Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Anatomy and Cell Biology

Supervisor

Dr. Kem A. Rogers

Abstract

This dissertation examined the transactional distances that exist in an online histology laboratory course assessed through student interactions with the course content, instructors and fellow students. The interactions in the online course were compared to those in a face to face (F2F) course covering the same content.

The student-content interactions were assessed through student course outcomes and lecture attendance. Results showed there were no differences in student performance on assessments between the course formats; however, overall student attendance levels were significantly greater in the online course. These results suggest that online students spent more time interacting with course content. It was also shown that there was a direct relationship between lecture attendance and course performance for both online and F2F students. With higher overall attendance rates and a correlation between lecture attendance and course performance, it would be expected that online students would have higher course outcomes compared to the F2F students. The fact that there were no differences in student outcomes suggests that some transactional distance still exists between online students and course content.

Student-instructor interactions were examined through an assessment of student questions during the laboratory sessions. Results indicated that the transactional distance between the online students and instructor was lower than that with the F2F students with online students asking questions at higher rates. However, while technology allowed students to communicate synchronously with the instructor, online attendance patterns showed that students preferred to view archive recordings of the lectures, thus maintaining some transactional distance in the online course.

The incorporation of synchronous peer teaching to the laboratories was an attempt to increase student-student interactions. Improved laboratory outcomes for both online and F2F students were shown; however, the impact was greater with the online students possibly due to the fact that F2F students were already engaging in informal peer teaching. Due to low survey response rates, it was not possible to show differences in the student’s perceived impact of peer teaching on group dynamics.

While technology has improved the transactional distances in online courses, some transactional distances are maintained, often by student choice which is also enabled through technology.


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