When the shoe doesn’t fit: Supporting students who are challenged by online educational technologies
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Taking an action research approach, this paper explores the experiences of graduate level students who found a technology enabled classroom challenging. After taking part in an online orientation activity, the students began their studies in a three week face-to-face residency, followed by two distance learning sessions. At the end of the second session, 15% of the students had either taken a leave of absence, or left the program permanently. Current literature focuses on several issues that have a negative influence on students’ ability to achieve their educational goals in an online environment. These issues include isolation, lack of preparedness, and feeling overwhelmed. Building on this, we explored the following question: How can educational technology be used to increase retention for students enrolled in an online course? Aimed at identifying approaches to overcoming some of the problems associated with studying online, we sought to examine the perceptions of MBA students by asking the participants to take part in a focus group discussion. This paper will discuss the challenges found by the graduate level students who worked in a computer-mediated educational environment, as well as highlight some of the solutions aimed at increasing student retention by enhancing the online classroom. Findings revealed that technologies aimed at encouraging student presence in the online classroom, as well as those that allow them to interact socially online could positively increase student retention. In addition, employing tools that support the students’ desire to repeat and reflect on material serves to improve the experience for those studying online. Finally, instructors who display comfort with the use of technology also have a positive impact on student learning. By providing a heightened awareness of the issues faced by graduate students working online, as well as spotlighting some key solutions, this study underscores the importance of targeting appropriate technologies when designing the online classroom. Further studies in this area could explore undergraduate engagement, generational differences, as well as learning preferences in the context of online learning.
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