Author ORCID Identifier

http://orcid.org/0000-0002-2904-8046

Year of Publication

2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Education

Department

Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Dr. Joan Mazur

Abstract

This case study examined the implementation of an orientation to online learning mini-course that introduced the learning management system (LMS) and the support services available for online learning students involved in undergraduate and graduate coursework. The purpose of the mini-course was to address issues with online course attrition related to students' technology preparation and skills described in the literature (Bozarth, Chapman, and LaMonica, 2004; Dupin-Bryant, 2004). The course design featured elements of Keller’s (1968) Personalized Systems of Instruction and Bloom’s Mastery Learning (Guskey, 1997), specifically, student demonstration of unit mastery, monitored by the instructor, and the use of correctives. Sixty-five (65) undergraduate and graduate students took the mini-course concurrently with required for-credit coursework. Using implementation science as a conceptual lens (Greenhalgh, Robert, McFarlane, Bate & Kyriakidou, 2004) the research focused on students' interaction with the mini-course design features and documented the implementation process on multiple levels of a user system: system readiness, adoption/assimilation, end-user implementation and consequences. Demographic data, scores from technology skills surveys and an assistance needs questionnaire were analyzed along with data from student emails and course evaluations with open-ended questions.

Perhaps the most unanticipated finding was the lack of system readiness to test and integrate a research-based orientation course that, given the attrition rates among students with varying levels of course experience, is needed to support students' effective participation in online coursework. Serious issues regarding system readiness to implement the mini-course included a lack of support resources to incorporate the mini-course within existing coursework systems. Across several institutions, and with positive responses to the need for online course orientation, administrators were unable to clearly commit and schedule a course that would cost neither the student nor the institution and was customized to their institution’s LMS. Access was negotiated at the course/instructor level only. Readiness issues then affected motivations for the adoption and assimilation of the mini-course.

At the system level of implementation, a more comprehensive strategy to obtain institutional buy-in to facilitate implementation is needed. At the end-user level of implementation, participants with varying levels of experience responded differently to the various skill options. Frustrations with a mastery approach was reported, in particular wait times for instructor response needed to proceed. And while many reported the course was not useful for them, but would be for new students, they clearly needed the skills related to software navigation, hardware and internet communication tools and competencies. Future design of the orientation course needs to include 1) multiple versions to accommodate students’ perceptions of their needs, 2) direct feedback on skill levels to promote acceptability and 3) more automated instructor response features. The limited number of freshman and students new to online coursework did not support conclusions about the utility of such a course to address attrition among those groups.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/ETD.2017.008

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