Citation:
Callaghan, N. & Bower, M. (2012). Learning through social networking sites – the critical role of the teacher. Educational Media International, 49(1), 1-17. doi:10.1080/09523987.2012.662621

Summary:
The purpose of this study was to determine whether or not social networking sites can be successfully used as a tool to enhance learning. Ning Network, a social networking site, was employed by the researches for the study. Two classes of tenth grade students were given access to a Ning site that was open to only their class; each of the two classes had their own site however, the two sites were identical in design and content. Students were given five 60 minute lessons over the course of three weeks and were asked to participate in various assignments. These assignments progressed in skill level and were aligned with Blooms Taxonomy.

Students in both classes were given detailed instructions of the assignments through the course site, including which tools they would be required to use for each assignment. Site tools included chats, forums, blogs, eportfolio tools, etc. As the students progressed through the study, the two teachers of the classes observed their own students’ behaviors. One additional teacher was brought in to provide objective observations for both classes and a staff member, an instructional designer, was brought in to make observations about the students’ use of the site.  At the end of the study, students, teachers and the staff member answered several questions about the experience using a likeart scale.

The study found that although the site, content, assignments, tools and instructions were identical between the two classes, the amount of actual work produced was quite different. Class 1 failed to do many of the assignments and did not progress to the more difficult tasks that included the higher levels of Blooms Taxonomy requiring critical thinking. Class 2 was the opposite in that most of the students completed all of the assignments and all of them reached the critical thinking stage. Instructors observed Class 1 not staying on task during the lessons while the students in Class 2 were focused on the assignments. Class 1 stated, on their end-of-study report, that they considered the course site to be more of a social site where Class 2 considered it to be more of a site for learning. The main difference between the two that was observed by the outside observer was that Teacher 2 was much more nurturing with the students and had a much higher presence within the course site.

Review:
I found this article to be very interesting and believe it would help teachers using or interested in using social networking sites to enhance learning. According to this article there seems to be a real correlation between instructor presence and learning course materials through these sites. The observers believed that because Teacher 1 was not present in the course site and was not very involved with the lessons that the students felt the teacher would not know whether or not they were completing the assignments; they therefore chose not to do them. The opposite was true for Class 2 where the teacher was very involved and very present in the site; the students wanted to please and impress the teacher by working hard.

The downside to this study is the fact that the differences were only observed and there is no statistical data that validates the claim that teacher presence and involvement were the reasons why one class was more active in learning in the site than the other class. Regardless, I believe this is a good start to discovering the big picture and there seems to be some truth to the findings.

Citation:
Dempsey, J. V., Fisher, S. F., Wright, D. E., & Anderton, E. K. (2008). Training and support, obstacles, and library impacts on eLearning activities. College Student Journal, 42(2), 630-636. http://libproxy.lib.csusb.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=32544899&site=ehost-live

Summary:
The purpose of this study was to determine the training and support needs, obstacles and challenges, and use of online library resources for faculty of online, traditional and web-enhanced courses as well as the students in the same types of classes. Surveys were administered to 140 faculty members and 707 students via internet and telephone.

There were a total of six surveys administered. Three of those surveys were administered to faculty; one to faculty who teach fully online, one to those who do not teach any online and one to those who teach web-enhanced classes. The other three surveys were administered to students in the same three types of courses. All online students and teachers were given an opportunity to complete the survey while the other teachers and students in traditional classes were randomly selected. Online course instructors were asked how important it was to receive formal training and support and students were asked what computer skills they needed training on. A five point likeart-scale was used.

The study found that formal training and support was very important to faculty and that they tend to look to each other for help first. The biggest obstacles for faculty of online courses were time and technology and it was discovered that online instructors use online library resources less than traditional faculty. The study also found that online students required less technical help but more help with research techniques, time management and learning how to use the online library resources. Traditional students used the online library tools more often than online students.

Review:
This is an interesting article for those organizations that are considering offering online courses, adding web components to traditional courses or simply improving support services for already existing online courses. I would say that the methodology used was appropriate but that future studies should expand outside of just one university. The results were not surprising; online courses take a lot of time for instructors to build and maintain and there are little incentives for them, students are fairly tech savvy, and technical training and support are important to faculty. Overall it was an interesting article but the findings were not exactly earthshattering.

