Facilitating student learning in an asynchronous learning network
Alan Dale Carswell, University of Maryland, College Park, United States
University of Maryland, College Park . Awarded
This dissertation responds to the call for an increase in distance learning research studies to guide the design of effective and cost-efficient learning environments (Alavi, Wheeler, & Valacich, 1995; Leidner & Jarvenpaa, 1995; Storck & Sproull, 1995). Although advances in information technology have enabled the creation of learning environments that transcend the limitations of time and place, systematic knowledge and understanding related to the use of these technologies to enhance the learning process is limited.
Specifically, this research seeks to relate aspects of the student and the learning environment to student outcomes in an asynchronous, technology-mediated, distance learning environment. Drawing upon theoretical and empirical work in distance education, learning, instructional design, information technology, and media richness/synchronicity, a number of hypotheses were developed, proposing relationships between media properties, individual characteristics, the underlying learning model used in instruction, and student outcomes.
To test the hypotheses, a set of undergraduate and graduate courses were selected at a university with a large asynchronous distance education population. Approximately 1549 students enrolled in the courses were invited to participate in an online survey. Ultimately, 304 usable responses were received, representing all the selected courses. Questions in the survey measured student perceptions of medium qualities and motivation to learn, as well as control variables.
Results suggested that there is an important interaction between a course's underlying learning model and the properties of the media used in delivering the course. In a course tending towards a constructivist learning model, better perceived learning outcomes resulted when the media supported rapid feedback and limited parallel conversations. For students with a learning style favoring abstract conceptualization, the ability of the media to support reprocessing the learning material led to better perceived learning outcomes. Also, student motivation emerged as a dominant influence on perceived learning outcomes.
In addition, this research provided evidence that media qualities are perceptual in nature, rather than fixed or objective. Although the subjects all were using the same technical environment, perceptions of the media quality of synchronicity (parallelism and immediacy of feedback) varied. This dissertation also developed and validated items to measure individual perceptions of selected media qualities.
Carswell, A.D. Facilitating student learning in an asynchronous learning network. Ph.D. thesis, University of Maryland, College Park.
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