Online Teaching and Learning at the Graduate School Level: Student Perceptions on Discussion Boards v. Synchronous Communication
Christopher N. Amos Sr.
This paper examines a group of graduate students and their previous experiences with online education, various teaching and learning online tools, and their perceptions on the effectiveness of these tools as it relates to their learning, interpersonal skills and communication. This paper presents the graduate student’s self-reported educational experience at a regional state university in the southeast United States in a 100% online Master’s Degree program. The data was collected through the use of a 28 open-ended question survey, which was completed by a group of 127 graduate students and the findings produced six main findings, which were:
1) The respondents indicated at a high percentage (85%) a high level (level 4, 5 and 6) of technology use and understanding.
2) The majority of the respondents (97%) indicated they preferred live synchronous sessions rather than discussion boards for learning content and communication.
3) The majority of the respondents (72%) indicated that when choosing future courses, the inclusion of discussion boards in a course was not important (34%) or somewhat unimportant (38%).
4) 100% of the respondents indicated that Live Elluminate Sessions were Highly Effective (65%) or Somewhat Effective (35%), as it pertained to understanding the content.
5) Respondents indicated that 59% (12% Highly Effective, 47% Somewhat Effective) of the respondents indicated discussion boards as an impactful way of learning content at the graduate level. It also shows that 41% (22% Somewhat Ineffective, 19% Not Effective).
This study helps universities identify the importance of synchronous learning in a digital format when delivering online teaching and learning. There is a clear change in the needs of students enrolled in 100% online courses, which will force university faculty to increase the synchronous interaction between them and their students and between the students and their peers. Keywords: Synchronous learning, discussion boards, Blackboard Elluminate.