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Research Proposal

Steven M. Walters, M. Ed.


Kent State University

Research Proposal 1

Abstract
The general context of this research project is to discover what techniques instructors are using
to conduct online discussions and how it impacts student participation, learning, and grade levels
achieved in online courses compared to the same section of a face-to-face course. The research
problem is to determine what intervention techniques faculty are using to promote higher degrees
of student motivation in providing quality posts and meaningful comments that contribute to the
community of learning. The methodology to be used for this study are to recruit faculty who
teach two sections of the same online course, faculty who teach one online course and the same
course face-to-face, and two different instructors who teach the same course both online. Faculty
will be surveyed to analyze their perceptions on their effectiveness of their online discussion
techniques. Students will be surveyed to determine if they perceived the online discussions were
helpful in deeper learning, surface learning, or just posted minimally to achieve a quota of
postings for a grade. Significant findings will look at rubric design, expectations of student
participation, faculty intervention, student participation rates, latency rates of posting, thread
depth, sustained discussion, student initiation of posts, elaborate responses, and elaborate
responses with references.
Introduction
The general context of this research topic is to ascertain how instructors are designing and
facilitating online discussion. The ability to include synchronous course discussion and
asynchronous discussion in text base format and live or recorded voice are available technology
in the Blackboard Learning Management System (LMS) (Hew & Chueng, 2012). The inclusion
of supplemental delivery systems such as Facebook can also be integrated into online course
discussion but do require an extra effort on behalf of the instructor who decides to incorporate it

Research Proposal 2

into the design of their course (Hurt, Moss, Bradley, & Larson, 2012; Duncan, & Barczyk,
2013). Instructors can also choose to have the entire class participate as individuals, in small
groups, and or a mix of groups that can have an impact on student participation, interaction, and
sustainability of a discussion (Kim, 2012). The level of instructor intervention can have varying
degrees of impact on discussions that lead to increased student satisfaction of the course while
learning more about interacting in an online community environment (Yao, 2012; Malinen,
2015). There are a variety of factors that come into play when students determine their level of
participation. Students may or may not participate due to many reasons including: individual
differences, individual need for gratification, personality dispositions, time availability, selfefficacy needs, socialization skills, the composition of the online community, tendency toward
social loafing, responses to delurking and the quality of responses, technical design flaws,
privacy, and safety in the online group (Amichai-Hamburger, Gazit, Bar-Ilan, Perez, Aharony,
Bronstein, Dyne, 2014). Many instructors favor evaluations of online discussion interactivity in
order to form concrete standards and teacher expectations for guiding online discussion
interaction (Mandernach, 2006). Investigations into the degree to which instructor participation
in online discussions contributes to student satisfaction in online learning settings revealed that
learner-instructor interaction has been shown to be good predictors of student satisfaction that
leads to higher levels of student performance (Kuo, Walker, Belland, Kerstin, & Schroder,
2013). For students to adopt a deeper approach and receive higher grades through their online
discussion they need to be able to go beyond surface learning that only enables them to
reproduce the information (Ellis, Goodyear, Prosser, & O'Hara, 2006). Students need to show
that they can apply the knowledge by developing examples of a real-world scenario. In an online
discussion students need to contribute with quality postings not just quantity. Students need to

Research Proposal 3

learn to initiate discussions, respond with elaborated responses and respond with resources to
back up their postings (Lee, 2012). In 2013 research was conducted on the impact of prevailing
technological trends on student learning that showed a noticeable decline in student competence,
their language/communication skills and research ability as an outcome of emerging social media
trends (Manian, 2013).
Statement of the Problem
The emergence of social media trends may be having a systemic negative impact on
student competence in communication skills and their ability to participate effectively in online
discussions within online and blended courses in higher education. This evolving social media
trend may also be negatively impacting how instructors are designing, facilitating, and
conducting their online courses to meet each new generation of college students.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study will be used to determine if a training program for faculty and
or graduate students who are about to teach their first online course is needed to provide them
with techniques in establishing a higher level of ability in sustaining student participation in
online discussion leading to higher levels of learning and satisfaction. This study will also
provide insightful evidence for veteran faculty to ensure they do not unnecessarily lower their
standards in accommodating students based on social media trends.
Significance of the Study
The benefits of this research will identify the weak points in design and facilitation in
online course in the development of instructor training, online course rubrics, expectations of
student performance, expectations of faculty performance, and support student learning based on

Research Proposal 4

trends that higher education institutions do not realize are occurring in the post-secondary
educational sector.
Research Method
A pragmatic mixed methods approach to this study will collect qualitative and
quantitative data through observations of online student discussions to include all posts to
compile data based on a rubric that defines initiation, elaborate response, elaborate response with
reference, quantity, quality, and thread depth. Surveys of faculty will be used to determine
instructor perceptions of student expectations and course design. Open ended survey questions
mixed with Likert scale questions will be used to measure participant perceptions, and attitudes
towards their learning outcomes.
Delimitations
There are research directions and research questions suggested by this research topic but
are not addressed in this proposed study. A few of these suggestions would be to conduct this
study within several different majors to discover if there are comparable attitudes towards online
course work. A longitudinal study could be conducted to follow students through 4-6 years of
higher education and their online courses to show any changes in their participation rates and to
what level they participate. A longitudinal study of faculty could need to be designed to analyze
how they have adapted over time in the development of their courses. Post semester faculty
interviews would be required to track outcomes of their work.
Limitations of the Study
The limitations of this research design, with only one researcher, cannot collect data from
several departments at once to increase the size of the overall group to find out if students in
different majors have different motivations. Due to the scope of the project, limitations of time

