Evaluating the use of online synchronous communication to enhance learning in statistics

McDonald, Christine Anne (2013) Evaluating the use of online synchronous communication to enhance learning in statistics. Professional Doctorate thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


According to social constructivists, learners are active participants in constructing new knowledge in a social process where they interact with others. In these social settings teachers or more knowledgeable peers provide support. This research study investigated the contribution that an online synchronous tutorial makes to support teaching and learning of undergraduate introductory statistics offered by an Australian regional university at a distance.

The introductory statistics course which served as a research setting in this study was a requirement of a variety of programs at the University, including psychology, business and science. Often students in these programs perceive this course to be difficult and irrelevant to their programs of study. Negative attitudes and associated anxiety mean that students often struggle with the content. While asynchronous discussion forums have been shown to provide a level of interaction and support, it was anticipated that online synchronous tutorials would offer immediate feedback to move students forward through ―stuck places.‖ At the beginning of the semester the researcher offered distance students in this course the opportunity to participate in a weekly online synchronous tutorial which was an addition to the usual support offered by the teaching team. This tutorial was restricted to 12 volunteers to allow sufficient interaction to occur for each of the participants.

The researcher, as participant-observer, conducted the weekly tutorials using the University's interactive online learning platform, Wimba Classroom, whereby participants interacted using audio, text chat and a virtual whiteboard. Prior to the start of semester, participants were surveyed about their previous mathematical experiences, their perceptions of the introductory statistics course and why they wanted to participate in the online tutorial. During the semester, they were regularly asked pertinent research questions related to their personal outcomes from the tutorial sessions. These sessions were recorded using screen capture software and the participants were interviewed about their experiences at the end of the semester.

Analysis of these data indicated that the perceived value of online synchronous tutorial lies in the interaction with fellow students and a content expert and with the immediacy of feedback given. The collaborative learning environment offered the support required to maintain motivation, enhance confidence and develop problemsolving skills in these distance students of introductory statistics. Based on these findings a model of online synchronous learning is proposed.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 64893
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Supervisor: Lloyd, Margaret & Nykvist, Shaun
Keywords: community of inquiry, content analysis, distance education, online learning, statistics education, synchronous chat
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 29 Nov 2013 00:45
Last Modified: 07 Sep 2015 21:52

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