Effects of discussion postings in online elementary statistics community college classes
Barbara S. Illowsky, Capella University, United States
Capella University . Awarded
Online learning in community colleges has grown from experimental status to a reality. In California community colleges, the number of online course sections has been increasing and is expected to continue to climb over the next decade, but the retention and academic success rates for students in the online sections are significantly lower than for students in the corresponding face-to-face sections. Research on why students in online sections do not succeed has been minimal. Although researchers of students in face-to-face sections have concluded that lack of interaction among community college students is a significant reason students do not succeed, the research is deficient about which individual forms of online interaction may lead to greater academic success and retention in online courses, or how these forms individually affect instructional design of courses. This study attempted to lessen that research void by studying the effect on retention and academic success through use of structured higher order thinking online discussion postings in online elementary statistics classes as the form of interaction. Elementary statistics sections at two California community colleges were randomly split into control and experimental sections after the students had self-enrolled into the online sections. The course requirements within each college were identical for the control and experimental groups with the exception that students in the experimental sections were required to participate in structured discussion postings requiring higher order thinking skills. The first research question asked if required interaction via structured online discussions contributed to higher retention rates in online courses. The second research question asked if required interaction in structured online discussions contributed to higher academic success rates in online courses. The study used an experimental methodology with a one-variable design. For both research questions, the p-value was insignificant. These were surprising results as the literature and major distance learning organizations promote research and presentations involving discussion postings in online learning. Future research could expand into other disciplines, conduct research in community colleges in other states, study the effects of other forms of interaction methods, and look beyond community colleges to online high school through university courses.
Illowsky, B.S. Effects of discussion postings in online elementary statistics community college classes. Ph.D. thesis, Capella University.
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