Thursday 28 November 2013

Book Review: Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn: A Comprehensive Guide for Teaching All Adults

Few weeks back, I had a chat with my colleague, Dr. Sanjyot Pethe and the topic turned to motivation of adult learners. At that point of time, she recommended this book and also got it issued from our library in her name. After reading this book, I must say a big thank to her as this is one of the best books that I have read.

In this book, the author,  Raymond J. Wlodkowski has provided 60 motivational strategies for four motivational conditions viz. establishing inclusion, developing attitude, enhancing meaning and engendering competence. It also describes five characteristics and skills of a motivating teacher viz. expertise, empathy, enthusiasm, clarity and cultural responsiveness.

Firmly supported by theory, this book provides useful and practical advice. A must read for everyone who is engaged in designing and delivering educational programs for adults.

Sunday 17 November 2013

Paper Review: Learning styles and online education

Zapalska, A., & Brozik, D. (2007). Learning styles and online education. Campus-Wide Information Systems, 24(1), 6–16. doi:10.1108/10650740710726455   Summary
This paper describes an assessment instrument that can be used to identify students’ learning styles. This instrument identifies four distinct learning styles: visual (V); aural (A); reading/writing (R); and kinesthetic (K). It was used to determine learning styles of students who participated in two online courses. It was found that there were only two students in each class who indicated preference for auditory learning, giving these two a multi-modal learning style. This finding may indicate that it is possible that students with prevailing auditory learning preferences may not be selecting online education as an option.

Assessment
The paper argues that learning style of online students must be identified so that the instructor can plan appropriate teaching strategies to accommodate individual strengths and needs. The paper has has provided one questionnaire that can be sued to identify the learning style. This seems to be an important contribution of this paper. The paper’s conclusion that students with prevailing auditory learning preferences may not be selecting online education as an option, needs further validation with larger and more representative sample.

Reflection
Catering to different learning style seems to be an important factor for success of online education.

Saturday 16 November 2013

Paper Review: ONLINE LEARNING: A Comparison of Web-Based and Land-Based Courses

Brown, J. L. M. (2012). ONLINE LEARNING: A Comparison of Web-Based and Land-Based Courses. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 13(1), 39–42,49.

Summary
The purpose of this study was to explore the differences in student performance in web-based versus land-based courses. There were three sub-problems:
  1. Why do students choose web-based courses over land-based course?
  2. Is there a difference in the grades of web-based versus land-based courses?
  3. Is there a difference in the retention rate of web-based versus land-based courses?
The study was based on an ex post facto design. The researcher pulled data in year 2010 from past classes (2007-2010) to explore the differences in student performance. Following were the findings:
  1. The average grades were similar.
  2. The web-based was the more popular format.
  3. Land-based courses had a higher retention rate for students.

Assessment
Using ex post facto design, the researcher has confirmed two commonly known notions: web-based courses are more popular but have more drop-out rate than land-based course. But the student performance doesn’t differ due to different course delivery format, is something that is interesting to note. Perhaps similar study in other contexts would help to confirm findings of this paper.

Reflection
This paper highlights the need to focus on finding ways to improve retention rate for web-based courses.

Friday 15 November 2013

Paper Review: Teaching Accounting Courses Online: One Instructor’s Experience

Dusing, G. M., Hosler, J. C., & Ragan, J. M. (2012). Teaching Accounting Courses Online: One Instructor’s Experience. American Journal of Business Education (AJBE), 5(3), 359-368.

Summary
This paper reports experience of delivering accounting courses online at a small liberal arts school. One noteworthy feature of the course design is utilization of STAR scholars for assistance in classroom delivery and for maintaining helpdesk for students. The author has shared following best practices and lessons learned:
  • When preparing an online course, thorough planning becomes the critical first step.
  • Each online course should have a standard look and feel.
  • Synchronous student interaction on a weekly basis was critical.
  • The pace of delivery within an online course must be controlled.
  • Multiple course assessment opportunities are critical in an online environment.
  • Listen to your students throughout the course and respond quickly to questions and problems that may arise.

