Academic journal article International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education

Online Discussion Forums: Quality Interactions for Reducing Statistics Anxiety in Graduate Education Students

Academic journal article International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education

Online Discussion Forums: Quality Interactions for Reducing Statistics Anxiety in Graduate Education Students

Article excerpt

Introduction

Recent reports indicate radical increases in online graduate and undergraduate education programs in colleges and universities, with the rise of graduate degrees rapidly moving away from traditional face-to-face programs toward fully online instructional venues (Betts, 2018; Friedman, 2018). Substantial growth in online graduate education programs across the United States has prompted researchers to examine instructional concerns prevalent within traditional graduate education programs of study and the potential transitioning of these specific concerns within fully online instructional programs (Bollinger & Halupa, 2012; Kebritchi, Lipschuetz & Santiague, 2017; Kirtman, 2009; Rovai & Jordan, 2004).

The current study focused on the specific concern of preparing students within graduate education programs, i.e., the successful completion of graduate education students in required graduate educational statistics courses. Virtually all university graduate educational programs require a minimum of one graduate statistics course and some programs require a series of two or three graduate statistics courses. A fully online graduate education degree may potentially consist of multiple statistics courses required for graduate education students to complete.

Literature focused on statistics anxiety in students pursuing graduate degrees in education have provided prevalent research findings substantiating statistics anxiety as a prohibitive factor in students' success rates in graduate programs since the early 1980s (Baloglu, 2003; Onwuegbuzie, 2004; Zeidner, 1991), however, research efforts to explore the influence of students' statistics anxiety levels and students' learning of statistics topics, especially within online environments, has seemingly dropped off the radar with current researchers. Yet, the problem of students' statistics anxiety in online teaching and learning may possibly be as prominent and as prevalent as the problem of statistics anxiety in students within face-to-face instructional environments, as discussed by Macher, Papousek, Ruggeri & Paechter (2015) when describing statistics anxiety as "an enduring, habitual type of anxiety" (p. 1) and highlighted within Onwuegbuzie & Wilson (2003); Macher, Paechter, Papousek, & Ruggeri (2011); and Macher, Prachter, Papousek, Ruggeri, Freudenthaler & Arendasy (2013). The current study emerged from the need for researchers to revive the research emphasis on examining students' statistics anxiety levels in graduate education programs, especially within online instructional environments.

Just as math anxiety pervades many educational settings, statistics anxiety may create a prohibitive environment for graduate students to successfully complete degrees, especially for students new to online instruction or unaccustomed to working within online learning environments (DeVaney, 2010; Kirtman, 2009; Mathieson, 2010; Summers, Waigandt, & Whittaker, 2005). Students often postpone or avoid taking required statistics courses until late in their degree programs (Bollinger & Halupa, 2012). The overwhelming prevalence of graduate education students' statistics anxiety / fear levels and low self-confidence levels surrounding their perceptions of successfully completing advanced educational statistics courses is evidenced in the literature (Baloglu, 2003; Chau, 2018; DeVaney, 2016; Koh & Zawi, 2014; Onwuegbuzie, 2010, Perepiczka, Chandler, & Becerra, 2011; Onwuegbuzie & Wilson, 2003; Williams, 2013). The current study focused on examining an online instructional process of using discussion forums/boards for assisting graduate education students in successfully completing their graduate educational statistics requirement.

Faculty members in graduate education courses use online discussion forums for multiple purposes, such as, presenting new content, responding to questions, modeling writing skills, providing praise, and supporting student responses. …

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