Current Issue

Analyzing The Influences Of Course Design And Gender On Online Participation

Frank Butts
Kenneth Anthony

by Kenneth Anthony

Interaction is a critical component of successful online learning and by extension an important component in overall online program quality. The researcher studied the impact of course design on participation in an online university course. The participants were university students’ (n= 62, male= 33, female= 29). Their responses from online discussions were analyzed using repeated measures factorial ANOVA finding a statistically significant decrease in student participation in weeks when major assignments were due. The impact of assignments was similar for female and male participants. Measures of effect size indicated that course design accounted for more variation in online participation than gender. The key finding of the study was that course design can have a significant impact on level of participation and therefore student success in the online course. Ways to prevent or mitigate the impact of the reduction in student participation are presented.

Online Education Vendor Partners: When and How to Select One

Frank Butts
Michael Hoffman

by  Michael Hoffman

Higher education institutions are increasingly looking to online education as a means to broaden their market reach, increase student enrollments and ultimately realize increased tuition revenue. Many institutions, however, find that they have insufficient infrastructure resources to launch one or more fully online learning programs. A small number of corporations now specialize in assisting higher education institutions with both launching and maintaining online education programs. These online education vendor partners typically provide higher education institutions with support in the areas of student marketing, faculty development and technology infrastructure. Such relationships are typically paid for by a share of online tuition dollars and often last for up to ten years. Due to the relatively long timeframes and costs associated with these vendor partnerships it is critical that higher education institutions choose a vendor that is the best fit for the institution. Prior to selecting an online education vendor partner, an institution will likely compare a number of vendors across a variety of dimensions such as cost, level of services, and experience. An online vendor partner decision matrix is one method for objectively acquiring and reviewing decision criteria to assist institutions in selecting the appropriate online education vendor partner.

Exploring Online Teaching: A Three-Year Composite Journal of Concerns and Strategies from Online Instructors

Frank Butts
Hong Lin, Kim Dyer, Yu Guo

by  Hong Lin
      Kim Dyer
      Yu Guo

Using Fuller’s concerns-based model for teacher development, this study identifies concerns and strategies experienced by 103 online instructors in a six-week online professional development course offered multiple times over a three-year period.  The study reveals that online instructors identified concerns related to self, task, and impact.  In the end, this study provides practical strategies for the rapidly rising population of online instructors who aspire to design and deliver effective online instruction.  

Leadership Through Instructional Design in Higher Education
Frank Butts
Kristi Shaw

by Kristi Shaw

The function of leadership is to create a vision for the future, establish strategic priorities, and develop an environment of trust within and between organizations. Great leadership is a process; leadership involves motivational influence, leadership occurs in groups, and involves a shared vision (Northouse, 2010). Instructional designers are ideal leadership candidates for institutions of higher education because of their ability to couple technical and conceptual skills while working collaboratively. This essay will provide the reader with a sense of where distance education is heading and what leadership skills will be required for progress. Specifically, this article will highlight instructional designers’ abilities to provide an organization with the leadership necessary to move institutions into the 21st century and beyond.

An Initial Exploration of a Virtual Personal Fitness Course
Daniel Judd
Brian Mosier
David Woolstenhulme
Susan Lynn

by Brian Mosier
     Susan Lynn

The incredible growth rates and increased enrollments in virtual physical education (VPE), otherwise known as K-12 online physical education, continue to rise. VPE has the potential to service K-12 student learning in independent and self-paced curriculum. However, VPE brings a healthy skepticism among the profession. To this point, it is difficult to make an accurate assessment of VPE due to the lack of research in this area. The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which a virtual personal fitness course met the criteria set forth by the NASPE Initial Guidelines for Online Physical Education. This study explored the first and largest VPE program in the southeastern United States. Teacher and administrator interviews, the school’s website, the course shell, annual student external evaluations, and a comprehensive assessment conducted by Florida Tax Watch were used to complete a thorough content analysis. 

From the Editor

Melanie ClayGreetings Readers:

Our first article, contributed by Kenneth Anthony, reveals the findings of a study exploring the impact of course design on student participation.  Most of our institutions are keenly attuned to any differences in online delivery that contribute to student success.  The major variables of online student success, in my experience, are faculty behaviors, the intensity of student support services, and course design. Of these, course design is often overlooked.  Some of the most common mistakes, leading to student attrition and failure, are an abundance of redundant busy work; assessments that are not updated and don’t reflect course content; conflicting instructions or dates on assignments; poorly written instructions; and difficult navigation. Anthony’s work provides a very specific finding on a type of assignment that may lead to decreased student participation and success.  I would love to see further research on other types of online assignments and their impacts – there is a lacuna of valid information in this area. Enjoy this issue, and have a wonderful fall!


Melanie N. Clay, Ph.D.
September 17, 2012


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Last modified: September 17, 2012