Showing posts with label online schools. Show all posts
Showing posts with label online schools. Show all posts

Friday, April 24, 2015

Drop Out Rates: Should Traditional and Online Schools Have Their Own Rates?

Dropout rates are a primary concern for universities and governments that want to create accountability in higher education. How dropout rates are defined has a large impact on the future success of schools and may influence those that will be around in the future. Some have argued that the timetables and lack of understanding put online schools at a disadvantage under definitions more in tune with the needs of traditional schools.

How Drop Out Rates are Defined

The way in which dropout rates are set can make a large difference in the final rate. For example, if a dropout rate is by course level it will have one value while if it is calculated over a year, or two years, will have another. If calculated over longer periods of times the rates may capture students who bounce in and out of classes but have not given up on their education. When a student drops is confusing.

The government requires the numbers to be calculated each year. These numbers create a rate that is compared with other universities to determine the schools' value. What they don't compare is the background and demographics of the students attending different types of schools and it impacts short-term retention. Some students don't have the full freedom or support to attend college all the way throughout without working.

Different Numbers for Online and Traditional Universities

A study conducted in Spain found that dropout rates would better reflect what is going on if there were a separate definition for online universities (Grau-Valldosera& Minguillon, J. (2014). They believe that the online method of learning is very different from brick-n-mortar institutions and having the same definition doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Students in the online world come from a different background that makes the virtual educational process different than traditional universities. Trying to force online schools into brick-n-mortar models is unfair. As traditional schools move more into online education, they may find similar inaccuracies in reporting.

Online Students are Unique

Students in the online world are more transient and will sometimes attend a few classes and then disappear for a couple of classes before returning. The measurement should be different as those engaged in traditional schooling may never return to an institution once they leave as larger barriers to reentry exist.

There is also another problem related to the preparedness of students. Up to 1/3 of students who enter college are not prepared for higher education through their standard high school education (McMahon, 2015). If online education is serving students with multiple interests and under-served demographics the numbers may be indicative of the challenges in their student populations.

As online schools become more prominent, the very nature and face of education will likely change to incorporate new methods of school evaluation. At present traditional schools are defining the dropout rates leaning heavily in their favor and may not reflect what is occurring in online schools. Coming to a stable definition that reflects both mediums is necessary for an accurate and fair assessment of school quality.

Grau-Valldosera, J. & Minguillion, J. (2014). Rethinking dropout in online higher education: the case of Universitat Oberta De Catalunya, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 15 (1).

McMahon, M. (2015). Underprepared college students. Research Starters, Education.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Online Education Encourages Stronger Scholarship Cultures

One of the greatest advantages of traditional education is its ability to create knowledge based cultures through face-to-face communication.  It is believed that on-campus social interaction creates norms, values, and expectations that lead people to higher forms of scholarship.  This is not always the case when negative cultural influences restrict the ability of students to be successful.  New research shows that online courses help to enhance the scholastic nature of colleges by countering some of the destructive norms in society that limit intellectual growth.

When people interact and socialize with each other they create social expectations that can either lead to more scholastic behavior or lessen that behavior. For example, cultural norms can encourage greater research and knowledge sharing or it can socially restrict the transference of knowledge. When negative cultures are developed in face-to-face environments they can be extremely difficult to reverse. Online education offers the opportunity to create egalitarian learning networks not based in preconceived notions.

A paper in the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning discusses how online education with Saudi Arabia female college students not only enhanced their learning but also encouraged positive pro-learning environments (Hamdan, 2014). Online education offers an opportunity for socially restricted individuals to own their education and contribute to their respective bodies of knowledge in a meaningful way.

This issue is not restricted to Saudi Arabia alone and can impact American students as well. Consider how cultural norms may subtly restrict minority students from speaking up in class, become highly educated, or contribute to scientific discovery in a meaningful way. The process of exclusion can occur between genders, in/out groups, people who are different, those who have higher intelligence, minorities and social class.

Online education creates an environment where people can speak freely without all of the subtle cues that leave some with the impression their opinion isn’t worth as much as others. Because of the nature of posting to other students, a natural activity among the younger generation, negative social norms don’t hold as much sway. Professors and students may be completely unaware of the race, religion, gender, or status of the other people in the class unless they self-reveal.