Assessment
This paper shares experience (lessons learned and best practices) of delivering an online accounting course. Strictly speaking, it is not a research paper but it is still valuable as it shares field experience, which is useful in building understanding about online education.

Reflection
The approach described in this paper is very similar to what is being used in MOOC. It is interesting to note that technological tools can be effectively used to create a useful learning experience for students.

Thursday 14 November 2013

Paper Review: Online Delivery of Accounting Courses: Student Perceptions

Watters, M. P., & “Jep” Robertson, P. J. (2009). Online Delivery of Accounting Courses: Student Perceptions. Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 13(3), 51–57.

Summary
The authors taught introductory undergraduate, upper-division undergraduate and graduate accounting courses online using Tegrity Campus 2.0 integrated with a learning management system (WebCT, Angel) to prerecord and publish all course lectures and provide all other course-related content to students in the three accounting courses. Students in the three courses could access the archived video presentations over the Internet or burn the presentations to a CD or a flash memory drive thus allowing students to view the digital videos at any time and as many times as desired. Following were the findings of the survey conducted to understand student perceptions:
  • Students in the undergraduate courses were slightly less enthusiastic about online delivery.
  • Student perception of the effectiveness of online delivery is in some way correlated with factors that lead to higher student success and performance, such as motivation, maturity, intellectual ability, etc.
  • Student perceptions regarding effectiveness are not inconsistent with their performance on course exams.
  • The percentage of students indicating that they believed that they had accepted more responsibility for their own learning was 37% in the introductory course, 21% in the upper-level course, and only 17% in the graduate course.
  • Student responses to the question "What did you like best about the online course" had two main themes: (1) convenience and (2) flexibility and effectiveness.
  • Student responses to the question "What did you like least about the online course" were almost all related to two themes; inability to interact with the professor and fellow students in real-time and technical problems with computer, network, and/or software.
  • All of the graduate students indicated that they would prefer an online course compared with a traditional course. Only 52% of students in the upper-division course and 41% of students in the introductory course indicated that they would definitely select an online course using Tegrity over a traditional course.
The authors have concluded the paper by mentioning that the differences in student "satisfaction" (perceived course effectiveness) noted in the undergraduate and graduate courses may be a function of several factors including educational attainment, age and maturity, motivation, learning experience, learning style, and prior exposure to online teaching. The overall conclusion is that the graduate students were more mature, confident, and motivated with significant prior educational attainment compared with the other students in the study and therefore were better suited for the online delivery of the course.

Assessment
Though this paper seems to be weak in statistical analysis of data, the authors have shared their wisdom based on experience in this paper. The conclusion drawn in the paper needs more investigation to validate for its general applicability.

Reflection
Though not supported by rigorous empirical research, authors have identified following determinants for student satisfaction for online learning as educational attainment, age and maturity, motivation, learning experience, learning style, and prior exposure to online teaching. There is research opportunity to test these hypotheses on larger student base.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Paper Review: The making of an exemplary online educator

Edwards, M., Perry, B., & Janzen, K. (2011). The making of an exemplary online educator. Distance Education, 32(1), 101–118.  

Summary
This paper reports a descriptive qualitative research study of students' perspectives regarding qualities of exceptional online educators. Twenty three participants in this study provided their descriptive response.They described interactions they had with online teachers they considered exemplary. Modified narrative analysis was used for data analysis. The major themes identified in the study are exemplary online educators as challengers, affirmers and influencers. This paper also compares findings on excellence in online teaching with findings from an earlier study focused on exemplary face-to-face educators. Findings reveal that many strategies used by exemplary educators who teach face to face can be transposed to online teaching environment with similar positive results.

Assessment
This paper makes use of modified narrative analysis to identify what makes an online educator exemplary. Then it compares its results with results of similar study done for classroom educators. It is not very clear whether such comparison could be valid. Nevertheless the identification of qualities of exemplary online educators is an important contribution that this paper makes.  

