Academic journal article Communication Studies

The Influence of Instructional Technology Use on Students' Affect: Do Course Designs and Biological Sex Make a Difference?

Academic journal article Communication Studies

The Influence of Instructional Technology Use on Students' Affect: Do Course Designs and Biological Sex Make a Difference?

Article excerpt

The use of instructional technologies to deliver course content has been truly explosive, and continued technological advancements have fostered an increase in technology use in the college classroom (Downing & Garmon, 2001). As the use of instructional technology has flourished (e.g., the use of presentational software, email, course web pages, on-line discussion, etc.), scholars have begun to examine the pedagogical benefits for both instructors and students through continued integration of these new instructional resources. In particular, researchers have focused on the influence that technology use has on classroom communication (Comeaux, 1995; Coombs, 1993; Flanagin, 1999), instructor credibility (Schrodt & Turman, in press), student--teacher interaction (Waldeck, Kearney, & Plax, 2001), and teacher immediacy (Carrell & Menzel, 2001; Freitas, Myers, & Avtgis, 1998; Hackman & Walker, 1990; LaRose & Whitten, 2000). Among the potential benefits that technology use affords instructors, some of the more important advantages include a reduction in an appointed time and place for teacher--student communication, thereby extending teacher--student interaction beyond the walls of the classroom (Althaus, 1997; McComb, 1994; Partee, 1996), increased student access to information and instructors (Althaus, 1997; Panici, 1998), and communication richness (Coombs, 1993), to name a few.

Perhaps a more important implication of this burgeoning body of research is the notion that it is not the presence or absence of technology that facilitates higher learning in the classroom, but rather whether or not the instructor has used technology within a pedagogical framework designed to achieve specific instructional objectives (e.g., Althaus, 1997; Berge, 1999; Flanagin, 1999; Lane & Shelton, 2001; Young, 1998). In fact, some scholars have criticized communication educators for integrating technology into their classrooms with limited empirical justification or support for enhancing student learning (Eadie, 1999; Lane & Shelton, 2001). With a few notable exceptions (i.e., Carrell & Menzel, 2001; Chadwick, 1999; Witt & Wheeless, 2001), there is limited empirical research investigating the influence of technology use on student outcomes such as cognitive, behavioral, and affective learning. The growing need for distance education has led some college instructors to teach in that environment, yet most instructors are faced with incorporating different degrees of instructional technology into traditional face-to-face classrooms. If college teachers are to integrate technology into the classroom using empirical justifications, then research is needed to provide a clearer picture of the role that IT use plays in facilitating higher learning.

Typically, college instructors may choose from a number of options when making decisions about the amount of technology they incorporate into the classroom (e.g., from the basic use of presentational software to a completely virtual learning environment), and most of these decisions are based, to some extent, on class designs. Thus, the primary purpose of this investigation is twofold: (1) to explore the impact that varying degrees of instructional technology use have on students' initial perceptions of affect for the course and the instructor, and (2) to determine whether such perceptions vary as a function of course type, as well as instructor and student sex differences. Researchers have suggested that technology is socially constructed as being primarily a masculine activity (e.g., Wajcman, 1991), and that male and female students often evaluate male and female instructors differently on a number of teacher behaviors (e.g., Basow & Distenfeld, 1985; Basow & Howe, 1987; Basow & Silberg, 1987; Bennett, 1982). Consequently, an examination of the influence of technology use and course design on students' affect should account for possible sex differences in those perceptions. …

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