Integrating Web-Enhanced Instruction into a Research Methods Course: Examination of Student Experiences and Perceived Learning

Article excerpt

Background and Purpose. Classroom technology in the form of Web-enhanced instruction is becoming widely available and adopted by educators as a supplement to didactic instruction. The research purpose of this qualitative study was to describe physical therapist student experiences and perceived learning during a Web-enhanced course. A second purpose was to present the instructor's perspective on the scholarship of teaching as defined by Boyer. Subjects. Fifty-seven fifth-year physical therapist students enrolled in a 12-week Web-enhanced course PTH1405 "Research for Physical Therapists " participated. Methods. Course materials were placed online using Blackboard(TM), a Web-based educational soft ware package. To examine student experiences and learning, data were collected four limes during the academic term via discussion board transcripts, chat room transcripts, and reflective papers. The investigator iteratively analyzed each round of data to identify the principle patterns using a qualitative research methodology. Review of data categories by two physical therapist graduate students served as a method of triangulation. Coding categories began as descriptive and progressed to pattern codes and themes. Results. Four themes addressed issues pertaining to: online behavior, communication feature use, students' perspective-how they learn-and barriers. Discussion and Conclusion. Students behaved differently when using discussion board and chat room communication features. Discussion boards allowed students to post individual reactions to assignments, view diverse perspectives of their peers, and post threads leisurely. Virtual chat was viewed as duplicative when students could meet in person. Many students articulated a preference for face-to-face interaction. Web-enhanced instruction is one available educational strategy that can potentially foster deeper thinking about an assignment and provide opportunities for students to compare their thinking to their peers. Barriers to online learning can be either technical or nontechnical. Student reflective papers and archival records of online communication provide data that contributes to faculty scholarship on leaching and learning.

Key Words: Discussion thread, Online learning, Reflection, Web Scholarship of teaching, Virtual chat, Web-enhanced instruction.

INTRODUCTION

Availability of technology has resulted in increased opportunities for educators to supplement traditional classroom pedagogy with an online component.1 Physical therapist educators are using computers to enhance student learning in three major ways. The first is computer-assisted instruction (CAI), which refers to the use of CD-ROMs and multimedia software programs. CAI enhances face-to-face classroom Instruction with supplemental interactive electronic media.1 In the physical therapist literature, CAI is used to augment anatomical instruction2-5 and clinical assessment acquisition.6 Web-enhanced instruction, which refers to the Internet, e-mail, and educational software packages such as Blackboard(TM), is a second way physical therapist educators use computers to enhance classroom instruction. Web-enhanced instruction can mean Web presence where static, paper-based materials, such as course syllabi, are placed on a course Web site. However, Web-enhanced instruction can also be Interactive through the use of synchronous (chat rooms) or asynchronous online discussion boards located on a Blackboard(TM) course Web site.7,8 A third way technology has impacted physical therapist education is the growing reliance on learning options that enable instruction to occur at a distance from an academic institution. An example is online transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy (t-DPT) programs that may include both CD-ROMs and Blackboard(TM) interactive features.9,10

This investigation will focus on the pedagogical and learning opportunities afforded by Web-enhanced instruction in physical therapist education. …