Building Connections for Doctoral Students Through Asynchronous Learning: Discussions and the Flipped Model Classroom

Building Connections for Doctoral Students Through Asynchronous Learning: Discussions and the Flipped Model Classroom

Marilyn Simon
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-9098-0.ch009
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Compared to other graduate programs, online doctoral degree programs have the highest drop-out rate. This chapter presents a case study for engaging doctoral students in asynchronous online learning using a flipped model classroom designed to combine degree advancement, student-centered learning, communal learning, and cognitive readiness for the 21st century. The theoretical frameworks for this single case study were constructivism, connectedness, and andragogy. The participants included 12 doctoral students and the author. The student participants selected the topics of study. Data were analyzed by reviewing responses to an open-ended survey to determine the efficacy of this model. Five themes emerged: promoting meaning and reflective thinking, inspired camaraderie and collaboration, enhanced scholarship and progress, and supported degree advancement. Providing a means to connect doctoral students with each other and their mentor in a meaningful way can make the difference between dropping out of a program and obtaining a doctoral degree.
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On August 6, 1991, British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee published the first website (Abbate, 2001). In 1993, asynchronous online learning began to flourish, along with new theories of learning and teaching (Picciano, 2017). I was one of the early pioneers in online learning at both for-profit and nonprofit universities, where I helped developed online courses in mathematics, research, and statistics. A fellow online educator, Vicky Phillips (2004), compared asynchronous online learning to studying philosophy in Ancient Greece. Plato posited that a true liberal education is independent of time and place, noting that real education occurs in the minds of students.

In a traditional classroom, instructors and students interact and follow a predetermined curriculum that is a combination of instructional practices, learning experiences, and assessments designed to evaluate the target learning outcomes of a particular course. An expansion of education, especially higher education, requires different modes of learning to allow for more educational opportunities (Zhong, 2013). Within a traditional mainstream classroom, synchronous mingling happens while individual study is occurring (Comeaux & McKenna-Byington, 2003).

Most online learning platforms include a discussion board where faculty and students can collaborate and provide breadth, depth, and application of knowledge. This chapter is about enhancing discussions in asynchronous online learning through an FMC. The FMC evolved from a vague experiment to a mainstream model for improving students’ learning experience in K–12 and undergraduate education (Bishop & Verleger, 2013). Flipping the classroom means that students gain their first exposure to new material outside of class, usually via reading, independent research, or videos, and use class time to do the harder work of assimilating that knowledge through problem solving, discussions, and debates.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Constructivist Learning: An approach to learning that holds that people actively construct or make their own knowledge and that reality is determined by the learner’s experience.

Student-centered Learning: A wide variety of educational programs, instructional approaches, and strategies that address the distinct needs, interests, and aspirations of individual students.

Flipped Model Classroom: A classroom with flipped, or reversed, teaching methods. Traditionally, a teacher initially presents a topic in a classroom and then assigns homework to reinforce the material. In a flipped classroom, the basic levels of cognition are received online and outside of class, and higher levels of cognition are developed inside the classroom.

Andragogy: The understanding of the science and practice of adult learning. Andragogy contrasts with pedagogy, which is the understanding of the science and practice of child learning.

Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy: A taxonomy with emphasis on two learning domains that make up educational objectives: cognitive (knowledge) and affective (attitude). The revised taxonomy focuses on six levels: remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create.

Synchronous Learning: Students who learn the same thing at the same time, through a lecture or presentation, online or in person.

Connectivism: A theoretical framework for understanding learning in a digital age. It emphasizes how internet technologies such as web browsers, search engines, wikis, online discussion forums, and social networks contribute to new avenues of learning.

Asynchronous Learning: The ability for a student to learn on his or her own schedule, within a certain time frame. Students can access and complete lectures, readings, homework, and other learning materials at any time within a specified period.

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