Reflection
Given that online courses are challenged with respect to connect between faculty and students, one would expect that it takes something more on part of online educator to be an exemplary. It seems more investigation would be needed in this area.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Paper Review: College Student Effort Expenditure in Online Versus Face-to-Face Courses: The Role of Gender, Team Learning Orientation, and Sense of Classroom Community

Yang, Y., Cho, Y., Mathew, S., & Worth, S. (2011). College Student Effort Expenditure in Online Versus Face-to-Face Courses: The Role of Gender, Team Learning Orientation, and Sense of Classroom Community. Journal of Advanced Academics, 22(4), 619–638.  

Summary This paper examines following research questions:
  1. Are there gender differences in student effort expenditure in online versus face-to-face courses?
  2. To what extent does team learning orientation predict student effort in online versus face-to-face courses, controlling for a potential gender effect?
  3. To what extent does student SOCC predict effort expenditure in an online versus face-to-face class, controlling for the potential effects of gender and team learning orientation?
In the survey, the participants were 799 college students (64.1% female), with 177 surveyed about their online courses and 619 about traditional face-to-face courses. The survey consisted of measures on students’ sense of classroom community (SOCC), team learning orientation, and the amount of effort contributed toward any specific course of the participants’ choosing. Following were key findings:
  • Male students reported more effort than female students in online courses, whereas females reported more effort in face-to-face courses than males.
  • Students who valued working with others and held a strong belief in benefiting rom teamwork reported having spent more time and energy in their courses regardless of gender and course delivery format.
  • Students who perceived more course value and interest as one of the indicators of their SOCC reported more effort expenditure regardless of the course delivery format.

Assessment
This paper focused on team learning orientation, gender differences and SOCC but there could be other variables that could affect/predict student effort expenditure in online vs. face-to-face courses. Nevertheless, its findings are worth noting and may need to be examined in another settings to assess their generalizability.

Reflection
This paper argues that team learning orientation and SOCC make students work hard in their courses regardless of course delivery format. That means course design should incorporate mechanisms to boost team learning orientation and SOCC. This paper’s findings about gender differences are worth noting.

Monday 11 November 2013

Paper Review: A Comparison of Faculty and Undergraduate Students’ Perceptions of Online Courses and Degree Programs

Wilkes, R. B., Simon, J. C., & Brooks, L. D. (2006). A Comparison of Faculty and Undergraduate Students’ Perceptions of Online Courses and Degree Programs. Journal of Information Systems Education, 17(2), 131–140.  

Summary This paper investigates the perceptions of current undergraduate students and college business professors toward online courses and degree programs. To do so, the researchers developed two survey instruments, one for students and other one for faculty. A survey among students received 178 usable response. Following were the key findings:
  • Gender-wise difference in perception has been found and researchers have noted that this aspect warrants further study.
  • Top five issues considered important in making course environment decisions were: timely feedback to questions, accreditation of the institutes offering the courses, access to information (resource materials), organized and systematic presentation of materials, schedule flexibility to accommodate work responsibilities.
  • Issues that are much more characteristic of an on-campus course were identified to be opportunity for live interaction/discussion between faculty and students, opportunity for live interaction/discussion among students and on-campus exams.
  • Issues that are more characteristics of on-campus course were identified to be higher travel costs, accreditation of the institute offering the courses and more commuting time to and from classes.
  • Issues that are more characteristics of online courses were identified to be submitting assignments electronically, schedule flexibility to accommodate work responsibilities and schedule flexibility to accommodate social activities.
  • Overall response indicated that students perceive that they will experience the things that matter most to them in an on-campus course rather than in an online course.
Survey instrument designed for faculty was distributed to 80 business college faculty members at a large urban university with a response rate of 67.5%. Following were the key findings:
  • Issues that are much more characteristic of an on-campus course were identified to be on-campus exams, opportunity for live interaction/discussion between faculty and students, more commuting time to and from classes and opportunity for live interaction/discussion among students.
  • Issues that are much more characteristics of online courses were identified to be schedule flexibility to accommodate work responsibilities and schedule flexibility to accommodate social activities.
A key finding from this paper is that perceptions of college professors toward these programs are significantly less favorable than are the perceptions of college students.

