Graduation Year

2005

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Secondary Education

Major Professor

Dr. Ann Barron.

Keywords

Distance learning, Synchronous online learning, Web-based learning, Interaction, Social learning, Transactional distance, Community building, Immediacy

Abstract

This study investigated a synchronous web-based course system (SWBCS) as a supplement todistance learning courses. Although challenges exist (such as the complex interface and potentialtechnological problems); these systems hold the potential to enhance the distance learning experiencethrough increased interaction, immediacy, social presence, group work, and collaboration.Using a rigorous blend of research methods, the study investigated the following questions: (1) what types of pedagogical strategies do instructors implement, (2) how do instructors utilize the tools, (3) which tools do instructors choose to use, (4) why do instructors use the tools and strategies that they choose, and (5) what perceptions do students and instructors have about using a SWBCS? A total of five unique cases were examined using surveys, interviews, focus groups, analysis of archival documents and extensive classroom observations.

The classrooms observations were essential to answering the research questions; a comprehensive observation instrument was developed and validated during this research. Results show instructors implemented familiar strategies based on their teaching styles. The most successful strategies were: (1) mini lectures with interactive exercises, (2) structured group work and collaborative exercises, and (3) case study discussions. Each instructor used the tools in the synchronous system to solve a problem or address an issue, such as lack of immediacy or the need to guide the assimilation of information. Most instructors used a wide variety of the tools, including: (1) VOIP, (2) textual chat, (3) white board, (4) hand raising and emoticons, and (5) breakout rooms. Although some tried many tools, most chose to use tools based on training, experience, the teaching strategies selected and student needs.

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