Is This Your Best Work?: Complications and Limitations of Online Instruction for High Quality Student Engagement

Is This Your Best Work?: Complications and Limitations of Online Instruction for High Quality Student Engagement

Cynthia J. Benton (SUNY Cortland, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6046-5.ch006
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This chapter summarizes both psychological and achievement considerations for student participation in online learning environments. Using journaling, student responses, and interviews, this study yielded consistent conclusions regarding the need for supported and interactive opportunities for students to interact with both peers and the instructor of the online course. Online classroom practices are described, and a number of issues contributing to student success and satisfaction are summarized. Future concerns for practices in online instruction and student learning are described.
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Program Background And Study Rationale

Many dynamic factors must be considered in designing approaches to online instruction, including student capabilities, course content and assessment, and often the inherent instability of digital technologies which make the learning process a challenging one (Prensky, 2001). Recent innovations in teaching with technology have highlighted the importance of curriculum-based technology integration (AACTE, 2008; McDonald, Stodel, Farres, Breithaupt, & Gabriel, 2001) as well as the effectiveness of comparative methods for course instruction and evaluation (Sitzmann, Kraiger, Stewart, & Wisher, 2006; Tallent-Runnels et al., 2006).

Different instructional methodologies have contributed to emerging knowledge of student self-efficacy regarding computer use (Torkzadeh & Van Dyke, 2002). One documented learning benefit which has emerged from years of online instruction is the possible greater opportunity for reflection and creation of supportive online communities (Dede, 2004). Learners who tend to be silent in face-to-face settings may make more frequent and meaningful contributions in mediated online interaction (Liaw, 2002; Saito & Miwa, 2007). The electronic classroom may also provide unique opportunities for experiencing virtual experiences and interactive communication not practicable in a typical classroom setting (Preece & Maloney-Krichmar, 2003). Some critical determinants for successful online learning have been identified, particularly the necessity for students to be actively engaged in initiating learning (Dringus, 2000), in accommodating the ways in which students incorporate prior knowledge (Rafi-Nachmias & Segev, 2003), and in critical feedback for promoting understanding of the content (Nelson, 2007; O'Leary & Quinlan, 2007).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Professor-to-Student Communications: Positive instructor-to-student communications are typified by ongoing two-way exchanges of information about course offerings, student opinions, and student performance in the course. Such communication is necessary to support the optimal achievement of individual students and to establish a positive online community environment.

Student Self-Efficacy: Self efficacy describes an individual's belief in the capability to achieve a goal or an outcome. Students with a strong sense of efficacy are more likely to challenge themselves, be intrinsically motivated, and show a high degree of effort to achieve, and attribute failure to things which are in their control, rather than blaming external factors, and generally are more likely to achieve their personal goals. Students with low self-efficacy, on the other hand, believe they cannot be successful and thus are less likely to make a concerted, extended effort and may consider challenging tasks as threats that are to be avoided, which may result in disappointing academic performances becoming part of a self-fulfilling feedback cycle.

Summative Assessments: Are created to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit, measured against some standard or benchmark. Summative assessments may include exams, projects or papers, and may be considered high stakes outcomes.

Formative Assessment: Is designed to provide ongoing feedback about student learning that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning. Formative assessments identify student strengths and weaknesses and help instructors address those problems immediately.

Student Engagement: Student engagement is increasingly seen as an indicator of student success, especially in online environments. Student engagement is typified by an individual's willingness, persistence and involvement in the learning task, the ability to overcome learning obstacles and to demonstrate ownership of work, the willingness to engage other learners in the process. The psychological processes linking motivation, higher level thinking, enduring understanding and successful learning are frequently identifiable in the level of student engagement.

Professional Self-Reflection: The ability of a professional to critically, realistically and constructively review one’s own performance in order to take necessary actions to improve abilities and/or maintain motivation toward teaching and learning goals.

High Quality Online Instruction: Concerns about the quality of online instruction have been persistent since the introduction of Web-based courses. Proponents of effective online education have established that it can promote students' critical thinking skills, deep learning, collaborative learning, and problem-solving skills apart from typical course delivery. Schools may also benefit from online coursework by expanding curriculum at lower costs while helping students gain marketable technology skills. Quality online education can encourage non-discriminatory teaching and learning practices where race, gender and physical characteristics of instructors and learners may create a bias-free teaching and learning environment.

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