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H809: Activity 1.4: Hiltz & Meinke (1989)

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Hiltz, S.R. and Meinke, R. (1989) 'Teaching sociology in a virtual classroom', Teaching Sociology, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 431-46.

Questions: What research questions are being addressed?
To see if CMC systems can improve access and effectiveness of post secondary delivery: is it a viable option? i.e. are outcomes as good?; what variables are assoc. with esp. good or poor outcomes?

Setting: What is the sector and setting?
US College - in the US the terms 'college' and 'university' are loosely interchangeable

Concepts: What theories, concepts and key terms are being used?

"Learning is the structuring of a situation in ways that help students change, through learning, in intentional (and sometimes unintentional) ways" (Johnson & Johnson, quoted on p. 432)
Suggests a behaviourist view of learning in that the students' behaviours are modified in the desired direction. (Operant conditioning, Skinner)

The VC still employs a transmissive format with e-lectures although some self-determination in order of activities is indicated, some active dialogue is employed and presentations are assessed.
Other parts of the paper suggest a more social and participatory form of education following Lave & Wenger's theories.

Methods: What methods of data collection and analysis are used? (e.g. the number of participants; the type of technologies; the use of interviews, surveys, observation, etc.)

  • Matched but 'non-equivalent' sections of the same course; same teacher; same text; same printed materials; same exams;
  • students self-select VC and TC
  • Some mixed mode courses - 25-75% VC (107 & 96 students)
  • Pre and post-course questionnaires
  • Grades and SAT scores
  • Records of time spent online
  • Observation
  • Interviews
  • Case reports
  • VC students still took exams in TC manner
  • Hypothesis testing

Findings: What did this research find out?

  • VC can increase access and effectiveness of college-level education
  • Similar levels of skill in both groups
  • No sig. diff. in final or mid-term scores
  • Some diff. in general scores for comp. sci. Students
  • Students thought VC was convenient
  • Students thought access to professor was improved in VC
  • There was improved participation in VC
  • No sig. diff. in increased level of interest
  • Communication variable; highest in mixed-mode courses

Limitations: What are the limitations of the methods used?

  • Self-selection - more computer literate may choose VC; those with time constraints, perhaps too busy for course, may choose VC;
  • Researcher delivering one course may affect outcomes
  • Two very different unis so introducing another variable - big difference in results
  • Everything in written form so disadvantaging those with SpLD
  • Variations in cognitive maturity
  • VC students formed F2F buddy groups thus changing format of research group
  • Students did not have computers at home or in dormitories so had to go out to access them - those with computers at home most likely to appreciate convenience
  • 50 hypotheses and over 200 variables - too many variables so difficult to determine any correlation e.g. low level student participating, high level student participating, low level student participating, high level student participating - what effect does this have on their opinions of communication?
  • Questionnaire is in complex English for lower level students - strongly agreeing with negative.
  • Compulsion to sign in twice a week reduces flexibility (p.440)

Ethics: Are there any ethical issues associated with the research?

  • Use of pen names could encourage disclosures/comments that were unwise in a class situation and, as course progressed, identities may be inadvertently revealed.
  • VC students may have discussed quiz answers with buddies in computer lab

Implications: What are the implications (if any) for practice, policy or further research?

'Results were superior for well-motivated and well-prepared students who had adequate access to necessary equipment and who took advantage of the opportunities..'

Motivation and access seem to be the main issues with the tutor having a crucial role in motivation by building a collaborative group.

'VC delivery mode seems better for courses that treat a few topics in depth rather than for......courses that attempt to cover a large number of topics in a short time'

I would agree with this as many people on H800 reported that they wanted time to do deeper research on some areas.

Meinke thought VC most suitable for those with advanced reading and writing skills but agreed that it was stimulating for all students as a component of mixed courses.

Activity 1.5: Reflecting on the paper (2 hours)

  1. What counts as evidence in this work?

Quantitative research: questionnaire results, grade scores, exam results, records of time spent online

Qualitative research: interviews, observation, case reports

  1. How do the two explicit research questions relate to the design of the research?

1)  Is the Virtual Classroom a viable option for educational delivery?  (On the whole, are outcomes at least as good as those for traditional face-to-face courses?)

2) What variables are associated with especially good and especially poor outcomes in this new teaching and learning environment?

The first question is addressed by using a null hypothesis and quantitative analysis of the course scores and results. It is a fairly straightforward yes/no answer.

The second is addressed by qualitative methods. I believe that this is the best way of investigating the introduction of new methodologies into such a complex social situation of a university setting. There is no straightforward yes/no answer but a mixture of student and staff perceptions and opinions. I am concerned about the prejudice shown in the hypothesis and in the selection of sub-hypotheses shown. Would this sort of prejudice influence interviews, observations and case reports? Investigating such a complex area needs to be carefully controlled but the authors suggest that they are testing 50 hypotheses and over 200 variables which would interact. An attempt has been made to make the findings more quantitative by using a questionnaire.

  1. In what ways is the wider literature used in the paper?

To reference the full evaluation of results (Hiltz 1986,1988) p.432

To provide a definition for education (Johnson & Johnson, 1975) p.432

To provide reference for:

  • previous work on CMC (p.432);
  • software descriptions (p.433);
  • collaborative learning (p.433);
  • cognitive maturity (p.434);

To reference quote (Harasism p.434)

 

  1. What views of education and learning underpin the research?

Technology as an add-on rather than an integral part of learning design.

"Learning is the structuring of a situation in ways that help students change, through learning, in intentional (and sometimes unintentional) ways" (Johnson & Johnson, quoted on p. 432)
Suggests a behaviourist view of learning in that the students' behaviours are modified in the desired direction. (Operant conditioning, Skinner)

The VC still employs a transmissive format with e-lectures although some self-determination in order of activities is indicated, some active dialogue is employed and presentations are assessed.
Other parts of the paper suggest a more social and participatory form of education following Lave & Wenger's theories.

 

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