Friday, December 16, 2011

(empo-tymshft) How online education is influenced by social interactivity

Last weekend, my father-in-law and I were listening to a sports radio station and heard an ad for an online degree in sports management. We both took notice, because it was offered in conjunction with the school from which my wife (his daughter) graduated. Once known as Concordia College River Forest, it is now known as Concordia University Chicago - yeah, they pulled the Rita Moreno of Arte thing and renamed themselves after the nearby big city. Information on the sports management program, which offers master's and doctoral degrees, can be found here.

When we mentioned this to my wife, we remembered that one of her relatives - thus, one of my in-laws - is actually teaching at Concordia University Chicago now, and her area of expertise is in online programs.

I hunted around, and while I couldn't find any of Dr. Ardelle Pate's publications, I did find an abstract of an article that was published here.

Title: Questioning the Necessity of Nonacademic Social Discussion Forums within Online Courses

Authors: Pate, Ardelle; Smaldino, Sharon; Mayall, Hayley J.; Luetkehans, Lara

Source: Quarterly Review of Distance Education, v10 n1 p1-8 2009

Abstract: Within the online environment, social interactivity is a necessity to the formation of knowledge. Learning, in order to be truly effective, must embody a social element that nurtures an individual through the multi-intelligences of a group while it also embraces and fosters an individual to recognize self-efficacy. The idea of successful learning within a social environment has been reiterated by educational theorists. Some researchers have indicated the importance of providing time and activities for establishing a social presence within a friendly online environment. By establishing a social presence, learners support each other in their quest for knowledge, and the group dynamic enhances critical thinking within the community of learners. The purpose of this research was to examine the social interactions of required academic discussion forums, optional academic discussion forums, and optional nonacademic social discussion forums to see whether different types of forums actually enhance the sense of social presence. The intent was to see if these forums contributed to a social sense of community, which was intended to enhance learning and broaden the individual's role in the community of learners.

This is all a new world to me, because I have never taken an academic course in an online setting. (My most recent academic coursework was completed in 1991.) And the online courses that I have taken, mostly during my time at Motorola, were pretty much canned courses without live interaction with a professor or students.

While I do not have access to the conclusions of Pate et al, one would intuitively think that social interactivity would contribute to the online educational experience. After all, much of my learning at Reed College and at Cal State Fullerton took place in small groups, some of which were away from the formal class. If an online course merely consists of direct interaction with the professor/instructor, you're only getting part of the experience.
blog comments powered by Disqus