Citation:
Hot for teacher: Using digital music to enhance students’ experience in online courses. (2010). TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 54(4), 58-73. doi:10.1007/s11528-010-0421-4

Summary:
The purpose of this article is to share the benefits of incorporating music into online instructional activities. The authors first discuss the idea that music is important in the lives of individuals and cite different sources for this conclusion. Ultimately it was this idea that spurred them to incorporate music in their learning activities; people like music therefore if music is included in learning, they will like learning. The authors, both professors of instructional design, have used music in online courses for various learning activities and give examples of many of them in the article.  Based on their experiences with this teaching method, it was their findings that music-driven instructional activities can:

  • Humanize, personalize, and energize online courses by enhancing social presence through student-to-student interaction
  • Tap into students’ interests, and elicit positive feelings and associations
  • Involve students in relevant and meaningful student-to-student interaction by engaging them in active knowledge construction

Review:
While the authors of this article give some great examples of how to incorporate music into online learning activities, they do not include any factual evidence. They have tested a theory by putting it into practice but there is no data to back up their claims. Their findings seem to be more based on gut feelings rather than formal evaluation; it doesn’t appear that any surveys were conducted to measure whether or not using music was truly beneficial to the student. 

Citation:
Lee, Y., & Choi, J. (2011). A review of online course dropout research: Implications for practice and future research. Educational Technology Research & Development, 59(5), 593-618. doi:10.1007/s11423-010-9177-y

Summary:
The purpose of this study was to determine significant factors that cause high dropout rates in online courses and to identify strategies to address these factors. The authors gathered existing studies using ERIC, Education Research Complete and PsycINFO databases. They searched on various keywords that would be associated with dropout and retention in online learning. Only studies that met the following criteria were used in this study: 1) Included empirical data, 2) Peer-reviewed, 3) Officially published, 4) Focused on post-secondary online learning, 5) Published between 1999 and 2009. The final count of studies that met their criteria was 35.

Within the 35 studies analyzed, 69 factors that attribute to student dropout were identified. These 69 factors were grouped into 9 categories using the “Constant Comparative Method” and then were narrowed further and grouped into three main categories; Student factors, course/program factors and Environmental factors. Also identified within the 35 studies analyzed were 52 strategies for retention. These 52 factors were put through the same categorization process and were grouped into the same three main categories.

The three main categories were analyzed further and the findings published in the study. Some of the findings include:

  • There is a correlation between SAT scores/GPA and student dropout.
  • New students are more likely to drop than experienced students.
  • Low levels of management and computer skills are an indicator for dropout.
  • Instructors who implemented a design-model that focused on student motivation had improved dropout rates.

Review:
This study has a wealth of information for online instructors and administrators. Online instructors would benefit from the findings when planning their course as it offers insight into what they can do to help their students succeed and lower the dropout rates. Administrators would benefit from knowing what factors may cause a student to dropout so support systems can be implemented to avoid losing students.

The authors also analyzed strategies that were discussed in the 35 studies but admittedly found flaws with many of them. They reported that the main flaw in the strategies was that there was not enough empirical evidence provided to show whether or not they were effective. Because of these findings the authors made recommendations for future research studies. Overall, this article was very useful, as it combines years of research into one well-written document.

Citation:
Teclehaimanot, B., & Hickman, T. (2011). Student-teacher interaction on Facebook: What students find appropriate. TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 55(3), 19-30. doi:10.1007/s11528-011-0494-8

Summary:
The purpose of this study was to investigate how students feel about student-teacher interactions on Facebook and what type of interactions they believed to be appropriate. Ultimately, this information would be used to determine how, if at all, Facebook or other social networking sites can be used in education.

A total of 52 students were surveyed using a 47 question test instrument. 27 of the students were graduate students while 25 were undergraduate students. All students based their answers off of their instructor, and all instructor subjects were males above the age of 40. The 47 items were answered on a four point likeart-type scale that included ratings of strongly agree, agree, disagree and strongly disagree. 46 of the questions were based on 23 Facebook specific behaviors that were placed into four categories: student/passive, student/active, teacher/passive and teacher/active. The final question asked the students if they agreed that faculty should be allowed to be on Facebook. Finally, students were asked to provide their age, class rank and gender.

Passive behaviors were more acceptable than active behaviors regardless of whether it was a student or a teacher performing the action, and student/passive behaviors were more acceptable than teacher/passive behaviors. Students were least comfortable with “poking” a teacher and/or a teacher “poking” a student. Students were also uncomfortable with teachers and students commenting on each other’s Facebook items. Those who were highly uncomfortable with student-teacher interactions on Facebook, surprisingly, felt strongest that teachers should be allowed on Facebook. Those who were highly comfortable with teacher-student interactions on Facebook felt strongest that they should not be allowed on Facebook. While there were no statistical differences between how undergraduate and graduate students felt or between different ages, men were much more accepting of teacher-student interactions than women.

Review:
This is an interesting study that attempts to determine if and how Facebook or other social networking sites could be used as an educational tool. The authors of the study conclude that the results would be helpful to teachers; they would understand how their students may feel about interacting with them on Facebook before they decide to utilize it in their class. 

The article was interesting and I would recommend it as information to keep in mind if you are an instructor considering using social networking sites in your course. I would also warn that I believe the study to be too narrow in regards to the instructor subjects. The fact that only male teachers over the age of 40 were used as subjects may have been a huge factor in why women in the study weren’t as comfortable with student-teacher interactions.

 

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