possible to scale the tools to multiple courses and programs. The tools provide access and flexibility for students who prefer face-to-face but need to take online courses because of work schedule or physical location. Faculty are satisfied to be able to provide options that address student discourse preferences. Finally, students report being satisfied with options to use synchronous conferencing for discussions which increases student voice.
Our presentation will share the results of our findings. Participants will learn how both synchronous and asynchronous video conferencing tools may be used for meaning making in an online course. We will engage the audience by web polling their preferences and promising practices pertaining to uses of synchronous technologies in primarily asynchronous online environments.
Synchronous and asynchronous video conferencing tools (Presentation PDF)
I use Camtasia for Mac and Camtasia Relay to make screencasts of syllabi for my online courses. Recording a syllabus is a good use of my time for a couple of reasons. First, a syllabus screencast cuts down on student frustration and the number of questions I get asked during the first week of class. I try hard to put all my thoughts in a Word document but students seem to understand better when they can both read and hear me explain it. Second, I usually find mistakes that need correcting. Some I mention while recording (e.g. miscounted points on an assignment rubric). Some I make a note of and fix later (e.g. forgot to give credit to Garrison for using a remix of his Practical Inquiry Model diagram. [pdf] Oops!) Speaking of Garrison, I hope that I am demonstrating good teaching presence by offering this resource to my students. I think it demonstrates good course design, instruction, and even facilitation. Anyway, if you are interested, here is a screencast of my syllabus, warts and all.