Assessment
This paper has made a significant contribution by observing relatively negative faculty attitude towards online courses. Besides quantitative data, the paper has also reported narrative response by faculty to the questions, which are consistent with statistic data. Such negative attitude could hamper efforts to successfully deliver quality programs online. More research would be needed to confirm this finding and also to identify causes for this perception.

Reflection
Are negative perceptions of faculty towards online courses because of personal bias or because of lack of skills or because of inherent limitations of online courses? This seems to be an area that needs further exploration.

Friday 8 November 2013

Paper Review: Students’ Perceptions of Online Courses: The Effect of Online Course Experience

Dobbs, R. R., Waid, C. A., & del Carmen, A. (2009). Students’ Perceptions of Online Courses: The Effect of Online Course Experience. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 10(1), 9–26,89,91.
 
Summary:
This paper has provided an extensive literature review and has identified a gap that research regarding student perceptions of online courses is limited and has generally focused on those who have taken online courses. This paper reports the research in which data was collected from 180 students taking criminal justice courses on campus at a large 4-year university in the Southwest and 100 students taking criminal justice courses in an online program at that same university. The analysis has focus on differences in perception between students who have taken online courses and those who have not.

Key results are as follows:
  • Students in both groups generally agreed that it takes more effort to complete an online course.
  • Having the experience of taking online courses may increase one’s opinion of the quality of such courses, with increased experience further increasing this opinion.
  • Online course experience does not influence the perception of the youngest students because they might not be as self-directed in their learning style as the older students.
  • Online course experience seemed to matter slightly more for females than for males, with more significant results for the former group.

Assessment:
This paper indicates that a student would hesitate to choose an online course in the beginning but as he/she experiences online courses, his/her perception about online course becomes more favorable.

Reflection:
The results from this study confirms general observation that those who have not taken online course tend to hesitate to enroll for online course. But it is interesting to note that once a student experiences online course, his/her perception about online course improves. This is an important finding for the study of adoption of online courses.


Tuesday 5 November 2013

Paper Review: Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mapping

Karpicke, J. D., & Blunt, J. R. (2011). Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mapping. Science, 331(6018), 772–775. doi:10.1126/science.1199327

Summary:
This paper examines the effectiveness of retrieval practice relative to elaborative studying with concept mapping. It presents findings from two experiments. Eighty undergraduate students participated in Experiment 1. The students first studied a science text under one of four conditions within a single initial learning session.
  1. In the study-once condition, students studied the text in a single study period.
  2. In the repeated study condition, students studied the text in four consecutive study periods.
  3. In the elaborative concept mapping condition, students studied the text in an initial study period and then created a concept map of the concepts in the text.
  4. In the retrieval practice condition, students studied the text in an initial study period and then practiced retrieval by recalling as much of the information as they could on a free recall test.
On the final test 1 week later, the repeated study, elaborative concept mapping, and retrieval practice conditions all outperformed the study-once condition on both verbatim and inference questions. Retrieval practice produced the best learning, better than elaborative studying with concept mapping, which itself was not significantly better than spending additional time reading. Interestingly, students predicted that repeated studying would produce the best long-term retention and that practicing retrieval would produce the worst retention, even though the opposite was true.

Second experiment extended the first one by three means:
  1. Texts with enumeration structures and texts with sequence structures were used.
  2. Each student created a concept map of one science text and practiced retrieval of a second text.
  3. Half of the students took a final short-answer test, like the one used in Experiment 1, and half took a final test in which they created concept maps of the two texts, without viewing the texts on the final test.
The results on the final short-answer test were similar for verbatim and inference questions, as was the case in Experiment 1. Retrieval practice produced better performance than elaborative concept mapping for both types of science text collapsed across the two text formats, the advantage of retrieval practice was again large. Even when the final test involved using memory to construct a concept map, practicing retrieval during original learning produced better performance than engaging in elaborative study by creating concept maps during original learning. Again in this experiment too, students erroneously predicted that elaborative concept mapping would produce better long-term learning than retrieval practice.

