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Sustaining Interactivity in Asynchronous Learning Environments. Maxine S. Cohen, Ph.D. Laurie P. Dringus, Ph.D. Timothy J. Ellis, Ph.D. Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL Presentation for 7 th Sloan-C International Conference on Online Learning November 2001. Outline of Talk.

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Sustaining interactivity in asynchronous learning environments

Sustaining Interactivity in Asynchronous Learning Environments

Maxine S. Cohen, Ph.D.

Laurie P. Dringus, Ph.D.

Timothy J. Ellis, Ph.D.

Nova Southeastern University

Fort Lauderdale, FL

Presentation for 7th Sloan-C International Conference on Online Learning

November 2001

Outline of talk
Outline of Talk Environments

  • Background

  • Asynchronous Tools

  • Perspectives

  • Issues

  • Samples

  • Problems and pitfalls

  • Additional reflections

  • Conclusion

  • URLs and Reference list

Background Environments

  • Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences

  • Focus on Doctoral Program

    • 5 month terms

  • Hybrid Program

    • Some on campus time

  • Various Programs

    • Computing technology in education, Computer Information Systems, Information Systems, Computer Science

Asynchronous tools
Asynchronous Tools Environments

  • Forums/Bulletin Board

  • Provided in many off-the-shelf systems

  • Allaire Forums with some customization

    • Provides threaded capability

    • Allows attachments

Perspectives Environments

  • 3 faculty members

  • Concentrate on our specific courses

    • Human-Computer Interaction

    • Multimedia Systems

    • Online Learning Environments

  • One-size fits all does not work

Issues Environments

  • Instructor involvement

  • Structure

  • Evaluation criteria

  • Forum weighting

  • Role forums play in course learning outcomes

Instructor involvement
Instructor Involvement Environments

  • Locus of control issue

  • Topics posted throughout term

    • Themes may be listed in advance or may not

    • Core set and current topics

  • Amount of involvement

    • Students input their comments

      • Nothing from professor

    • Professor on occasion chimes in

    • Heavy involvement

      • 2-3 per week, direct students

  • Provide system of checks and balances

Structure Environments

  • Professor is gatekeeper

    • Sets tone

  • Specific start/end dates

  • Depth

    • Backed up with references

    • More than opinions and idle chatter

  • Impact of size of class

Evaluation criteria
Evaluation Criteria Environments

  • Quality and steady contributions

    • Reflect thought

  • On topic, well written, well supported, timely, and stimulates responses from others

  • Rubric

    • Strength

    • Support from literature

    • Responses generated

  • May want some non-credit bearing

Forum weighting
Forum Weighting Environments

  • Ranges – 10 to 40%

  • Norm – 15 to 30%

Role forums play in course learning outcomes
Role forums play in course learning outcomes Environments

  • Sense of presence

  • Process part of learning

    • Create a learning community

  • Content part of learning

    • Repository of resources

    • Dynamic and current

Samples Environments

  • Learning outcome

    • Evaluate problem areas in the education field and analyze the appropriateness of a computerized database management system as a solution

  • Associated forum topic

    • Discuss an area of particular need in education which you think can be effectively addressed with a computerized database management system

Samples Environments

  • This is a response I recently posted in one of the threads entitled "Interaction":

  • "I think we have to look at the big picture here -- I assess the collective experience as well as the individual contributions. Afterall, the end result of the individual contributions is the collective experience of all. At the end of the day (term), what do we have? Have we examined the issues and do we walk away with new information/new perspectives?”

Problems and pitfalls
Problems and Pitfalls Environments

  • Improper use of forums

    • Abiding by letter, but not spirit of the rules

    • Contributions immediately before deadline

    • Flip around, contributions need to generate response

  • Talking without content

    • Require citations

      • Unsupported opinion has no value

    • Place for “around the watercooler”, general chat threads

Problems and pitfalls con t
Problems and Pitfalls con’t Environments

  • Technological problems

    • Downtime

    • Windows of opportunity

      • 5 week window, 24 hour down period, doesn’t justify 72 hour extension

    • Reasonable flexibility

  • Isolation

    • Need to build learning community

  • Inappropriate contributions

Additional reflections
Additional Reflections Environments

  • Any time, any place learning doesn’t mean any pace

    • Pace set by instructor

  • Bios – include pictures and links

  • Learning experience has component how long it takes

    • 6 week reflection versus 1 week reflection

    • Broad versus in-depth

Additional reflections con t
Additional Reflections con’t Environments

  • “I can generally say that I can predict the success or failure of a class in Forums within the first two weeks of the start of Forums. I can tell by the level of thinking (and writing) just what direction the interactions will go. Information is shared and absorbed. I can see this pattern carry over into the course assignments. Ideas that have been shared in the Forums are often presented in assignments as well.”

Conclusion Environments

  • More research needed

  • Additional studies on patterns of interaction in forums

  • Metrics and measurements

  • Determining quality

  • Breadth versus depth issues

URLs Environments

  • Maxine Cohen


  • Laurie Dringus


  • Tim Ellis


Reference list
Reference List Environments

  • Cohen, M. S. and Ellis T. J. (2001). Teaching Technology in an Online, Distance Education Environment. Proceedings: Frontiers in Education Conference, Reno, NV. (T1F-1-T1F-6), Piscataway, NJ: IEEE.

  • Dringus, L.P. (2000, June). From both sides now. On being an online learner and an online professor. ACM e-Learn,

  • Dringus, L.P. (2000, November). Towards active online learning. A dramatic shift in perspective for learners. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(4),189-195.

  • Harrison, N. and Bergen, C. (2000). Some design strategies for developing an online course. Educational Technology, 40(1), 57-60.

Reference list con t
Reference List con’t Environments

  • Hiltz, S.R., Coppola, N., Turoff, M., and Benbunan-Fich, R. (2000). Measuring the importance of collaborative learning for the effectiveness of ALN: A multi-measure, multi-method approach. Journal of Asynchronous Networks.

  • Kubala, T. (1998). Addressing student needs: teaching on the internet. T.H.E. Journal, March.

  • Lake, D. (1999). Reducing isolation for distance students: an on-line initiative. Open Learning, 14(3), 14-23.

Reference list con t1
Reference List con’t Environments

  • Paloff, R. M. and Pratt, K. (1999). Building learning communities in cyberspace: effective strategies for the online classroom. Jossey Bass: San Francisco.

  • Vrasidas, C., & McIssac, M.S. (1999). Factors influencing interaction in an online course. The American Journal of Distance Education, 13(3), 22-36.