Research Proposal 5

and resources follow-up interviews would be advisable but not easily conducted without several
interviewers.
Program Area of the Study
Bachelor of Technical and Applied Studies
The Bachelor of Technical and Applied Studies degree is offered through the Kent State
University Regional Colleges. It is designed for students who are beginning their academic study
or for students who hold an associate degree or have completed some college-level coursework;
the program will accommodate varied educational backgrounds, develop competencies needed
for success in a variety of work settings and offer major courses in schedules attractive to
traditional students and to time-and place-bound adults.
Participants
Undergraduate Students enrolled in the Bachelor of Technical and Applied Studies
program and Faculty teaching in the Bachelor of Technical and Applied Studies program. All
participants will be volunteers. Teachers will also be volunteers and must give permission for
the researcher to have access to their class. The researcher will be listed as an observer of the
class so as not to cue students that they are being observed.

Instructors who teach at least two of the same course.

Similar courses taught by two teachers online

Similar courses taught by two teachers online & f2f

Similar courses taught by same teacher online & f2f

Courses for study


Same course taught by two teachers
Course
BMRT 11000
INTRODUCTION TO BUSINESS
BMRT 11000
INTRODUCTION TO BUSINESS

Instructor

Online or f2f

Mary C. Simballa

Online

John A. Marino

Online

Research Proposal 6
Sample Size = 56
BMRT 11009
INTRODUCTION TO MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGY
BMRT 11009
INTRODUCTION TO MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGY
Sample Size = 44
BMRT 21011
FUNDAMENTALS OF FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT
BMRT 21011
FUNDAMENTALS OF FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT
BMRT 21011
FUNDAMENTALS OF FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT
Sample Size = 74

Mary C. Simballa

Online

Tracey Colter McCurrach

Online

Mario Mastrandrea

Online

Robert Antenucci

Online

Robert Antenucci

Online

Same course taught by two teachers (one online one f2f)


BMRT 21000
BUSINESS LAW AND ETHICS I
BMRT 21000
BUSINESS LAW AND ETHICS I
Sample Size = 65

John A. Marino

Online

Mary C. Simballa

f2f

Same course taught by same teacher (one online one f2f)


Course
Instructor
BMRT 21004
INTRODUCTION TO BUSINESS STATISTICS
BMRT 21004
INTRODUCTION TO BUSINESS STATISTICS
Sample Size = 49

Online or f2f

Douglas W Brady

Online

Douglas W Brady

f2f

Procedures
The online discussion data will be collected throughout the semester. In the 14th week of
semester student volunteers will be invited to participate in the end of semester surveys. Faculty
volunteers must be invited to participate prior to the first online discussion occurring. Faculty
end of semester surveys will be obtained in the 14th week. All data will be analyzed in order to
determine the findings.
Summary
This research can be repeated within any department and can bring awareness to the
issues of developing and facilitating online teaching curriculum. The objective is to determine
how instructors are conducting their online discussions to determine if their students are learning

Research Proposal 7

or just participating in the discussion and to what degree their participation supports their
learning.

Research Proposal 8

References
Amichai-Hamburger, Y., Gazit, T., Bar-Ilan, J., Perez, O., Aharony, N., Bronstein, J., Dyne,
T.S., (2014). Psychological factors behind the lack of participation in online discussions.
Computers in Human Behavior. 55(A), 268277.
Duncan, D.G., & Barczyk, C.C., (2013). Facebook in the University Classroom: Do Students
Perceive that it Enhances Community of Practice and Sense of Community? International
Journal of Business and Social Science, 4(3).
Ellis, R. A., Goodyear, P., Prosser, M. & O'Hara, A. (2006). How and what university students
learn through online and face-to-face discussion: conceptions, intentions and approaches.
Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 22, 244256. doi:10.1111/j.13652729.2006.00173.x
Hew, K.F. & Cheung, W.S., (2012). Students use of Asynchronous Voice Discussion in a
Blended-Learning Environment: A study of two undergraduate classes. The Electronic
Journal of eLearning. (10)4, 360 440.
Hurt, N.E., Moss, G.S. Bradley, C.L. & Larson, L.R. (2012). The Facebook' Effect: College
Students ' Perceptions of Online Discussions in the Age of Social Networking.
International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. (6)2 Article 10.
https://doi.org/10.20429/ijsotl.2012.060210
Kim, J. (2012). Influence of group size on students participation in online discussion
forums. Computers & Education. (6)2, 123-129.
http://dx.doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2012.10.025.
Kuo, Y., Walker, A. E., Belland, B.R., Kerstin E. E. and Schroder, K.E.E., (2013). Predictive
Study of Student Satisfaction in Online Education Programs. The International Review

Research Proposal 9

of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, (14)1.


http://dx.doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v14i1.1338.
Lee, S.W.-Y., (2012). Investigating students learning approaches, perceptions of online
discussions, and students online and academic performance. Computers & Education.
(68), 345-352. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2013.05.019.
Manian, C. (2013). Designing student oriented Elearning environments in higher education to
match technological trends. International Journal of Integrating Technology in Education
(2)3. DOI :10.5121/ijite.2013.2301.
Malinen, S. (2015). Understanding user participation in online communities: A systematic
literature review of empirical studies. Computers in Human Behavior. 46, 228-238.
Mandernach, B.J. (2006). An Examination of Online Instructor Presence via Threaded
Discussion Participation. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching. (2)4,
248-259.
Yao, Y. (2012). Student Perceptions of a Hybrid Discussion Format. MERLOT Journal of
Online Learning and Teaching. (8)4, 288-297.