Assessment:
In this paper, the researchers have strongly argued that retrieval practice is a powerful way to promote meaningful learning of complex concepts commonly found in science education. Interestingly, this is not what students themselves predicted. So this finding is quite valuable.

Reflection:
This finding is very important from online education perspective since it would be easier online to provide retrieval practice to students.

Paper Review: The Critical Importance of Retrieval for Learning

Karpicke, J. D., & Roediger, H. L. (2008). The Critical Importance of Retrieval for Learning. Science, 319(5865), 966–968. doi:10.1126/science.1152408  

Summary: This paper reports the research which had following three goals:
  1. Once information can be recalled from memory, what are the effects of repeated encoding (during study trials) or repeated retrieval (during test trials) on learning and long-term retention, assessed after a week delay?
  2. Examine students’ assessments of their own learning.
  3. Is speed of learning correlated with long-term retention, and if so, is the correlation positive (processes that promote fast learning also slow forgetting and promote good retention) or negative (quick learning may be superficial and produce rapid forgetting)?
In the experiment, the researchers had college students learn a list of foreign language vocabulary word pairs and manipulated whether pairs remained in the list (and were repeatedly practiced) or were dropped after the first time they were recalled. Students in one condition learned foreign language vocabulary words in the standard paradigm of repeated study-test trials. In three other conditions, once a student had correctly produced the vocabulary item, it was repeatedly studied but dropped from further testing, repeatedly tested but dropped from further study, or dropped from both study and test.

Following are the results reported in this paper:
  • Repeated retrieval practice enhanced long-term retention, whereas repeated studying produced essentially no benefit.
  • Students’ predictions of their performance were uncorrelated with actual performance.
  • Forgetting rate for information is not necessarily determined by speed of learning but, instead, is greatly determined by the type of practice involved.

Assessment:
The research presented in this paper has produced results that contradict the conventional wisdom. The conventional wisdom is that if information can be recalled from memory, it has been learned and can be dropped from further practice, so students can focus their effort on other material. Research reported in this paper shows that this conventional wisdom is wrong. Even after items can be recalled from memory, eliminating those items from repeated retrieval practice greatly reduces long-term retention. Repeated retrieval induced through testing (and not repeated encoding during additional study) produces large positive effects on long-term retention. This is very important contribution that needs further validation for generalization.

Reflection:
Continuous testing is considered to be a best practice in software development. Looks like it is also a best practice in education! On more serious note, this paper strengthens the argument that technology can enhance quality of learning since repeated testing is easier with use of technology. 



Monday 4 November 2013

Paper Review: Role of social presence and cognitive absorption in online learning environments

Leong, P. (2011). Role of social presence and cognitive absorption in online learning environments. Distance Education, 32(1), 5–28.    

Summary: Based on literature review, this paper has proposed following hypothesis:
  1. Social presence will be positively related to student satisfaction with online courses.
  2. Cognitive absorption will be positively related to student satisfaction with online courses.
  3. Social presence is an antecedent to cognitive absorption and will be positively related to cognitive absorption.
  4. Interest will be related to cognitive absorption and student satisfaction with online courses.
An online survey was used to collect data from 294 students enrolled in 19 online or online hybrid courses of the University of Hawaii system and Hawaii Pacific University during the Spring 2005 and Fall 2005 semesters. Following were the results:
  • While social presence influences student satisfaction, its impact is not direct, but rather mediated by cognitive absorption.
  • There is direct impact of interest on student satisfaction.
  • No significant relationship was found between interest and cognitive absorption.
  • A significant relationship was found between interest and social presence.
Following were mentioned to be limitations of the study:
  • Specific to asynchronous text-based learning environment facilitated through CMS such as WebCT.
  • Convenience sampling
  • Use of only one data point

Assessment:
This paper makes a contribution by empirically showing relationships among social presence, cognitive absorption, and student satisfaction with online learning environment. A similar approach could be used to validate the results for online learning environment that use social media tools such as discussion forums and video lectures.

