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July, 2009:

The Impact of Online Teaching on Faculty Load: Computing the Ideal Class Size for Online Courses

The Impact of Online Teaching on Faculty Load: Computing the Ideal Class Size for Online Courses
Lawrence A Tomei

This study examined the impact of substituting didactic instruction, face-to-face advisement, and conventional evaluation with distance-based delivery of content, electronic counseling, and online assessment. It analyzed the impact of distance learning demands on faculty teaching loads and computed the ideal class size for an online course. Specifically, this article sought answers to the following questions. 1. What are the teaching demands of an online course? 2. What is the impact of distance learning demands on faculty teaching loads? Does teaching at a distance require more or less of an instructor’s time? 3. What is the ideal class size for an online course versus the traditional classroom? The research reflected in this study found that online teaching demanded a minimum of 14% more time than traditional instruction, most of which was spent presenting instructional content. The weekly impact on teaching load also varied considerably between the two formats. Traditional teaching was more stable across the semester while online teaching fluctuated greatly during periods of advisement and assessment. Finally, the ideal class size was calculated for both instructional formats.

The role of the traditional classroom teacher evolved over the centuries to include a common set of skills and competencies agreed upon by most in the discipline (Budin, 1991). For example, the traditional classroom teacher must be certified for the appropriate grade level. In the United States, the appropriate foci comprise early childhood, elementary, middle, and secondary concentrations. Only 5% of schools have grade configurations outside these age-centered criteria (U.S. Department of Education, 2001). In addition, successful educators are expected to pursue a continuous program of professional development that begins soon after certification and lasts until retirement. Finally, the traditional classroom teacher is expected to devote considerable hours both in and outside the classroom–whatever is necessary to produce successful student learning outcomes (Kerr, 1989). Professional preparation, academic excellence, lifelong learning, and personal commitment are the hallmarks of the successful traditional teacher.

Since its arrival as a teaching strategy, many of these self-same characteristics have come to define successful distance educators as well (Cuban, 1986). In addition, new skills come into play as teachers assume the role of distance educator. Some of those additional skills include understanding the nature and psychology of distance education; identifying characteristics of successful distance learners; designing technology-based courseware; adapting teaching strategies to deliver instruction at a distance; evaluating student achievement in an online environment; and, recognizing the incremental demands of teaching (e.g., faculty load, online assessment, out of class interaction, etc.) under these new set of circumstances (American Association of University Professors [AAUP], 1968). Of all the peculiarities of teaching at a distance, none appears so crucial to successful student learning than teacher-student interaction.

Link: http://uwashington.worldcat.org/oclc/102863900 Off-Campus Access

Comparative Analysis of Preservice Teachers' Reflective Thinking in Synchronous versus Asynchronous Online Case Discussions

Comparative Analysis of Preservice Teachers’ Reflective Thinking in Synchronous versus Asynchronous Online Case Discussions
Barbara B Levin, Ye He, and Holly H Robbins

This study was undertaken to better understand the nature of preservice teachers’ reflective thinking during case discussions about classroom management in two online formats: synchronous versus asynchronous. Findings indicated that when participants engaged in synchronous online case discussions they had higher levels of critical reflection than when they engaged in asynchronous online case discussions. Also, participants’ initial preferences for asynchronous discussions changed from the beginning to the end of this study. Reasons for changes in participants’ format preferences and descriptions of participants’ levels of critical reflection are discussed.

How and what teachers learn from cases are questions that continue to intrigue teacher educators who use case-based teaching methods as part of their pedagogical repertoire (Lundeberg, Levin, & Harrington, 1999; Merseth 1996). Good cases that represent the messy, complex, and situated nature of teaching and learning are excellent catalysts for discussion (Levin, 1995, 1999b). Cases also present us with a way of connecting theory with practice and can provide a focus for developing reflective thinking and for engaging in problem solving and critical thinking (LaBoskey, 1994; Richert, 1992). However, the increased use of online and web-supported courses used in many teacher education programs (Wright, Marsh, & Miller, 2000) prompted this study of different formats for discussing dilemma-based cases in a web-supported course.

Online case discussions may be conducted in synchronous (occurring at the same time) or asynchronous (occurring over time) modes, which may be facilitated or unfacilitated. If a case discussion is facilitated this may be done by the course instructor or by students in the course (Hara, Bonk, & Angeli, 2000). Although course management tools such as Blackboard or WebCT are only delivery systems (Clark, 1994), and similar outcomes may be achieved from face-to-face (F2F) case discussions, this study was designed to (a) understand prospective teachers’ preferences regarding different formats for online case discussions, and (b) analyze the quality of reflective thinking about the content of cases discussed in synchronous versus asynchronous discussion environments during a web-supported course about the interaction of classroom management and instruction.

This article offers reasons provided by preservice teachers about their preferences for different formats for online case discussions and provides a content analysis of the discourse from a subset of the participants who each engaged in two synchronous and two asynchronous online case discussions. The research questions that guided this study were: (a) Do preservice teachers prefer synchronous or asynchronous online case discussions? What reasons do they provide for their preferences? (b) Do preservice teachers prefer peer-facilitated or instructor-facilitated online case discssions? What reasons do they provide for their preferences? (c) What can be learned about the level of preservice teachers’ critical reflection, as it was originally defined by Dewey (1933) and operationalized by Harrington, Quinn-Leering, and Hodgson (1996) and Hutchinson (1996), in synchronous and asynchronous online case discussions?

Link: http://uwashington.worldcat.org/oclc/102863864 Off-Campus Access