Factors affecting nontraditional African American students' participation in online world literature classes
J. Maria Sweeney Merrills, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, United States
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro . Awarded
The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine how communication preferences, learning preferences, and perceptions about online learning affect nontraditional African American students’ participation in online world literature courses at a historically Black university (HBCU) in the southeastern United States. An instrumental case study was the research design used. Data were collected from individual interviews of participants and non-participatory observations of Blackboard course shells and analyzed through content analysis (Babbie, 2003). Chen's Learner-to-Learner Transactional Distance, Learner-to-Content Transactional Distance, and Learner-to-Interface Transactional Distance theory (2001), along with Moore's Theory of Transactional Distance (1996) informed the data analysis. Analysis occurred in two stages. Within-case analysis was used to understand the experiences of online learning with individual participants. Later, a cross-case analysis was used “to build abstractions across cases” (Merriam, 1998, p. 195) as well as to compare participants’ experiences to ascertain a grander view of participation of African American nontraditional students in online world literature classes.
The findings of the study explained nontraditional African American student preferences for frequent oral communication among students, preferably face-to-face. In addition, students wished to make oral contact with online instructors; however, they desired to have the instructor to communicate with them via email. In addition, findings also revealed how African American students could often be overwhelmed with long reading requirements. Their preferences were to have content condensed for learning. They also preferred to have study guides which highlighted key information to which one’s focus should be placed. Furthermore, students preferred to work and learn in groups. In order to enhance their enjoyment and participation in the course, participants preferred to make connections with subject matter, topics, and peers. For the most part, participants were drawn to online learning for the convenience, though their learning preferences were not often met in the online learning environment. While many participants found learning to be accessible and convenient through online courses, many of them were frustrated by slow response and feedback by online instructors and technical problems which may have occurred due to lack of savvy with online learning or Blackboard technicalities. Implications for higher education administrators, university professors, and students as related to online learning are provided.
Merrills, J.M.S. Factors affecting nontraditional African American students' participation in online world literature classes. Ph.D. thesis, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
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