Reflection:
The empirical analysis is very detailed.

Paper Review: Students’ use of asynchronous discussions for academic discourse socialization

Beckett, G. H., Amaro-JimĂ©nez, C., & Beckett, K. S. (2010). Students’ use of asynchronous discussions for academic discourse socialization. Distance Education, 31(3), 315–335.  

Summary: This paper addresses two research questions:
  1. What are multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-level Teaching English as Second Language (TESL) master’s and doctoral students’ perceptions of Online Asynchronous Discussion (OAD) in general and why?
  2. What do multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-level TESL master’s and doctoral students use OADs for and how?
The research was conducted using qualitative techniques at a large mid-western University in USA between 2003 and 2007. Purposeful sampling was used to choose a sample of 13 students and one faculty member. Following findings are reported:

  • Students’ perceptions of OAD:
    • OADs are great but not helpful for improving writing.
    • Disappointed, demotivated and frustrated by lack of participation and guidelines.
  • Participants viewed the OADs as virtual communities of practice for language socialization and as opportunities to learn the languages and cultures of the academic and professional communities that they were part of  by engaging with more knowledgeable and experienced others such as their professors as well as their more experienced peers.
  • Academic discourse socialization was done by all members of the virtual community in various forms.
 The paper has concluded by drawing implications for further research and practice.

Assessment:
Primarily done as a qualitative research, this paper reports findings on students’ use of asynchronous discussions for academic discourse socialization. Since the sample size is small (13), the findings perhaps would not be generalizable but still provide a starting point in right direction.

Reflection:
Online Asynchronous Discussion (OAD) is a critical component in online learning to foster learner-learner and learner-instructor interaction. Viewing its use for academic discourse socialization is a next step in valuing its importance. Further research would be needed to validate these findings.

Sunday 3 November 2013

Paper Review: Developing an instrument to assess student readiness for online learning: a validation study

Dray, B. J., Lowenthal, P. R., Miszkiewicz, M. J., Ruiz-Primo, M. A., & Marczynski, K. (2011). Developing an instrument to assess student readiness for online learning: a validation study. Distance Education, 32(1), 29–47.  

Summary: The authors have sought to develop a rigorous survey instrument for students to self-assess readiness for online learning. The paper describes the findings from a three-phase study during which the instrument was developed, evaluated and validated. In literature review, the authors have provided a review of earlier survey instruments and then argued for a need to develop more rigorous survey instrument. The method involved following phases:
  1. Survey was developed and reviewed by experts
  2. An item analysis was conducted.
  3. A statistical analysis of reliability and validity of the survey instrument was conducted.

Assessment:
This paper describes the process of development of a survey instrument.

Reflection:
The authors have not commented on cultural impact on the survey instrument. It will be interesting to explore how this survey instrument can be adapted to Indian conditions.

Paper Review: Evaluating the quality of interaction in asynchronous discussion forums in fully online courses

Nandi, D., Hamilton, M., & Harland, J. (2012). Evaluating the quality of interaction in asynchronous discussion forums in fully online courses. Distance Education, 33(1), 5–30.    

Summary:
This paper addresses a key research question, “How can we evaluate quality online interaction in a fully online course?”.  This questions was further refined into following two sub-questions:
  1. How can we evaluate quality interaction between students in fully online courses?
  2. How can we define the ideal role of the instructor while interacting with the students in fully online courses?
The discussion forum posts from four fully online courses were qualitatively analyzed using a grounded theoretic approach to capture the inner meaning of the data. Results of data analysis showed that students were actively participating in discussion, asking and answering questions. In response, instructor posted both direct answers and hints to promote deep learning of important course contents. Research further showed that rather than designing a fully student-centered or instructor-centered discussion, a combination of both approaches can be advantageous. The paper has provided two frameworks – one for students and other one for instructor – that can be used for developing and supporting quality discussion forums in fully online courses.    

