Date of Award

4-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

First Advisor

Shannon Groff

Second Advisor

Cindy Mathena

Abstract

Enrollment in online learning continues to grow in the higher education sector, along with persistent goals dedicated to achieving better student outcomes and lowering attrition rates. Improved student engagement has been shown to possibly reduce attrition rates through a greater sense of connectedness and decreased feelings of isolation among online learners. Through the development of a classroom community, the online learner may feel supported and engage more often in the learning process.

The instructor plays a major role in the development of the classroom community. Instructor social presence may be the most important factor in building the relationships that foster learning and retention. Through communication, the instructor conveys the necessary immediacy behaviors required to cultivate these interpersonal relationships. Discovering methodology that can facilitate the development of instructor social presence and foster student engagement is necessary for improving online learning outcomes and retention.

With improved technology that allows for enhanced communication in online classrooms, the use of asynchronous video may be an effective way to improve instructor social presence and student engagement. This quasi-experimental design aimed to determine whether asynchronous video or text-based communication increased students’ perceptions of instructor social presence and student engagement in an online graduate classroom. After analyzing the data, significance was found for student engagement based on the number of discussion posts, p=.003, and length of discussion posts, p=.012. Students in the group who received text-based communication demonstrated increased student engagement in voluntary discussion boards as opposed to students in the group who received asynchronous video. There was no significant difference found for instructor social presence between the two groups, p=.136. The participants of the study were students enrolled in two sections of an online Masters of Occupational Therapy foundation course during the spring of 2017. All participants attended the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences.

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