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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/24859

Title: A Mixed Methods Study of Class Size and Group Configuration in Online Graduate Course Discussions
Authors: Qiu, Mingzhu
Advisor: Hewitt, James
Department: Curriculum, Teaching and Learning
Keywords: class size
group configuration
mixed methods study
graduate course discussions
Issue Date: 1-Sep-2010
Abstract: Class size has long been recognized as a factor affecting achievement in face-to-face contexts. However, few studies have examined the effects of class size in online courses, or the effects of dividing an online class into smaller discussion groups. The current study examined the relationship between class size and the use of grouping strategies on note reading, note writing, and collaborative discussions in online graduate-level courses. This mixed-methods study analyzed tracking logs from 25 graduate-level online courses using Web Knowledge Forum (25 instructors and 341 students) and interviews from 10 instructors and 12 graduate students with diverse backgrounds. The quantitative and qualitative data analyses were designed to complement each other. Findings suggested 13 to 15 as an optimal class size and four to five as an ideal subgroup size. Not surprisingly, the results revealed that, as class size increased, the total notes that participants read increased significantly. However, as class size increased, the percentage of course notes that students read decreased significantly (i.e., students were reading a smaller proportion of the course notes). In larger classes, participants were more likely to experience information overload and students were more selective in the notes that they read. A significant positive correlation was found between class size and total notes written. Students’ note size and grade-level score were negatively correlated with class size. The data also suggest that the overload effects of large classes can be minimized by dividing students into small groups for discussion purposes. Interviewees felt that the use of small groups in large classes benefited their collaborative discussions. The preceding results underscore the importance of using small discussion groups when class sizes are large. The research concludes with a list of pedagogical recommendations and suggests new software features that may help enhance learning in online courses.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/24859
Appears in Collections:Doctoral
Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning - Doctoral theses

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