Where people may be naturally dissuaded from engaging in class activities in one setting may actually find themselves thriving in an online environment where they start on equal footing with others. Classmates know students by what they think and post versus their social status. The process of bringing forward various opinions into collaborative learning environments raises the transference of knowledge and the potential for scholarship.

Hamdan, A. (2014). The reciprocal and correlative relationship between learning culture and online education: a case from Saudi Arabia. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 15 (1).

Monday, March 9, 2015

Why do People Enroll in Online Education?

All students have hopes, goals, dreams and desires; some are more realistic than others. Each is limited in their available time and resources to make those dreams a reality. Higher education affords the opportunity for people to achieve parts of their dreams and find ways of moving up the social ladder. Unfortunately, life has many different types of roadblocks people must navigate to achieve their goals. According to a study in the Journal of Educators the students who choose online education do so for scheduling purposes (Fontenot, et. al., 2015).

Many of today's students are older than those of the past and the ever changing market requires them to be adjustable while continually learning new ideas and concepts. That new knowledge can come from informal and formal sources. Education is one of those formal educational processes that leads to a degree that can be used to apply for job openings.

People don't always go to college right out of high school nor do they have the resources to focus only on their education. Some people will graduate from college early and go back to college at a later date to receive a master's degree or some other degree that helps them stay on top of their fields. The fluid nature of the market makes it difficult for people to keep updated.

Online education is one way to go to school while not giving up on traditional responsibilities. Some people have work responsibilities while others may have family responsibilities. Juggling these responsibilities is difficult at best. Trying to further education in a ground based system may be near impossible for many people and could limit their potential contributions to society.

Based upon a survey of 165 students it was found that students who choose to take online courses do so because of timing and scheduling; they enjoyed the flexibility and convenience of online education. A mitigating factor was perception of quality.  Students who perceived online education as a valuable quality proposition will be more inclined to go online.

The study helps us understand that as the real and perceived quality of education rises and people become more familiar with online education there will likely be a higher percentage of society taking online courses. As traditional universities, and existing online universities, improve their offerings they will attract motivated students who feel that the quality and convenience of their education affords them new options. For a generation growing up with more familiarity of technology online education will seem to be a natural fit.

Fontenot, R. et. al. (2015) Predictors of enrolling in online courses: an exploratory study of students in undergraduate marketing courses. Journal of Educators, 12 (1).

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Report on Cyberbullying in Online Higher Education

Donna DiMatteo-Gibson, PhD

Paula J. Zobisch, PhD

Andree Swanson, EdD

The research in cyberbullying has been heavily focused on elementary and secondary education; however, cyberbullying permeates throughout online higher education. The challenges regarding bullying in higher education are the need to define cyberbullying, detect cyberbullying, and how to respond to cyberbullying when it is occurring. Policies and best practices must be in place to minimize these occurrences for students and professors. Procedures on what students and faculty can utilize will be recommended based on survey results.

Literature Review

Misawa and Rowland (2015) reviewed academic bullying as it takes place in adult education, higher education, continuing education, and professional education. Misawa and Rowland found that in higher education, cyberbullying frequently was focused on racism and homophobia. Unbelievably, Misawa and Rowland also found evidence of gender and race cyberbullying. In fact, they found that faculty were often mean to one another.

Morgan (2012) in a review of cyberbullying found that because of the anonymity of individuals on the Internet, they found a form of bravery by threatening others through the veil of the Internet. “The higher degree of anonymity afforded to students on the Internet allows bullies to have less fear of disciplinary action as a result of their nefarious activity” (Morgan, 2012, p. 175). Morgan stressed that a plan needs to be in place to deal with the inevitable attack. “Unfortunately, many teachers do not have enough training of knowledge on how to respond to bullying” (p. 176).