Assessment:
This paper uses qualitative analysis techniques to analyze discussion forum data posts to identify the underlying themes. Such analysis has further resulted into two frameworks that can be used to develop and support quality discussion forums. While the list of themes seem to be exhaustive, perhaps a similar study in different context could identify additional themes.

Reflection:
Discussion forum is a critical tool for fostering learner-learner and learner-instructor interaction in an online course. This paper helps by providing some guidance on how this tool can be effectively used.

Saturday 2 November 2013

Paper Review: How do students define their roles and responsibilities in online learning group projects?

Williams, K. C., Morgan, K., & Cameron, B. A. (2011). How do students define their roles and responsibilities in online learning group projects? Distance Education, 32(1), 49–62.

Summary:
This paper explores the processes of group role formation in online class settings. Authors have used qualitative analysis to code chat logs and discussion threads in six undergraduate Family and Consumer Sciences online courses that required online group projects. Following four themes related to the process of group role formation emerged:
  • testing the waters: a method students use to check in with each other and to test their ideas prior to make commitments related to roles and processes.
  • apologies as being nice: a strategy students employed to avoid creating conflict, or to preempt negative feedback or anger.
  • tag - you're it: a process groups used to assign leaders by default. The first one who posts an idea is seen as the leader by the group, whether he/she intended to take that role or not.
  • struggling to find one's role: processes used to discover, understand and clarify individual roles within a group without clearly stating or defining specific roles.
The authors have further argued that students created following roles as the group process evolved over the course of the semester:
  • leader: facilitates and keeps the group on track
  • wannabe: tries to control the group without taking the responsibility
  • spoiler: an infrequent participant who comes in and out and expects that others work around what they want to do, without regard for previous work already being done or roles already in progress
  • agreeable enabler: goes along with all suggestions even when tasks shift and continues to do work for others, letting others get away with work avoidance
  • coat-tail: tries to appear to be an active participant, but in reality does little or no work
  • supportive worker: understands assignment criteria and group dynamics, follows through and takes initiative to ensure group’s success.
Results lend support for a balance between allowing students to create and experience roles on their own and faculty assignment of roles. Questions are raised related to faculty approaches toward directing and scaffolding the group process.

Assessment:
This paper uses qualitative analysis techniques to identify themes related to the process of group formation in the context of online course. Though a significant research is done in the area of group formation, such research in the context of online course is quite useful. This paper has further identified the roles and have mapped them on the roles identified by earlier researchers. This is a good contribution, which should be further validated.    

Reflection:
Group formation in an online course need not be drastically different process but would have its own nuances. This paper addresses this topic and raises further questions that provide ideas for further research.

Paper Review: Student perceptions of ePortfolio integration in online courses

Bolliger, D. U., & Shepherd, C. E. (2010). Student perceptions of ePortfolio integration in online courses. Distance Education, 31(3), 295–314.
Summary:
Portfolios are compilations of personal and professional work for documenting and describing skills, growth or development. This paper explores how electronic portfolios influence graduate students’ perceptions of communication and connectedness, learning and value in online programs. Students from two online graduate-level courses at a small research university in the western United States were involved in this study. Data was collected from 40 such students with a web-based questionnaire and a threaded discussion forum. The study utilized mixed-method approach. Following were key findings:
  • ePortfolios positively impacted some students' perception of peer communication.
  • ePortfolios positively impacted most students’ perception of their learning.
  • Many respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they valued the integration of an ePortfolio in the course.
  • Most participants also valued ePortfolios.
  • Prior ePortfolio experience and gender were responsible for minor differences in student perceptions.
  • Lack of prior reflective experience impacted student perceptions significantly.
The authors have concluded that ePortfolios can foster learning communities in online graduate programs.

Assessment:
This paper makes use of quantitative and qualitative analysis to explore influence of ePortfolio on the perceptions of students of online courses. The idea that ePortfolios can be used be use for fostering learning community is a valuable idea and should be validated with additional reasearch.

Reflection:
Fostering learner-learner and learner-instructor interaction in online courses is a challenge. ePortfolios could be another useful tool in addition to tools such as discussion forums. More research is needed to establish usefulness of ePortfolios.