ASIS&T 2006 START Conference Manager    

Impact of media and interaction variety on student attitudes in a web-based undergraduate course

Hsin-Liang Chen & James Patrick Williams School of Information The University of Texas at Austin

ASIS&T Annual Meeting - 2006 (ASIS&T 2006)
Austin, Texas, November 3-9, 2006


The goal of this project is to determine student preferences for online interaction in web-based classes and to investigate how these preferences inform navigation and performance within such courses. We are interested in learning what impact students feel media variety and interaction type have on how they work within the web-based environment and how their expectations and preferences in such an environment relate to preferences for other online activities. We focused on an online technology and information literacy course for undergraduate students, which provided an overview of the history of Internet and its social impacts alongside hands-on training in various related technologies. Our data collection took place in this course during the Fall 2005 semester. The course utilizes a variety of methods to deliver content, including a course website containing instructional modules created by the instructors, outside readings on various topics, streaming multimedia lectures, synchronous multi-user and one-on-one chat, discussion boards, and online tutorials, and hands-on exercises. In order to expose students to the variety of synchronous collaborative technologies available, the instructors alternate between the tools they use to present biweekly live discussion sessions. These tools include a lightweight group chatroom, a more robust "Virtual Classroom" which includes a virtual whiteboard and other tools, and the group chat feature of Skype, a popular VOIP client. Our research on the class focuses specifically on the webcast discussion sessions and their relationship with student attitudes to their online activities and the class as a whole. Our data collection included seven different surveys corresponding to course content. Online surveys were conducted at the beginning of the course, immediately after each of the five webcast sessions, and at the end of the course. Our survey items were integrated within regular surveys designed by instructors to elicit student feedback on the design and content of the course. Our preliminary analysis of survey responses has identified several significant relationships between many of the survey items, including students' reported likeliness to engage with others in the virtual classroom and satisfaction with the media combination and video quality. Additional significant correlations were discovered among expectations for web-based courses, perceived computer skills, and frequency of instant messaging use. Further analysis will be undertaken to validate these preliminary findings and identify more relationships among student responses and to uncover trends in student response that may relate to the specific media combinations utilized in each instructional module and webcast session.

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