Reimagining an Online Leadership Course to Inspire Student Engagement, Learning, and Satisfaction: A Data-Based Inquiry

Concurrent Session 4

Brief Abstract

An undergraduate leadership course is retooled and reenergized by experimenting with OER in service of a high-engagement, high-quality online teaching and learning experience.

Extended Abstract

<i>Presentation Description</i>

An online undergraduate leadership courseó<i>Contemporary Issues in Leadership</i>óhas been retooled through the application of high-quality open educational resources (OER) that support affordability while simultaneously providing access to current, up-to-date course learning material (a particular point of emphasis in a contemporary topics course). At the same time, the course is testing a variety of toolsóVoiceThread, blogging, social media--that will inspire students to derive meaning from the OER course materials and to connect in a very engaged fashion around a variety of present-day leadership topics such as gender, ethics, work-family balance, technology, challenges in leading authentically, and more.

The proposed presentation has two goals as follows.

1. Describe the course design approach.
2. Report the findings of a data-based inquiry to determine the impact of the course on student learning, student engagement, and student satisfaction.

Specific course design considerations follow.

<b>Student Engagement.</b> A primary course design consideration lies in the area of engendering student engagement. The course is intended to be a strongly discussion-oriented experience, and early designs of the course have incorporated a heavy emphasis on course discussion boards. Empirical analysis of the discussion board content and activity has revealed that the success of the course is dependent on high instructor engagementói.e., more extensive posting by the instructor (e.g., follow-up questions, summary posts on emerging themes) is associated with significantly deeper discussion threading as well as enhanced discussion coverage of course learning outcomes (Honig, 2013). While essentially positiveói.e., this finding shows that LMS discussion board activity can produce good outcomesóit raises an important question about how to sustain the effectiveness of the course with large class sections (which can preclude high instructor engagement). Current trends in educational technology point to a variety of methods and tools that offer alternative options for engaging students in an exchange and which lead to student learning and student satisfaction. In this course, there is particular value in engaging students in activities that allow them to interact with and even add to the compilation of OER resources. To that end, a self-managed, collaboratively developed class blog affords an opportunity for students to provide extensive commentary on the career-related implications of contemporary leadership issues, and a Twitter assignment gives students wide latitude in adding to the class resources by tweeting about in-the-moment events and issues. Finally, through its unique use of visual and audio dimensions, VoiceThread promotes engagement while also offering an especially innovative alternative to the traditional LMS discussion board.

<b>Student Learning.</b> To ensure attainment of student learning outcomes, the course is designed around seven specific course-level learning outcomes. The course also aims to meet a university-level learning outcome that charges students to engage in collaborative knowledge construction. Both the class blog and the Twitter assignment particularly address the latter goal by allowing students to augment the OER foundation on which the course is built.

<b>Faculty Capacity & Scalability through Developing a Course Template.</b> Designing a course around multiple open educational resources represents considerable "time on task" considerations. Because the course is designed to be taught by multiple instructors, significant efficiencies have been realized through developing an online course template that can be applied across instructors and across course sections.

<u><b>Data-Based Inquiry & OLC's Five Pillars</u></b>

Reimagining this course around OERóand around innovative student engagement options that capitalize on the course's OER emphasisóprovides students with broad exposure to contemporary topics while also providing a foundation for the sort of interaction and collaboration that is important in leadership education. The OLC's Five Pillars provide a framework for determining the efficacy of this approach. In several areasóaccess/affordability (of learning materials) and scalability (through developing a course template that retains the OER materials)óthe results are self-evident. Learning effectiveness and student satisfaction will be empirically examined in an upcoming section of the course, and the data will be reported as part of the presentation. Content analysis will be performed to measure student attainment of course-level learning outcomes as well as the university-level outcome on collaborative knowledge construction. This analysis will address selected course discussion boards, the class blog, students' tweets, and students' VoiceThread contributions. Comparisons will be drawn with content analysis results from discussions in earlier course sections. Student surveys will form the basis for assessing perceptions of engagement and satisfaction.

The presentation author will develop, present, and post PowerPoint slides that summarize the course design approach as well as the data analysis results and the implications for pedagogical practice. The presentation will include participants in continuous discussion and "Q & A" about the course design components (e.g., comparisons and contrasts with participants' course design and teaching experiences).

Honig, C. (2013). Unpacking the impact of high-touch online instruction: Following the data trail to improved student outcomes. Presentation at the MERLOT/Sloan-C 6th Annual International Symposium on Emerging Technologies for Online Learning. Las Vegas, NV.