Rivituso (2014) conducted a study using Bandura’s Theory of Tradic Reciprocal Determinism and the General Strain Theory as a framework. Six themes emerged:

1) repeated instances leading to feelings of vulnerability and fear; 2) distrust of technology and mistrust of people; 3) the value of friends in college and their impact on victim self-esteem; 4) self-control in response to lack of control over cyberbullying instances; 5) feelings of stress, depression, and embarrassment; 6) frustration leading to self-blame. (Rivituso, 2014, para. Abstract)

A 2013 study surveyed 202 online faculty members who were asked whether or not the faculty member could identify what constitutes cyberbullying and if the faculty member understood how to cope with cyberbullying. The findings from the study indicated that 50% of the faculty who had experienced cyberbullying (Smith, Minor, & Brashen, 2012). Although very few studies have been conducted that assess cyberbullying at the higher education online level (Eskey, Taylor, & Eskey, Jr., 2014a; Eskey & Eskey, Jr., 2014b; Smith, Minor, & et al.), the findings were supported by Smith et al. whose study results showed 17% to 30% of faculty had experienced some type of cyberbullying.

The findings of the studies indicate educational institutions need to address the issue of cyberbullying as well as methods to cope and/or reduce cyberbullying. Methods could include faculty training as well as addressing the issue of cyberbullying in the school’s faculty and student handbooks (Eskey et al., 2014a; Eskey & Eskey, Jr., 2014b). An organization’s legal department should be able to provide insight into potential policies and protocols.

Washington (2015) specifically addressed cyberbullying and the law. “To date, 18 states have laws to address cyberbullying, compared with 49 states, all except Montana, having laws to address bullying (Hinduja & Patching, 2013)” (Washington, 2015, p. 24). Although state laws focus on the k-12 arena, nowhere (federal or state) addresses cyberbullying. In 2009, a cyberbullying prevention act was introduced into Congress, but was not successfully passed. Specifically, the business college in this current study has campuses in California, Colorado, and Iowa, thus, these states were reviewed for their legislation on cyberbullying.

Results and Discussion

Our study has shown that cyberbullying is a serious issue that must be addressed when it comes to faculty teaching at online schools. The importance of investigating cyberbullying and netiquette issues within online institutions was emphasized. Also, the complexities in regards to defining cyberbullying and how to best respond to these issues was addressed. Our study addressed that recognizing what is and is not cyberbullying is an ongoing task; however, recognizing differences between cyberbullying and netiquette was not a concern. Even though a majority of our participants indicated that they knew how to respond to cyberbullying issues, there was still a sizable percentage that did not.

Our study addressed differences between netiquette and cyberbullying. By obtaining this survey data, we highlighted the importance of schools ensuring that online faculty understand what are netiquette and cyberbullying issues as well as outlining how to respond to such instances.

Concluding Comments

The purpose of this study was to assess the knowledge and understanding of cyberbullying and netiquette within the school of business at an online university. Faculty, both part-time and full-time, were asked questions regarding their understanding of cyberbullying, netiquette, and how to respond to it and report it. Based on the data from this study, the researchers created a list of best practices for creating policies, procedures, and implementing training. The researchers developed a list of best practices for incorporating an awareness and reporting of cyberbullying and netiquette issues:

1. Review current faculty policies and procedures.

a. Are they current?

b. Do they address the procedures for faculty to report and respond to cyberbullying?

c. Provide examples

2. Review current student policies and procedures.

a. Are they current?

b. Do they address the address appropriate netiquette?

c. Provide examples

3. Create a cyberbullying email or hotline for faculty to report cyberbullying.

a. Ensure a response to faculty within 24 hours

b. Assign a trained person to respond to emails

4. Create faculty training via webinar, tutorial, and or job aid on how to recognize and report cyberbullying and inappropriate netiquette.

We had many strengths that came out of this study. The strengths were that the researchers focused on one online school of business, which helped to focus our research efforts. These results can be generalized to other schools and online faculty by replicating the study through different online colleges and universities. Another strength that we experienced was that the Dean of the school supported the study and provided the researchers with a specific database of faculty addresses. This helped to connect with this particular sample of participants. The researchers attempted another study by reaching online faculty through social media (Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter) and did not have success that we had hoped. In regards to the limitations of the study, the participants self-reported on cyberbullying or netiquette instances. An observation style experiment may result in different perspectives on cyberbullying and netiquette especially since the literature has indicated that sometimes cyberbullying occurs but online faculty do not recognize certain instances as cyberbullying Participants may also have experience teaching at other online colleges or universities that may have different policies, procedures, and experiences and this can add to our results.

***This is an excerpt from a paper that will be presented at the DLA 2015 Conference (***